Fiction / August 2008 (Issue 4)

The Colour of Light

by Kristy Joe

Mama used to say that we could all be redeemed, that everything that was not pure could become pure once again. Kind of like salt being filtered through seawater. I used to imagine myself in a flowery white gown, walking down the altar as a crowd of people cheered from around me. And then I imagined the beautiful man standing at the end of the long silk carpet; he was outstretching his hands, with a big diamond ring on his smooth palm. But after a while my dreams of a white dress suddenly turned gray, and there were no people but only my mother standing there, gazing gloomily at the floor as if it were no more than a pile of dirt. I dreamt of gray because no matter how much white you mix in with black, it will never be pure white again. It will only become gray, and even the lightest shade of gray is not white.

I remember the first time I had the dream: it was the day after He slid his fingers all around my body, stopping from time to time to let out a low rumble. I remember, standing there, as still as I could, blinking monotonously with the sound of the ticking clock. The clock said Mi-sha. Mi-sha. Mi-sha. My sister's name. My name spelled backwards. Mi-sha Mi-sha. After a while He stopped, and then He walked me out to the road where Mama came and picked me up.

Afterwards, it became much easier.

But after years, standing still listening to the clock sing Mi-sha, my sister did not become better. The doctors never made her smile, and the doctors never made her speak. The only thing she could say was my name, and it was the first word she ever muttered. Ahsim. As if it were an insult digging right through my heart. But still, Mama nudged me into the car and I went to the room, listening to the clock, closing my eyes so that all I could see was black. And so I began to hate my sister.

Of course, the world is a cruel place, and it was not long after I'd begun to hold a grudge against Misha that the doctors said she wouldn't last over a year. Mama dropped to her knees and began to cry. Not once did she cry as she watched me stumble into the house, lock myself in the bathroom and fill the tub with scathing hot water. Not once did she smile as I entered the door, planted her a kiss on the cheek and went off to make dinner. And yet. Mi-sha. Mi-sha. She was crying, like a baby realizing that the world has ended, scrawling on the floor with her outstretched arms reaching for something. Something that I'd been reaching for my whole life.

And so I got into Mama's car, and we drove off to where the clock sang Mi-sha. Mi-sha. And then the next day. And then the next. Until Mama didn't nudge me anymore, and I climbed into the rusty car by myself. I climbed in because I liked the scent of mango in the backseat. That was all.

A year passed, and Misha was still there.

A month passed, and Misha was still there.

And then another month passed, and Misha was not there.

Mi-sha. Mi-sha. Odd. I was relieved, but as I set my bag onto the ground I remember dashing into the kitchen, calling out her name. Misha. Misha. And then into the bathroom, where all was but a steam of foggy mist, and a weird sense of luminosity. Then there she was, hair tied back into a ponytail, sitting like a normal girl her age. Misha. With a smile plastered across her face, feet dangling in a tub of scathing water, waiting for me as if she'd known. As if she'd known the clock that sang her name, and as if she'd known the bath I took every day, every night.

There she was, my twin sister, with her two feet already turning a color of pink as hot steam rose out of the tub.

"Ahsim," she said.

"Misha," I said.

Slowly, I took off my clothes and stepped in. And slowly, she took her feet out of the water and began to run her fingers through my hair. First my scalp, and then my face, and then my breasts. And then down my belly to my thighs, to where all these years I had hurt the most. Her hands rested in between my thighs, and she said again, "Ahsim."


And then I realized she was cleaning me, in a sort of circular motion where she dripped hot water all over my body. She, a girl who could not even say her own name.  A girl who would never smile for anyone else; a girl whose first words had been my own name. A girl who had known me since I was a single cell—a girl who had clutched so tightly to my pinky after birth that Mama named her after me. A girl I had dedicated my whole life to.

Out of nowhere, I grabbed onto her pinky like she had mine years and years ago, and closing my eyes, I asked. “What makes black white?”

Misha smiled.

Misha pointed.

The sun began to shine into the small window of our bathroom.

I opened my eyes.

Mi-sha. Mi-sha.

And from the tips of her fingers poured in the light, to which Misha's thick, black hair began to shine a shade of white. The color of light. Then I finally understood—Misha. Misha. All these years, I had shut the window to the world where the sun shone daily. All these years I had locked myself into the room with the clock that muttered Mi-sha. And all these years, I had believed that black could never become white.

But it could. Because black was the color that became without the presence of light; and light was all the colors combined, except black. I was not white—I was even better: I was the color of light. And I had finally been redeemed.

Misha left after three months. And in the tub where I had been redeemed lay the only remembrance of the girl; there, lay a single strand of jet-black hair. It belonged to Misha.

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