I saw you on the corner of Diamond Street. Funny name for a street, everyone says so. Usually there is some landmark that lends itself to a street name, like a view or a famous person, but I don’t recall the history books ever mentioning diamonds being found in the middle of the city.
Perhaps they were referring to people like me who saw people like you and thought just like Uncle Ronnie used to say: ‘He’s a real diamond.’ Maybe everyone who stood on this spot felt the same way I do, until it became a trend, such a frequent, noticeable occurrence that the town planners caught on and decided to name a street after the phenomenon.
On the corner of Diamond Street you were holding two red cushions. Silk. Embroidered with darker red birds. An odd thing to be carrying in the street, some would say, but as soon as I saw them I knew they were for me.
I’m in my Red Period, you see. Not that I’m an artist or anything; like Matisse when he went through that period where he painted with lots of reds. Oh no, I’m just a humble collector. Of colour. Lots of colour. At the moment it’s red.
I don’t know why I do it or how it started, I just get colours in my head and find I can’t shake them until I’ve gathered as many things as I can in that colour. Found objects, the modern artists call it; although, to be frank, some of the exhibitions I’ve seen consisting of found objects on display just look like a collection of garbage. There is nothing beautiful about a mouldy milk carton.
Yesterday I found a series of perfect red leaves. I was so delighted I skipped a bit on the way home. Now I have those leaves lined up on the window sill, facing North for luck. They catch the light like exclamation marks, I have a heavily punctuated window sill.
You, Jake, my love, understand my need for colour. You indulge my whimsy. You have found roses, carnadine as a Queen’s coronation robes, a set of bright crimson teacups from the 1950s, a cloche hat the colour of Dorothy’s shoes on the yellow brick road.
At night as the ruby shadows climb, I almost feel soothed until I hear the chink of the bottle in my mother’s room. She allows no colour to enter. There is not even white or grey in her room, just a sense of emptiness. ‘I am the opposite of colour,’ she says, cackling witch-like, scraping at my nerves. I can’t agree with her, it is far too horrible a thought, for to me the opposite of colour is death.
You, my dear Jake, are leaving. Moving to England. ‘Come with me,’ you say, looking past me to my mother’s door.
My mother laughs when I tell her of your offer. A new life across the sea. ‘They all leave,’ she says, firm in her resentment of all members of the male gender. ‘It’s as predictable as breathing.’ Her one remaining ankle is purple, she has lost the other to gin. I am now as responsible for her as I would be for my own child. For your child.
You speak of homes, respite care, but my mother is sly. She knows all the tricks to get me to stay. I cannot deny I feel responsible. So I watch you go, the locks gleaming like fish scales on your brand new suitcase.
‘Take me with you,’ I whisper as you signal for a cab. ‘Take me far away from here.’ You mouth I love you as the cab drives away and something else I can’t quite catch, drowned out by the sound of glass breaking in my mother’s room.
The next morning my red room is oppressive, dark as blood. I run to the street and see berries hanging over a fence, red as Christmas. When I hold them to the light they are brown underneath. My red lipstick is chapping my lips, my red boots are uncomfortable in the heat.
I come to the corner of Diamond Street where I used to see you and find a note pinned to a signpost. The paper is soft as raindrops, summer sky blue.
I will come back for you, it says in your writing. Someday soon.
I walk along, see a world brushed with the wings of bluebirds. It is a new time, lifted as morning.
I will come back for you.
The light is astonishing. Laughter rings from doorways. There is warmth inside me.
I will come back for you.
The red days are gone, unneeded. It is time to redo my collection. For you.
Love is blue on the corner of Diamond Street.
*Inspired by the SES prompt take me with you.