She wanted to hold his hand, except she didn’t know how to. Maybe because she had a hard time holding her own. Or maybe because she just couldn’t remember what it was like to be hugged by her mother. It was any human contact that startled her, made her anxious. So it was fascinating, this want, this new desire, tempting, but incredibly impossible as her palm laid limp at her side.
It was as she pondered this that he spoke, she missed it looking up embarrassed. She willed her ears not to burn, tried to look not directly at him, mainly terrified that her eyes would give away what her lips refused to.
He was watching her closely too, his eyes carefully searching, holding a strange array of mysteries. More of an eerie sea. One that she wanted to understand, but again was too wary of herself to ask. So instead she asked, “I’m sorry?”
It was accompanied by a nervous half-smile, she couldn’t even bring herself to smile all the way, everything was done half-way. Like dipping a toe in the water, too cautious, too slow. He grinned back at her and nudged her shoulder with his own, lifting his chin to the sky he took his time to answer.
Within the silence the woods around the pair whispered through the wind. Sharing secrets of their own. And it was hard to tell what they were saying. Perhaps gossiping to the nearest juniper about how the eldest birch had finally died and never shared a secret.
All this continued on around the pair, the talking trees, and then there was the more obvious life, the insects crawling beneath their feet, the bushy-tailed squirrels skittering from tree to tree. The existence in this quiet part of the world was rich, yet to them they couldn’t seem to care to pay it any respect.
Finally he asked, “I just don’t know if this is a ridiculous thought, but-” he glanced over at her smiling slightly, “I’m curious. Do you think we see the same colors? Like is my purple the same as yours?” He lifted a finger and pointed to the trees. “I know that’s green but is it the same green you see?”
It wasn’t a question she was expecting to receive, so it took her a few seconds to register its meaning. It was a fair question, an honest query that could probably be answered through science. Something about how the light passes through the object and through the eye. But she was no scientist, and now between the trees the air thick with the scent of honeysuckle, it required a different answer.
She slid her hands into her coat pockets and stopped walking to approach a break in the trees. There was the dead birch lying on its side now, a convenient seat hundreds of years in the making.
Instead of sitting down she stood on the ancient trunk and peered over at the now slowly falling sun. Looking over her shoulder she glanced back at him and replied, “Well, to answer your question about purple… It’s the color of queens and kings. Of a Roman emperor’s fine robes draped over his shoulders as he rampages through some old village or another.”
She punctuated this by extending her arms in a grandeur manner as if she were the Roman emperor. “Or it’s the shade of those bruises you got when you were a kid and every time someone asked you where it came from, you just never knew. They just appeared there. Like magic.”
Now she paced precariously on the trunk trying to wrack her mind for the color purple. “And it’s that feeling of utter happiness when you find that old notebook where you’d write notes to your best friend. And the feeling on a mood ring that either meant you were in love. Or calm. The color of opposites.”
Then her foot slipped and she fell awkwardly off the trunk of the tree on her feet. She laughed nervously glancing at him hoping he hadn’t seen, but of course he did. He laughed with her and it only made her smile a little wider. She finally sat down and he joined her. They sat in silence watching the sun slowly slip away bleeding its precious hues of blood orange, to blossom pink, and finally a brilliant violet.
She finished her former lecture, “And lastly it’s the color of the sky right between dusk and night. The space between.”
He didn’t say anything, but there was a ghost of a smile on his lips. They were leaning against each other ever so slightly, shoulders grazing, and she still wanted to hold his hand. But for now they contemplated the color purple as the sun disappeared leaving them to be lost in the starry lit forest of existence.