We love to argue all day long, Henry and I.
Long arguments. Never-ending arguments. Arguments about people and ideas and things. But most of all, we love to argue about colours. Colours fascinate the both of us. Red. Blue. Yellow. We turn each colour around in our hungry mouths and savour what it seems to say.
Blue, for instance, sounds like an ocean. The splash of tall waves, the slight non-feeling when a bubble breaks under under your startled finger, the tang of salt in the air, a ship in full sail moving gracefully across the water – all of it somehow comes to mind when you say blue, doesn’t it?
Henry disagrees with a not-very-graceful snort.
Blue is the sky, he says. How can blue be water? Blue is a vast expanse of sky, the eternity that eagles soar gracefully against. Shades of blue, he cries dramatically, azure, pale, sky, dark! – and knocks something off the table in his excitement. I laugh. Henry and his passionate arguments! He chuckles in agreement and continues. Blue is the infinity of space, he says, his voice ruminative, for space is really dark blue. It can’t be black – it feels blue, mysterious and beckoning and secretive all at once. Infinite…
I admire the reason and the picture he paints, but disagree gently. Never mind, he says. Green? What about green? Green is feminity, he says. Green is a new leaf, a shy birth brimming with the promise of lush life. Green is a rainforest, a million shades of verdant green reaching out to ensnare you with her sheer ripeness. Green is the seductress, the amazon. The goddess of fertility.
Never! I remonstrate quietly- not for me these gesticulations. Green is masculinity itself. Green is strong, an assertive, even argumentative colour – the green of a dollar bill. The dark green of an army uniform – the colour of a warrior. The colour of dominance, aggression, the hunter. Green is primordial man.
Solidity, reliability, he says, his voice rich. Wood: teak, pine, beech, oak. Hard. Sturdy. Dependable. Brown for firmness.
Brown for pliancy, I aver softly. Like brown soil – allowing life to seep through, roots to plant themselves and take hold. Soft, pliant, porous soil.
For the hundredth time, I marvel afresh that one world can look so vastly different to two people. Perhaps that’s why I am an agnostic. There is too much diversity in the world for two men to be bound by one dictum. Henry, of course, is an atheist. Rubbish! He declares. What God? And if there were one, he’d be smoking pot and laughing at all this fuss about Mass and coloured eggs.
The sun. Vast, hot, fiery, erupting, burning! What else can it be?
I chuckle quietly. Why, a sunflower, of course! Soft, cheerful, swaying gently in the breeze.
Love. Hearts, gentle passion, ribbons on gifts. I smile in the darkness.
Revolution, declares Henry, disagreeing. Blood, wars, agony and death. A dark colour.
Henry snorts. Frilly rubbish. Best left to the women. Pink is not even a colour, he protests. There is only red. Women become infatuated and then red seems pink. Looking at the world through rose tinted glasses! He thumps the table, missing the irony in his last statement.
Pink is real! A baby’s palm, I retort, slightly miffed now. A rose! A rose is pink. That’s red, says Henry smugly. Pink, I reply firmly. Let it be, he says, his tone placatory.
Purity, I say. Light, he says in a faraway voice. I almost agree.
Our voices echo the word; the only answer we agree upon.
For a moment, we are silent, with only the sound of our heartbeats to give us company, waiting.
Then Henry speaks in the darkness, wonderment laced with an immeasurable sadness in his voice. I dread and welcome it: the question we take turns asking each other each evening, the question we ask our unanswering souls in the middle of the night, the question we know there is no point in asking and yet we ask.
“What would it be like if we could really see?”
There is only silence, long after his question has echoed into the wistful night.