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"Grey, With a Bit of Color" by Anahi Ortiz

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

You love to paint on my face. You love to fingerpaint. Dipping your knuckles and the tips of your fingers you would paint the night sky on my lids, filling them with rich violets and blues, painting thin spirals of green.

Your art would stain my eyelids.

Not even grazing my skin because they’ll never understand the moments between us. The hours perfecting your craft on me, each stroke and splatter. Tears smudged your work; the paint stung.

Why was it always night skies, purples and blues? I wanted bees on my face, young dandelions, sweet honey, but no one taught you how to paint with yellow. Even though outside, it shines through the cracks of the drapes, blinds you in the morning when you wipe the crust in your eyes, you’re blind to it.

You try to practice yellow on me. The paintbrush snaps. It couldn't handle you.

You take the red of your eyes and mix it with the blue on your pallet, you paint the night sky.

Lay a base of blue, let it dry so the colors don’t turn muddy. It's okay if they do, don’t panic.

You never use oil paint; you lack the patience. I’ll pass you your acrylics, but not your brush.

Use your knuckles, get in there and make the purple pop. It’s my favorite to look at. You hate the golden streaks in your hair; you paint it black. You hate your reflection; you paint it black.

You step back to see the full picture. You mouth words but your chords don’t ring. It's okay, I understand you’re trying.

Continue to paint blues on me until you’ve run out of paint and the only blue that leaks out is the pain in your eyes, I'll be here to help you clean up.

Grab the shampoo, I'll grab a glass full of warm water. Your paint brushes haven't been cleaned in a while. I’ll soak a cotton round in rubbing alcohol, clean the blisters on your hands, cover them in ointment and seal them shut, till next time.

Touch the face that resembles my own. Hold your jaw, feel the salt in your hair. Sink my fingers in the folds of your smile. Let’s have some ice cream today, your face is softer when you eat. Here’s my blanket, it'll keep you warm. Grab the control, we’ll watch cartoons and laugh together because the names of the characters are so stupid, we’ll laugh because everything is stupid. Some days I look just like you; today you look like me.

Grab the shampoo, pass me your head. You haven’t showered in years. You have paint stains on you, grab me the washcloth. No one has ever taught you how to bathe, only how to paint purples and blues. Wet it, soap it, scrub well but soft, you don’t deserve any pain. Let me wash behind your ears. Don’t worry, the water will stay warm. I’ll tell you about how I still see you in stranger’s faces as I soap your back. Your hair is matted and dry. I’ll grab the coconut conditioner. Your body shivers as my hands cleanse your skin, I’ll scrub softer. For I am you, just with a softer jaw and smoother skin, I have your voice and eyes.

She cries for you, you don’t understand how to silence their whines. But I do. While others have spent their time drifting through life. Circling around ponds, absorbing the sunlight. I’ve taken the time to analyze each stroke you’ve painted, I’ve picked apart each color you’ve picked. I’ll share with you my findings when the sky turns lilac. I’ll wrap my pinky around yours when it turns peach.

I’ve obsessed over the way you hold your brush, observed the way streaks torment your mind, to the point where you don’t notice he swelling of your wrist when you waste hours fixing them. To the bridge of your nose, the cracks that line your lips. I’ll share with you my findings when I'm ready to walk you out the door.

For now, you can run, I’ll unlock the door. Hours will pass and you’ll find me lost in the sea of your lies, wandering through the halls. Busy polishing and repainting the visible wear, waiting for you to come home.

Open the door for me, I lack the strength you believe exists in my spine. Can we stand by the door for a while?

Forgive me, I’m scared. I have the patience to be kind.

Grab my hand, let's walk. Smells of benzoin myrrh dance, do you see them?

The floor creaks with every third step, it bears the weight of our nebulous souls. I go down on

my knees to thank the wood that bears weight I can only wish to hold.

Take me to the art shop. Why did you make the moon? Did you mean for us to find your work beautiful or is everything plain to you?

Do you how to exhale? Do you like cookies? Give me a hint.

Your hand grasps mine, while you tilt your head up to pick a new color. In my mind your hand feels warm yet small. I don't imagine you to be as tall as I am.

Tell me how many days it took you waiting for the oil paint to set. I’ll be drifting asleep, my eyes heavy to the stories everyone repeats. Take me to the art shop, wake me up when you’re ready to teach me how to paint blue.

I told you I’ll die if we crashed.

You went off about what it means to die. That if you allow yourself to believe you’re dead, you are in fact dead. You remember what it feels to be alive but you’re not quite there.

The wind is filled with pine, you smell of oak. I’ll keep driving, even if I feel my eyes beg for me to let them close. Lavender and yellow, tangerine with hints of blue, help me freeze the world.

I mourn you when I forget to enter exit 32B.

Anahi Ortiz is a young queer Latina native to the Bronx, now residing in Connecticut. She is currently writing stories, poems, and a novel while assembling playlists in her free time.

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