Never Her Color

Submitted for Contest #47 in response to: You check the time. Perfect. As intended, you’ve arrived fashionably late. view prompt

Five years. That’s how long it’s been since you’ve seen any of them.

And that is an ugly amount of time to be away from people you once considered your closest friends. They invited you back into the fold again, and you aren’t sure why.

So, you took your time when in the past you would have rushed. You would have been sweaty with anxiety and changed three times. You would have second-guessed your makeup, your hair, your entire face, and body and wished you could throw them all away, pull new ones out of your closet and have a do-over.

But now, you ignore the time on the wall, the time on your phone, the time on your grandmother’s old watch. You wait just long enough until you can see the time in your mind. But still you don’t check it. You double-check your hair, and your face, and your clothes, and your jewelry. Everything is still perfect, nothing out of place.

You step into the night air. You hail a cab. Still, you don’t check your phone or your grandmother’s old watch.

You walk to the door, and nod to the doorman. You take steps toward the elevator. The only numbers you look at are the ones lighting up the wall, drawing you closer to the party at the penthouse. Once you step out of the elevator you walk down the long corridor. You approach your friends’ door.

Now you check the time. Perfect. As intended, you’ve arrived fashionably late.

And you don’t feel sorry about it. You feel vindicated.

It’s a damning thing when you go through divorce and your friends claim to stand by you, but then they just don’t. And it isn’t because they sided with your ex. They despise him. They use the time you spent away trying to hold everything in your life together against you. And now, five years later, they act as if they don’t even recognize you.

And they shouldn’t. You dress differently, your hair is even different, now that you’ve been granted the serenity of self-care. Before, when they watched you spend too much time doting on another person, they would grumble about it in hushed tones behind your back, acting like you had water on your brain. Like you weren’t fully cognizant of how unhappy you were.

“Doesn’t Gloria see how he flirts with other women?”

“She mustn’t.”

“Doesn’t she see what a mess her life has become?”

“What a dope.”

“She dresses so modestly now, that must be his doing.”

“And what is going on with her hair; I would certainly never wear my hair like that.”

“Her apartment has cockroaches.”

   “He always smells of sweat.”

“Green was never her color.”

It was as if they enjoyed watching him hold you down. They relished that you couldn’t even wriggle around under that heavy force of everything going wrong. They had the instruments to cut you loose, but they never did. Not like a real friend who should have ridden the wave with you and come out waiting on the other end like Valerie did. You learned the word for it in therapy: Narcissism. You learned this is the type of person you gravitate to, the type of person you are constantly surrounded with, the type of person you tend to look up to.

So, what are these people even doing in your life? You enter the jungles of your memory and find those late-night parties that kept you up in the wee hours and with red, raw eyes. You remember how you used to have fun. How you used to be a person. And like a dream you don’t exactly remember when you awake, you can’t put your finger on who you used to be.

Something was lost in those dense jungles of self-exploration. Too many nights holding your other friends’ hair back. Too many nights wondering how you will pull the strands of your own life together. Too many nights helping them with their schemes and goals, while they climbed up your back, tugging your hair, and then trampling you with their stiletto heels.

And as you wipe away these remnant shimmers of your once happy twenties collecting like dust in the lines on your forehead, they balk at your “lateness”. Screw them, how many times were they late to the dinner parties you threw? How many times were you trapped in the bathroom with the three of them while they gossiped, took way too long to put on makeup, and argued with you when you looked at your watch? What kind of friends were these?

“You said the word individual, Gloria, the individual is irrelevant, everyone knows that, you should have belted that dress and I also don’t like your shade of lipstick and why do you wear your grandmother’s old, gaudy costume jewelry?”

Your grandmother, a holocaust survivor, who told you many stories of suffering, was no longer around. These were the only pieces you have to remind you of her, of her suffering, of your own suffering, of how her suffering was so much worse than your suffering. But did you dare say any of those words aloud? No, you were so dumbstruck by your friend’s rudeness, you couldn’t even gasp for air. You simply blushed and stammered like an idiot. No wonder they always thought you were so stupid.

You weren’t allowed to have thoughts, ideas, or opinions for a time either. Each one was clouded with the assumption that you didn’t really understand anything, that you never once bothered to open a book.

That evening you remember going home to comb your memory for friendships and lovers that didn’t make you feel like garbage. You reach and reach and reach until you are eight years old again. The first time you asked your friends if you could follow them on your bike.

They laughed at you and said, “Only if you can keep up.”

Only if you can keep up. Something you have no problem doing now. Now you are whip-smart, with clever anecdotes, perfectly styled-hair, and that short skirt looks damn good on you.

Green is most definitely your color.

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