Content warning: mentions of self-harm
When I was around 6 years old, my mother asked me what my favorite color was for the first time. For some reason, she had concluded that after six years of dictating the color that would dot my room, clothing, and hair, it was finally my turn to choose one special shade around which to mold my personality. Instantly, I selected the color red, which had been the color of the stray tawny cat that would constantly watch over me as if I were one of her many kittens. Red clearly wasn’t the color my mother had expected me to say, but she waved it off, allowing me to rock the color elderly considered sinful, scandalous; the physical imitation of Satan himself.
A few years later, I became more conscious of what the color red entailed, as I had gotten a nosebleed for the very first time. My favorite color began to trickle from my nose suddenly and stained the paper that previously was the scene of my frustrations with long division and lattice. I hadn’t registered just how drastic this color could be until the girl next to me screamed; her voice pierced my ears as I couldn’t help but wish someone would find a way to snap her mouth shut. My peers looked over at me, probably expecting an extreme reaction, but the red wasn’t something that phased me. Why would a simple color be cause for worry? I wondered as my teacher ushered me out of the room and insisted I use a tissue to quell the bleeding that clearly did not affect my present well-being.
The first time I understood my grandmother’s aversion to the color red, I was sitting on a giant yellow school bus. Children noisily chattered about random activities as I found myself dreading being 13, wishing I was older, cooler, like my siblings were. On this ancient school bus that huffed and puffed, my friend explained to me another activity that made people huff and puff, calling these lewd actions the embodiment of sin itself. She called it the “devil’s tango,” explaining to me that our other friend had participated in the complex dance for the first time and claimed it was so fun, she had seen red by the end of it. That evening, I found myself curiously exploring this scandal, draping myself in Satan’s red cloak that matched my throw blanket as I immersed myself in the daring, terrifying world of my favorite color.
Red leaves, that matched the lipstick I enjoyed when I was 16, fell from the sky as I contemplated creating my own sea of red in my bathtub. The tube of lipstick had rolled onto the bathroom floor, forgotten as I surveyed myself in the mirror. While the outside world was tranquil, I remember feeling anything but, as life had become nearly unbearable. Guilt had begun to eat me alive and caused my arms to quickly become an outlet for this unwarranted emotion as I began to blame myself for the problems between my mom and dad, between me and school. My spotless, stark-white bathroom had seemed like the perfect place to spill my favorite color, but I decided against it as I heard my mother’s voice call my name.
The crimson color I let flow down my throat on a Wednesday night sits in my glass from Venice, against which I tap my painted nails. With age, my taste has remained consistent, as I lie in red sheets where I have, multiple times, committed the devil’s favorite dance. My book sits open, a few notes hastily written in the margins while The Weeknd’s music plays in the background, reminding me that the music I listened to at the ripe age of 14 wasn’t as bad as I had thought when I was 19. The book I read fails to engage me, and I find myself leaning toward my bedside table, deciding to immerse my nails in my favorite color yet again rather than the boring, angelic white that currently dots them. Each brushstroke further seals my fate as the spawn of Satan, making me grin as I thank 6-year-old me for her decision.