August 7, 2020

All the Shades of Grey

posted on: Wednesday February 10, 2010

Daniel James ’11/Portfolio Staff

She used to beg him to inject a little happiness into his voice.Even though he tried to bury the truth with false optimism, she would always catch him. Back when it was summer and they’d drive down the side streets with the July night blowing into the car and kissing his face, she’d sit in the passenger’s seat with her bare feet dangling out the window while asking him his thoughts on life. He would force his tense cheeks into a smile and give his most optimistic opinions, but his knotted vocal chords made his words come out distorted. She would brush her long brown hair away from her green eyes and place her pale hand on top of his. Eventually they’d stop at a beach somewhere along the edge of the world and turn the engine off so it was just the two of them with the ocean crashing against the shore. She’d grip his hand tightly and force him to look into her emerald green eyes, making him promise that if things got worse he’d talk to her. And of course, through a broken voice, he said he promised. He never knew if he was being completely truthful until she closed her investigating eyes and leaned in to kiss him. It would save him like a lighthouse guiding a lost boat to land in the night.But nobody cares about “once upon a time” like they used to because “once upon a time” is limited. Like ashes to ashes and dust to dust, he tried his best to find the happiness in his voice that he needed to keep her around. He stopped the drugs and he stopped the drinking. He tried to improve his life by going to the gym more and taking up the guitar, and even though his legs were sore and his fingers would bleed, he still believed that if he kept trying, he’d eventually stumble upon the happiness that she wanted him to have. She told him that happiness was like a box of crayons; that every little feeling of happiness is was its unique color and created beauty when put together. And even though he was still depressed and his flesh felt like thousands of tiny ants, he still kept working towards happiness. And she said that he would make it and that she’d be there to support him no matter what.But that’s the beginning of a “happy ending” and nobody cares about “happy endings” anymore because they don’t exist.In reality, she only wanted to be there for him when it was convenient. She’d invite him to come visit on the weekends and would tell him all week how much she missed him and how much she couldn’t wait to see him. On Wednesday, he would start to feel little jolts of excitement. On Thursday he would begin to burst at the seams with enthusiasm, and on Friday he’d wake up extra early with his heart pounding and pack his bags to go see her. He’d count the minutes down during the train ride and eagerly anticipate her emerald eyes spotting him across the campus, causing her legs to sprint full speed to embrace him. They’d squeeze each other and he’d say that happiness is possible without all the substance abuse if this is what happiness brings.But that’s “wishful thinking” and the only thing “wishful thinking” ever got anyone was false hopes.In reality, as soon as she’d see him on campus, her eyes would avert to the ground or the tree or the building. And even though she’d made it sound like she couldn’t wait to see him, she’d force a hello and try to pretend like she still cared about how he was doing and what they had planned for that night. And even though he could tell something was wrong, he’d shake it off and blame himself for projecting his own insecurities on her until later that night when they’d be at a party and she’d wander over to some guy and spend the whole night with his arm around her, the two of them looking into each other’s eyes and talking and laughing. Just like that, the wrench in his stomach would turn and tangle his tubes into uncomfortable knots until he couldn’t even look at her without getting upset. But then when he’d go in the other room with other friends, his mind would remind him that she was still out there with that guy and he couldn’t do anything about it. He’d try to shut his mind up with a shot of whiskey. And when his mind still wouldn’t stop talking, he’d lose control and pick up the bottle…again.But who cares about “honesty” if “honesty” doesn’t lead to somewhere good in the end?Even though she’d torture him, she’d still insist that she cared about him and that she was affectionate towards him. And after a while he’d believe her and then she’d invite him back up and they’d talk about how much she misses him and how she wants to see him so badly. He’d believe her and as soon as he’d come back to visit her, the same things would happen again. And even though she kept telling him to find happiness and to put some of it in his voice she was making it almost impossible. She would yell at him and tell him that he wasn’t trying hard enough and he’d yell back and tell her that he felt like she was playing with him, and she’d remind him that they couldn’t be together until he found happiness, and he’d tell her that he couldn’t speak happily if this is how she treated him, and she yelled…But nobody cares about “the problems” anymore because they want to see “the solution” that brings the two together despite all odds.But “the solution” where they ended up together never existed to begin with. In the end he sat in his common room with his blistered fingers and overworked muscles. He knew she was out somewhere with some new guy who he’d never met. She told him that she couldn’t be with anyone because of school and work, but then she found someone better than him. She started dating. That’s when he understood that he was never the “happy ending” for her. He was just her placeholder for something better. He was her “once upon a time” that she’d think about as she walked down the sidewalk hand in hand with her new love, or when she lay awake at night reflecting on faces from the past. He wasn’t a color in her box of crayons; he was just a pretty shade of grey that helped complete her color spectrum but wasn’t used for much else. But he figured that was okay, because even though it hurt, he knew in time he’d find his own world of color where he would love all the pretty shades of grey.

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