She was a synesthete and most words had a color. Her best friend’s name was a Halloween orange and her brother’s, pale green. Grey’s name should’ve been obvious but it was more like a blue she couldn’t describe. A quiet color that reminded her of places she hadn’t been yet. A blue that didn’t belong to water or sky. If anything, it was a grey-blue. It was never grey-grey. The only person who had ever been a grey-grey was this guy in her high school graduating class who told her she was “pretty for a black girl.” She never wanted to meet a grey-grey again. Grey-blue was fine. More than fine.
Grey had gotten her pregnant and in the seven years they’d been together, they’d raised a healthy, kind-mannered first-grader, bought a brown house at the edge of the county and they still loved each other enough. The daughter was a glittering yellow. Sometimes the love was a goldish color. Sometimes it was silver but most of the time it was gold; a heavy honey color that looked like it was melting, even when it wasn’t. Maybe that wasn’t true. Maybe it was melting.
And if she woke up in the morning with something like “my heart is a cough” stuck in her head, she would tell Grey and he’d say it was great. He’d write it down and stick it to the fridge. He was a composer and a music teacher and at the end of the week he’d leave sheet music on her side of the bed. At the top of it, it would read My Heart is a Cough by Grey and Esme Washington. She couldn’t read music but when he’d play her the song, it always sounded a soft-pink color. A hushing. Every song he wrote was like a hushing.
She’d tell her daughter, “find Daddy’s blue,” when they lost him at the mall. Her daughter would echo her. Find Daddy’s blue as they wandered past the Starbucks, past the Disney Store, up to the fountain to toss in their smallest coins. Esme had learned long ago that she could use Grey’s color to find him in a crowd. It didn’t matter where they were, she could scan the heads and find his blue. No one had his same color and his blue lifted. His blue was sticky and thick. His blue was almost-smoke.
They’d always find him. Sometimes he was at the bookstore and sometimes he was at the piano store, plink-plunking and touching things. Their daughter wasn’t a synesthete but Esme loved that she could find her daddy’s blue anyway. Even if it was pretend. Sometimes they were all pretending. Sometimes everyone is pretending everything.
“We should do something to show each other we still love each other,” she said one night, clomping over her choice of words; muddy boots schlomping through thick, itchy waist-high grass.
“I write you a new song every week,” Grey said. He smiled and slid a piece of sheet music across the bed. My Heart is a Tornado Warning by Grey and Esme Washington. They walked to the living room in their wool socks. He sat behind the piano and played a song and the hushing reminded her of the sea at night. Of raining and raining and raining and yellow hooded jackets.
When the song was over she told him that when she felt herself drifting or when she felt like he was the one drifting, she remembered to look for his blue. To find his blue. She made him promise not to change his color. He said he didn’t think he could if he tried, that it didn’t work like that. She said it didn’t matter. He still needed to promise it.