As First Dates Go...
The Haunting Tale of a Colorful First Date
The colors on the wall seemed to take on a life of their own, enveloping the couple in rays of pinks and blues. It seemed to represent them perfectly: their love was a baby blue, new and unsure, and their circumstance was a deep dark red, brooding and uncertain.
He laid on his back looking up at the white ceiling, ever so naked and exposed, kinda like how he felt. His hand rested in between her hands. She traced the lines engraved there whispering a song she’d heard once before to herself.
“What do you see?” He asked her motionlessly.
“I don’t palm read,” she whispered back, beginning to draw circles in his hand.
“I meant the painting,” he said closing his eyes.
She looked up. The Bannister before her felt troubled and enraged all at the same time. To her, it spewed passion and disdain for the canvas.
“He was angry,” she said finally.
He opened his eyes and looked at the colors awhile longer. To him, she was yellow: fragile and small. Even her name, Lily, was delicate and gentle. He saw what she saw, but he didn’t agree.
“He was in love I think,” he said re-closing his eyes.
She could see that. Love could be infuriating and exhausting and angry but the flecks of gold whispered hope in her ear. To her, he was gold. He was hopeful and kind and ever changing. Qavah was his name. Q for those who couldn’t pronounce it. But she liked saying Qavah.
“Kaah-Vahh” she’d said when he told her how to pronounce it hours earlier, tasting every syllable. It was poetic and appropriate. Binding together, eagerly waiting, hoping for, expecting. She liked mouthing that.
“You speak Hebrew?” He’d asked when he noticed she was doing it.
“A little,” she smiled.
Gold, yes gold was perfect for him. But he could also be black: deep, unforgiving, passionate, mysterious. There was something in his eyes that revealed hidden depths. But with her, he was a blank and untouched canvas. He was naked and exposed like that ceiling. There was something about her that made him like that and in 18 years of living, he’d never met anyone else who could do that to him.
“In love with who?” She asked, “This was painted before he was married.”
“Take your pick” he chuckled.
Lily stopped tracing his hand and interlocked his fingers with hers. Her gaze fell on a notable Tanner piece she knew too well.
“That one was done the year I was born,” she said
Qavah looked at where she was pointing. “Henry Ossawa Tanner. ’06?”
“’05” she corrected. She stood up to touch it.
Hues of yellows and green changed her mood. She suddenly felt more chipper and light. She was a lime green or yellow, like he always thought she was.
He poured the last of the merlot they’d stolen from the abandoned warehouse next door. The deep red liquid smoothly splashed into the glass, small drops staining the marble floor. He stared at the drops until her shadow covered them. He offered her the glass and she gratefully accepted, careful to only drink enough to quench her thirst. She handed the half full glass back to him. Qavah repositioned himself on all fours and resumed looking at the wine drops.
“Did you know I was an artist?” He said to them.
“What type of artist,” Lily asked.
He slowly spilled the wine onto the floor. Blood red merlot skated across like dancers on ice. It was graceful on its own, but he used his fingertips to guide it, creating red circles and lines where there had been only white floor. She watched him, his hands creating a portrait in her likeness. He’d perfectly sculpted her thick hair, high cheek bones and wide nose out of his Chateau Lafite-Rothschild paint. When he’d finished, he sat back on his knees, fingertips dripping and stained with wine, waiting for her seal of approval.
“Wow,” she gasped. She sank down next to him, wanting to touch it but knowing she couldn’t. She reached out and traced the air above his lines. Gently, he took hold of her wrist and brought it closer to the masterpiece, but she resisted.
“I want it to last forever,” she whispered.
“Nothing lasts forever,” he responded releasing her and toying with the empty bottle.
They both sat in near silence for a moment. Then, “What were you running from? Before you got here.” He asked her.
“To. Not from,” she said, “I was trying to make it to my mother’s house on the other side of town.
“That’s been in flames since this morning,” he said
“I know,” she whispered back, “What about you?”
“Gun shots. My brothers and I heard them and ran. I don’t know where they are.”
He leaned back again, this time with Lily attached to his chest. The pair closed their eyes, her studying the rhythm of his breathing. In, out, in, out. His firm chest supporting her comfortably. Now he felt like a deep navy blue. He was sad and alone and he felt small underneath her. She wanted so badly to make both of their pain go away. She’d wipe the whole canvas clean and start over, paint something more beautiful this time, but canvases cannot be wiped clean. And paint is permanent.
“So this is our last date?” She said whimpering.
“Last?” His deep laugh roughly shook her head. “Wouldn’t we have to go on a first date first?”
She smiled to herself. He was trying to lighten the mood. Yes, he was a navy blue: dependable, trustworthy, honest. When she couldn’t figure out how to make him better he poured security, laughter and love into her. She was beginning to see a comforting rainbow in him.
“Well this aint much of a first date,” she joked, “hiding in a museum. Just waiting.”
“I disagree,” he smirked with his eyes closed, “As first dates go this has been the best one to me,”
“Well I haven’t been on any dates until now so I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it,” she said, a hint of periwinkle in her voice.
His little yellow girl had gone blue. He was a bit older and more experienced but that didn’t mean that in this life or any other she wasn’t the most beautiful array of colors he’d ever seen. If he could spend his last moments with anyone anywhere, he was glad it was here with her.
The truth was though, she’d rather not think about him with any of the neighborhood girls. She was sure she could name names if she wanted to, those red, scarlet, maroon type girls, but she chose to dwell in the moment. He knew she was thinking about it though. How could she not?
She sat up, examining her brown, uneven finger nails. The air somehow seemed colder. He sat up too scooting closer to her. He rested his forehead on hers giving her hand a reassuring tap. She smiled, welcoming his warmth. Maybe he was brown: warm and inviting.
“I got something for you,” he said.
Whatever it was it obviously wasn’t originally for her but the original recipient was probably long gone by now. She held out her hand. In it, he placed a smooth stone. It was jet black with flecks of blue, red, yellow, orange and green. As the colors and the setting sunlight refracted, the shades hit a black and white painting of a waterfall on the wall, making the image even more daunting and beautiful. It was the most breathtaking thing she’d ever seen.
“It’s my lucky stone,’ he said, “I found it by the river.”
She stared at it in silence, making the colors dance around her. She intercepted the light with her fingers, causing her brown skin to glow. She’d never been at a loss for words before, but at this very moment she was. She closed it in the palm of her hand and held it close to her chest, desperate to hide its beauty from the world. She loved her gift, even if it belonged to someone else. It was hers now, something precious to call her own. He turned to her, prepared to ask another meaningless question but in a quick flurry, her lips found his. It took him by surprise; a good surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. He stared blankly at her. Her cheeks flushed red. She looked at him prepared to apologize but in the same second, he kissed her right back, slower this time. She could actually describe his kiss. Hers was rushed, frazzled, nervous. It was her her first kiss so expectantly so. But his, his was strong, prepared, sure. It was soft and gentle but firm and understanding. It wasn’t scary. It was… indescribable. Like her stone. She found the beauty in every detail of that kiss but she couldn’t explain it. It was just right.
Lily stood up and walked over to the waterfall painting. The gun shots and riot sounds from outside growing closer. The hue from the fiery town behind them turned their white walls shades of red and orange. Smoke from the surrounding buildings crept into their safe haven.
Qavah took his place behind her, staring at the same waterfall.
“I think it’s almost time,” he whispered, leaning his chin on her head.
She played with her fingers.
“I think you’re right,” she said, determined not to cry. She was going to be navy blue or black or gold or whatever he was. She was going to be strong, like him.
The angry voices grew even louder and now they could see human shadows dancing on the walls.
“As first first dates go, this was the best one ever,” she whispered turning and pressing into his large frame.
He hugged her back determined to protect her until the bitter end.
“Binding together, eagerly waiting, hoping for, expecting,” she repeated over and over. Her words drenching his t-shirt.
As the window glass shattered and the doors flew open, the invaders from the other parts of the city stormed in sending grey and black bullets in ahead of them. Century old sculptures burst into golden glass and green clay pieces. Bronze queens, turquoise waterfalls and grey trees bounced from the walls onto the floors. Their wine bottle disintegrated into a million emerald pieces. Thick ruby and claret paint messily redecorated the once white walls. Lily’s stone rolled out from her hand. Its short journey through streams and pools of blood took it near the merlot finger painting, a prefect place for such a beautiful object.
“I think Greenwood is done,” one invader said to another. He looked back at the crumpled teenagers.
“They wouldn’t have made it out no way,” another one laughed.
The throng stalked outside, leaving businesses, homes and livelihoods burning to a crisp. One staggered behind to set the museum ablaze, adding new, ominous dark clouds to an already black sky. As they made their way back to their shiny brown cars parked on the outskirts of the enflamed town, they passed a black soot covered green and white sign. The pack’s self appointed leader considered taking the sign as a trophy, but it was dirty and his wife would have had a fit. He smiled at it, wishing he could have had that sign. It would have looked nice on his mantle.
The year is 1921. The sign reads: Welcome to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greenwood.