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Blue and Red Can't Make Purple This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Foul. See that word? See how it has two meanings: to foul someone in a game of Frisbee and to be foul. Nobody likes being foul. It's unpleasant to say and rhymes with all of these unpleasant words. Actually, the more I think about it what does it rhyme with? Cowl, Chowl, Lowl, Owl, Moul. Oh wait, it does rhyme with owl and towel. Look, I can't even rhyme right. Foul and owl sit on a towel thinking about how life really sucks.

Life does suck. I wasn't supposed to get the foul. The guy guarding me knows I did everything right and that I caught the Frisbee the proper way with the right footing. I won the game for us. Don't tell me I'm foul or that I did something that was foul.

Yet, I wasn't even supposed to get the Frisbee. It teetered between my fingers like chopsticks. It almost tripped on my thumb and fell to the ground. I almost tripped when I ran to catch the Frisbee, and the sun's yellow almost blocked my eyes from seeing anything but the green turf. I almost forgot my red jersey at home today because I had thrown it under my bed.

I almost didn't get to breathe today. I almost didn't want to get out of bed this morning. I almost said hi to my sister this morning. I almost forgot to ask her if she needed help with her ­algebra homework because graphing always confuses her. There are so many things I almost do and don't do, but I know that I didn't make a foul. I didn't even almost foul. I mess up a lot, like not saying hi to my sister, but I know I didn't mess up on this.

My sister, Eri – short for Erika, which sounds too formal – was the one who said hi to me this morning. We were sitting down to breakfast, and I was so focused on eating every one of my Cheerios that I didn't even realize she sat down and poured herself cereal. I didn't hear her ask about my homework or bang her day-old shoes against the chair or clank her spoon against the bowl.

I spaced out. I space out all the time and I don't understand why. It gets really bad sometimes. I'll be taking a math test and I'll look down at my pencil and see that it is yellow with a green tip that surrounds a pink eraser. And I'll think, Who decided that it should be yellow instead of blue? Did a group of big men in suits sit around a table and discuss their daughters' favorite colors?

“My Sally likes pink.”

“My Suzie likes blue.”

“My Sophie likes green.”

Did they sip on black coffee and complain about how their chairs and dark blue suits weren't comfy enough and then decide that because none of their daughters could agree on a color they should just chose yellow, the ugliest, most boring color in the world, and then they threw on the green and the pink to please Sophie and Sally? Then, I go on to think how Eri would have been smart and chosen blue because everyone likes a nice blue that reminds them of the sky freckled with marshmallow clouds. (Eri has freckles. Though, you can only see them in the summer. They hibernate in the winter behind her black, feathery hair.) By this time, the class would have ended and I wouldn't even have flipped over my test to the second page. The ironic thing is that numbers are easy for me because they each have a specific spot where they are supposed to go and each one follows another in patterns like ants marching on a hill. I could have aced that test if I hadn't spaced out.

Eri tells me that I should count when I daydream because counting is boring, so I will get bored and get back to work. Eri usually has good advice. She is the smarter of the two of us. I sometimes think she is smarter than Mom because Mom can get confused really easily about what we need for dinner and whose turn it is to do the dishes. I always come home and we have an extra carton of milk in the fridge but never any orange juice. Mom likes lists. They hang out of her pocket and always end up like smooshed bugs in the drier. She makes them with her green pen in handwriting that looks Egyptian.

As I mentioned, Eri wore her day-old shoes today. It was quite an ordeal buying those. She spent hours at the store picking all the sneakers up and looking at them from all angles. Eri always looks at everything from all angles. When she sits down for the first day of classes, she always looks under her desk to make sure there is no gum. Once she chooses a seat, she sits there for the rest of the year. She likes being precise like that.

It took her two hours to pick out the perfect shoes. Mom and I were getting annoyed but we didn't say anything because it was her birthday. After she bought the shoes, we went home and she picked out an outfit: her favorite blue jeans that had a butterfly on the back pocket and a green and blue striped shirt.

This is the part that really hurts. The part that always set Eri apart and always made me feel like I had some greater responsibility than just being her older brother. She went to school that day, yesterday, in her new outfit with her new shoes. But, no one noticed. No one even remembered her birthday. I wouldn't have minded that because I, as I said, don't really notice other people because my thoughts always tangle me up in a world that is half the real world and half my world. But, Eri, Eri only wants to be part of this world but people seemed to have placed her in the other world.

Mom used to be able to make play dates for her. But, now, Eri's friends are making play dates for themselves and going to the mall together and texting on their cell phones. Eri has a cell phone but she has no contacts except our cousins and family. I send her texts four times a day so she can look like she has someone to talk to when classes get boring. She never responds to my texts that are usually about some interesting animal fact. She never yells at me for sending them though. She used to love my facts.

That's the thing – I try to help as much as I can. But I have to help secretly, which is hard sometimes. I am quite a conspicuous person. I can't climb up stairs without making a creak, and I'm no good at eavesdropping. I used to try to listen when Mom and Dad talked about me during football commercials, but they would always change the subject when I got close enough to make their mumbles into sentences.

I think that is what got Eri and me in such a debacle of a friendship. She knows I know and she knows that I am probably gonna tell and she knows that I also don't know what I should do about the situation. She knows me too well, which confuses me. Mom asked me if I want a shrink to help organize all the thoughts in my head, but I said no because I knew Eri is a better shrink than all those old ladies with wrinkles and white pearls who sit and write in notebooks.

Eri gets me. She understands why I always trip and have books on the floor and how I always never button my shirts right. It's like she has magnifying glasses for eyes that can see inside my brain see that I trip because my head is meandering down a weaving path of thoughts about how shoelaces were invented and what people did before that. My thought paths sometimes have huge knotted roots that I trip over. They make me mess up. A lot of people don't like dealing with my mess-ups so they drop me. Eri can't do that though. We have the same blood swooshing around inside of us. That won't ever change.

She's like a cement block that keeps my blue balloon head attached to the earth. I always ask the question about if I want to be attached to the earth. Wouldn't it be easier if I wasn't? I wouldn't have to deal with smelly, sweaty guys telling me the one catch I made during the game was illegal and that it was my catch that made us almost win but then actually lose. That second of win was great. But seconds don't make up my life. I should just cut the string and let me float away. But, what would Eri be left with? She would just seep into the cold tiled floor waiting for her body to melt into cracks. The picture of her chipped Pepsi Can blue nail polished thumb, like paint coming off wood, scratches at the back of my eyes.

I remember standing there, looking at her little nail. It was after Frisbee practice on Tuesday. I was pooped. Mom was out, so I thought I was home alone. Eri usually goes to her saxophone lessons on Tuesday. I remember running up the stairs two at a time because I really had to go to the bathroom. I hate going to the bathroom at school because I always feel like someone is watching. I think I have an oversized bladder, which is really helpful.

I remember running past my room and almost sliding around the corner because my socks were still on so everything was slippery like I was inside a buttered tin pan. I held onto the corner to keep my balance and turned into the bathroom. I had to pee so badly that it almost hurt. It felt as if I was carrying a baby kangaroo and it was hopping around.

I was about to pee in my pants but then everything got confusing really quickly.

Eri was on the floor of the bathroom. Her black dress reminded me of crinkled leaves on sidewalks after I step on them. Her ankles looked cold and white, which made me shiver like when Eri takes her long nails and trails them up and down my back. We looked into each other's noses because we didn't want to make eye contact.

I never looked into her eyes. I know this because I remember scanning the room and I remember everything in the bathroom perfectly. There was some water still in the bathtub, like the soup at the bottom of the bowl that you can never get with the spoon. My towel was hanging over the edge. It was blue. The sun from the window highlighted the green stripes on the curtain. I wondered why the sun chose the green stripes instead of the orange, yellow, or red ones. Mom's eye cream blocked me from seeing the hem of the curtain. The shadow of the eye cream reminded me of the shadow of my pencil from my math test. There was some dirt in the corners, and I bet one of my eyelashes was in one of the dusty corners. The caulk in the tiles was chipping. Some of the tiles were scratched from the time when Eri had wanted to try her new ice skates so she filled the floor with bubbles and soapy water and pretended it was ice. Mom yelled at her and her tears had mixed with the soapy water and I had my ears plunged into my pillow in the other room trying to hide from the yells ricocheting through the wall.

I remember looking at the white sink and seeing my toothbrush and realizing that some of my bristles were pointing out at angles that reminded me of a porcupine and how I should probably get another one, which made me sad because I hate how time passes. Then I realized that Eri's toothbrush was missing from the holder, so my eyes started chasing each other around the room trying to find the hole of space that shouldn't have been there.

I saw it on the floor and when I saw it I felt my brain move at super speed. It was like watching a movie backwards in fast rewind. I saw Eri never letting me go into the bathroom and watching the movies in health about all the really skinny girls that I thought I could pop like bubble rap. I remembered Mom talking to Eri in a hushed voice about how she needed a new pair of jeans and how the butterfly jeans didn't fit anymore. I remembered walking in on Eri when she was standing in front of the mirror naked pulling her skin and seeing if she could see her ribs. All these things were shooting into my head, and then it all stopped and I just saw all blue.

Eri was still sitting there staring at my nose. Her braided hair reminded me of pigeon's feathers after it rains.

She reached to flush the toilet and I saw some red mush disappear and I remembered that we had spaghetti with red sauce at lunch. I tried not to look at the toothbrush on the ground but I saw red on the toothbrush and had to swallow really hard so that I wouldn't throw up too.

And then when I thought of Eri throwing up, I wanted to cry. But I couldn't because Eri should be crying and I thought she was crying and we both couldn't cry. Then I said something so stupid that I felt like one of those psychiatrists with the pearls.

“Does Mom know?”

Eri shivered like I had thrown a bucket of ice water on her spine, and she turned and threw the toothbrush at my socks. I didn't feel it but heard it clatter against the floor like change that always falls out of my pockets. That made me sadder because I couldn't feel her anger. She was like the dot at the bottom of question marks that I always forget to write.

I stood there with my hand on the cold doorknob not knowing what to do. My feet touched seven different tiles on the floor, and it bothered me that my left foot touched four and my right foot only touched three.

I didn't know what to do, so I moved my feet so they both covered three tiles and I began swinging the door slightly with my hand. Eri wasn't saying anything and she wasn't moving. So I closed the door. I closed the door on my sister with the toothbrush and the hair that grazed the scratched tiled floor. I stood outside the door and looked at the door and the wood and thought about the pencils and I didn't know what to do. I was gonna open the door again, but I didn't hear Eri make a sound so I pretended she didn't exist and didn't live on the other side
of the door and that she was just at her saxophone lesson. I went downstairs and used the bathroom because I still really had to go.

But now I'm standing on the Frisbee field with a blue sky above me and green turf below me. There is one cloud in the sky, and it looks like a clown's nose. I look down at my old shoes and see that my knee is bleeding. The red is so much redder than Eri's red mush. Her life should be this vibrant red. But, before the red got out into the air it was probably a wonderful beautiful blue and I'm scared because the blue blood, the stuff that keeps Eri and me like the cement block and the blue balloon, changed to red and spilled out into the real bad world and my no-fowl-almost-winning catch made me not even realize that this happened.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 14 comments. Post your own!

lkk4209This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 11:13 pm:
This is my all-time favorite Teen Ink piece. Absolutely amazing work. I love the stream-of-consciousness style; that can be hard to write, but you do so masterfully.
 
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Luminescent said...
Feb. 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm:
This piece gives me goosebumps. It's haunting and beautiful at the same time. You're an amazing writer!
 
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aem312This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 29, 2012 at 10:32 am:
I really liked this story. The descriptions were amazing. The main character reminded me a bit of Christopher from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was beautifully written. I just have one little comment: you wrote bubble rap but it's bubble wrap. Sorry.
 
KatsviewThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 8:31 pm :
Yes, I agree (I really liked The Curious . . . as well). This is a difficult topic to write about, and definitely an interesting perspective . . . hmm, there's lots of interesting food for thought here.
 
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Brittbyheart said...
Nov. 24, 2011 at 1:43 am:
This peice, it sort-of scares me. Not in a bad way though. It seems so real and I am not sure if the stor is fake or not. THere is soooo much going on, its excilent honestly. Great job sir, just....great work.
 
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Brittbyheart said...
Nov. 24, 2011 at 1:43 am:
This peice, it sort-of scares me. Not in a bad way though. It seems so real and I am not sure if the stor is fake or not. THere is soooo much going on, its excilent honestly. Great job sir, just....great work.
 
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Paradise_Lost said...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm:
I felt so... empty, when I read this. Not in a bad way, though. I mean in the saddened, tearless tears sort of way, if it makes sense. The painful emptiness. Beautiful, beautiful and brilliant, but so, so sad. Never stop writing.
 
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natty5 said...
Nov. 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm:
Wow! Great job!
 
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SparkoraThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Nov. 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm:
I can see why this made it into the magazine, I can tell that a lot of thought was put into this. The tempo is great, and so is the story! Good job!
 
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smilefeverThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm:
I apologize i accidently rated this as a two when i first opened the page. this was beautifully written i loved your characterization. i give it a 5
 
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Taylor H. said...
Feb. 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm:
One of the best pieces I have read in awhile. amazing.
 
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Anonymousperson said...
Feb. 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm:
This peice was very well written. The relationship between the main character and his sister was established brilliantly. I loved the way the main character thinks and the similes he creates. I found it a tad confusing at times, but after re-reading, understood. Great job!
 
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MaxEquestrian said...
Feb. 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm:
This was really well written!  You did a great job creating the main character and his relationship with his sister.  
 
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ImaginedangerousThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm:
Wow. The main character's voice was brilliant. 
 
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