When he first saw her in the edge of his memories, she was wine-red.
Her burgundy splatters captivated him, drew him in with a beckoning finger so he flocked to her like a fly to melting honey.
“I love her,” he told his mother. “I have to take her home.”
He was eight years old. In the edge of his memories, he got drunk in her saccharine sound.
She was blue. The color of sapphires bathed in amber light, on display in a museum.
He caressed her neck, the metal strings that slithered down her body like silver waterfalls. He could stare at her forever, listen to her voice until his fingers hurt under her pressure.
“She is blue,” he told his mother. “She changed colors. I saw it clearly – like a wisp in the air. Whenever she speaks, I see it change midair.”
“No, silly,” his mother laughed. “She’s brown, the color of cognac. And she has always been brown. Her color will never change.”
“No,” he echoed her. “She is blue, and she will change again.” He strokes one of her silver hairs and she purrs, a royal blue streak.
He was 10 years old. In the edge of his memories, he drowned in her rolling waves.
She was green. Something about her crackled underneath him like shattered glass in the sands of white beaches.
She sang to him, something like a lullaby but not really. More ringing, more moving, more permanent. He tried to sing along with her but sound ricocheted off her body like fireworks, radiant and brilliant.
“She is green,” he told his friends. “She changed colors again. Green sparkles, like a disco ball.”
“That’s not true,” his friends chimed in unison. “She’s brown, the color of chestnut.”
“No,” he insisted yet again. “She is green, and she will change again. Why can’t you see? Whenever she speaks, she walks on rainbows.”
The children laughed and sputtered. “It’s in your mind,” they chorused. “It’s in your mind.”
He was 12 years old. In the edge of his memories, a green twinkle winked at him warmly.
She was purple. Purple of the great Roman kings, royal and grand.
He carried her on his back, the way he saw nomads carrying their treasures in his history books.
“She is purple,” he told his friend. “She is purple, and she will change yet again. I saw her change colors slowly like mixing paint. In the middle she turned indigo, like stained glass in big churches.”
“That can’t be real,” his friend frowned. “She is brown, and she will be brown, the color of russet. She will never change color, she is what she is. No one can change their color.”
“You don’t understand,” he persisted. “Every voice has a color.”
“No, they don’t,” his friend snorted. “Voices don’t have colors. It’s all in your imagination.”
He stood in the footprints of his friend, tears in his eyes and betrayal in his heart.
He was 14 years old. In the edge of his memories, purple flames started to flicker as if on a pyre, sending incense to the sky.
She was gray. The color of clouds before a storm, short strokes as if painted with a broken brush.
He tugged harshly at her strings, over and over, because his callused fingers would not accept pain anymore. She hummed underneath his touch, simmering.
He sighed and looked at her with straying eyes, eyes not meant for her but were still gaping at her. Empty and forlorn, an impending rain.
“She is gray,” he hesitated to his teacher. “Sort of … like tree bark that has been weathered too much. Something rejected, thrown away.”
“She can’t do that,” his teacher scoffed, incredulous. “She is brown, the color of diluted coffee. She will always be brown, no matter what you say. That’s the reality.”
“No,” he retorted weakly; his staunch belief was something of the past. “She …” he paused for a full second. “She might change again.”
“Stop holding on,” his teacher replied. “It’s time to let go of these crazy thoughts. Her sound is nothing.”
A knife drove itself to the back of his skull, tip poisoned with cruelty.
He was 16 years old. In the edge of his memories, gray ash drifted away as the wind blew, as if it were blowing out candles.
She was black. The color of age-old mascara on a pungent bathroom counter.
He turned his back to her and she lay by herself in a niche, waiting. He pushed her once, on her once-glimmering metal strings that had rusted into something ugly.
“She is …” he stuttered to his doctor. “She is black … like soot from an abandoned fireplace. Dark and ruined.”
“It is brown,” his doctor returned gently. Corrected gently. “It will forever be brown. I’m sorry, but that is the truth. You have to accept it.”
“I–” and he stopped short.
“It is something inside you. It is a condition where your brain criss-crosses and confuses two senses, so you think you can see sound. We call it synesthesia. Can you repeat after me? Synesthesia.”
Words blurred together like mud. He heard himself say the word but he didn’t see himself speak. The colors faded, scrubbed out manually like stains. The stains painted themselves over with a transparent brush, cleansed of years of illusion.
He was 18 years old. In the edge of his memories, she disappeared down the furnace of time.
He is 20 years old. He makes his way downstairs, sneaking peaks at the enormous truck outside his house.
In the edge of his memories, he had loved so deeply, a love of many years.
Cardboard boxes file out of his room, filled to the brim with tidbits of his past. He struts up to her, a sickly thing, dust coating her body like a blanket. He pats her softly, reminiscent of the affectionate caresses of eons ago.
“Good-bye, my first love,” he whispers, and he lays his guitar gently in her case.
The case snaps shut.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.