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My family wears red.
Our neighbors wear purple.
If I were to befriend a Green, my mother would surely chastise me for my poor choice of company. Greens do not get along well with Reds. My father says that colors are all we are—that the very essence of our existence is based on the colors we pledge our lives to.
This is why Mother frets now, as I stand in front of the mirror in my bedroom. She wonders if she is making the right decision. My parents are sending me to a public high school this year. The days of going to an all-Red school are coming to a frightening end.
My hand shakes as I reach for my hairbrush. “Do you think I’ll meet any Greens today?” I ask Mother, who now taps her foot, her eyes locked on the far corner of the mirror: looking but not truly seeing. I run the brush through my knotted strands of blonde, attempting to brush out my unwarranted jitters along with my hair’s ornery tangles.
“I’d be surprised if you didn’t. You’ll be in close proximity to many different colors this year.”
“Wouldn’t it be best for me to stay at the School for Reds?”
Mother smiles softly, placing a hand on my shoulder to soothe me. My insides swirl violently, my weak stomach triggered by the slightest nervousness.
“The greatest test of a person is not staying true to his color amidst others of his own shade, but to stay true when surrounded by all the colors on the visible spectrum.”
I sigh; her words make more sense than I care to admit. Mother lifts her hand from my shoulder, leaving me to finish getting ready for my first day of school.
My feet thud as fast as my heart when I rush down our wooden stairs. I can think of nothing worse than being late my first day. The mindless mutterings from the television sound in the distance, and I hear my mother clucking her tongue from the living room. I can already picture her pursed lips and crossed arms as she watches the violent clashing of colors unfold in the news. Breaking News: Yellows and Oranges go head-to-head on the other side of the world. Just In: Reds push for controversial legislation while Greens adamantly protest in the streets.
It’s hardly news that the colors are at odds with one another. If only everyone came to their senses and converted to the ways of the Reds. My parents are cynical when it comes to possible unity of the colors, but I still hold hope that the day will come for our world to be united under one color: red.
I snatch my backpack from its place in our coat closet and trudge over to the living room. The sight strikes me as oddly humorous: my two parents dressed in the same color, standing in the same rigid stance with their arms crossed in front of them. Father’s eyebrows are furrowed; a small crease forms in his forehead. I can tell his vivid opinions are festering at the surface of his tongue, threatening to spill out and attack whoever may oppose him.
“Those filthy Greens. Don’t they have anything better to do than stand around, waving those ridiculous signs in our faces?” he mutters finally, his tone more condescending than the rage his features had previously suggested.
“I feel sorry for them,” Mother said, her voice laced with disdain.
“Hi. I’m Rebecca,” a girl with long, wavy, black hair chirps. She flutters about like a hummingbird, her eyes flickering all around her like she is in constant fear of being snuck up on. Rebecca wears purple. The Reds and Purples tend to be grouped together, and I eagerly accept her company as I attempt to navigate my new school’s labyrinth of hallways.
Rebecca is more than happy to give me a tour, and I cannot help but recede inward as she overflows with a kind of buzzing energy. She questions me relentlessly: asking me where I lived, what my last school was like, how many pets I have, and the names of my siblings. Then, to my surprise, Rebecca asks me what I think about the Blacks.
“I didn’t know anyone wore the color black,” I reply. I immediately wonder what the color black symbolizes, and what kind of wars or causes they have stood for.
“They are… interesting.” Rebecca snickers like I just missed an important joke.
“Do Purples not get along with Blacks?” I ask, struggling to keep up with Rebecca’s fast pace. She walks lightly, bouncing up and down like the very earth is bending beneath her feet.
“Black isn’t technically a color,” Rebecca says quietly, glancing over her shoulder. I draw my brows together, not understanding what she means. “Black is the absence of color, technically speaking,” she elaborates. “If you think about it that way, the Blacks don’t really get along with any of the colors.”
Before I could ask her more, Rebecca falls silent beside me. We have just entered the cafeteria, and the first table by the door is where a group of Blacks sits eating breakfast and talking.
I hear Rebecca saying something, but my mind dulls her out to a faint hum. I see her hold up a finger to say she’ll be right back, and then she moves toward a girl in purple with outstretched arms.
There are so many different colors in such a small space; some tables have only one color present, while others, to my surprise, have a rainbow of colors seated all together. I wonder how the Reds at the rainbow tables can stand it: how they can stand sitting next to these people, knowing that they are living their lives wrong.
All of a sudden a girl with bright red hair is in front of me. Her hair, although eye-catching, is not the most startling part of her appearance. She wears a fitted black shirt, black jeans, and black sneakers.
“Hi, I’m Sarah.” She extends a hand in front of her, and I struggle to control my limbs the way I want. A long two seconds of hesitation pass before I awkwardly reach out to shake her hand. I look up to meet her perplexed eyes, her exuberant smile widening ever so slightly.
“Alexia,” I manage.
“Where did you move from?” She asks like she does not even see the color clinging to my skin—the color so much a part of who I am that I don’t know who I’d be without it. “Sorry, it’s a small school; it’s pretty easy to spot a new kid.” She gestures for me to sit down with her, and I can feel my eyes widen in utter shock. I look around, meeting the eyes of a fellow Red at the next table. He shakes his head, watching the scene unfold with a look of pity etching his features.
I surprise even myself when I feel my body slide into a chair next to Sarah; I am now the only color at a table of colorless. The sound of my heart thumping in my chest overpowers the din of the buzzing cafeteria.
Sarah introduces me to the four other Blacks at the table, and they all give me polite smiles and ask me about my last school. When I tell them that it was an all-Red school, they react in a way no other color would: they seem genuinely interested in what was taught and how the messages were delivered. They did not shake their heads and argue; rather, they absorbed what I was saying and then questioned further.
“Now I bet you’re wondering what we think—what we believe. Have you ever seen anyone wear the color black before?” Sarah asks.
I shake my head. “Black isn’t technically a color,” I blurt out before I can stop myself. The entire table laughs in good nature.
“We saw you walk in with Rebecca. The Purples love using physics to disprove our existence,” Sarah says. She doesn’t seem offended. None of them do. “You know, if you combine all of the colors worn in this world, the color it would create is black.”
“What does that mean?” I ask, hearing frustration seep into my voice.
“An end to colors. We don’t want things to be separate anymore. Clothing is external—perishable. You aren’t born red or purple; you are born human. We all are.” The Blacks watch my face like I am an experiment in a science lab.
“I have to go,” I say. Anger boils within me, and it only takes me seconds to swing my backpack over my shoulder, locate a table of Reds, and move myself in their direction.
Rebecca was right. Black is not a color.