Friday, October 13, 2017

flash: RED — short-shorts on a theme

I'm half-awake and this city is stripped down, broken down into panels, where people smile in fractions of less than ten per cent. Some of us wear bandages over our eyes, and do not see green balloons that shape and shift the trees. The skies are streaked in post-box red, my favourite kind of shepherd's warning. But red is not always beware, a rule of thumb used for weather forecasting; it can be a garden escape by Geranium sanguineum. I fall in with the leaves of autumn and a red bucket where white hens are rusting.
    - Alan Summers

I can relate to the flat red of Henri Matisse's "The Red Studio," with a hookah in the foreground and a woman, also in red, in the upper left corner. I still remember my mother's angry demeanor when she discovered the first rivulets of red between my legs, when I was twelve years old. My strict, orthodox mother furiously pronounced that now I had "become a woman" and must no longer play games with boys. This bleeding would happen every month. Sobbing, I asked her for an explanation, but I was left uncomforted. During the days of my menstrual period, I was forbidden to enter the family shrine. Every month I was a pariah, isolated in a red room.

a red hibiscus   laid  gently   on a roadside shrine
    - Angelee Deodhar

When I was young I would blush easily. It was awful because I knew that everyone else could tell when I was embarrassed. I think it started in the 2nd grade when I had to raise my hand to go to the bathroom and Mrs. Thornton told me to wait 10 minutes until recess. Luckily I didn't pee in my pants, but turning a bright shade of red was almost worse. I could feel the warm flush start in my neck and slowly rise up my face until the blood settled in my cheeks. After that first time the blushing became uncontrollable and I would turn red if I received a compliment or a criticism. I felt so exposed, thinking that other people could see into my brain, or my heart.
    - Annie Wexler

I painted the floor of my daughter's bathroom red. She had wanted a white floor, so it was painted white, but it always looked grey. One day when she was gone I painted it red. And she realized that was it, the right color. After all, her kitchen floor is a deep red and she was the one who chose those tiles.

    - Barbara Anger

Raspberries are red and so are strawberries. And cherries. And some varieties of grapes. And watermelon. And pomegranates. And persimmons. But you would never mistake one for the other, based solely on color.

    - Barbara Cartwright

I had received a special Christmas gift: a lightweight, Henley style sweater in red. A girl for whom I held a torch, but who had (perhaps wisely) rebuffed my clumsy attempts at romance, asked to borrow it on a cold day. A year passed. A second year passed. The flame died. The friendship remained. Though I often saw her wear my Christmas gift, I never asked for it back. She had (perhaps unwisely) allowed herself to be seduced by another one, one who could promise her uncompromising masculinity, a steady career, and stable finances. The week of her wedding, I saw her wearing the sweater and finally requested its return. But history had been revised, and this red sweater — the one now bleeding its color up her neck and into her cheeks — belonged to her intended. A moment passed. I insisted. She deflected. I withdrew. A decade passed. The friendship faded. Yet a cursory glance through photos on social media confirms that she still wears my red sweater, and I wonder why it was so important to her that she would lie to keep it. And I wonder if she even remembers that it was a lie.

    - Bevan Michael Haynes

"Are you related to that red-haired preacher?"  Yes, I am. He is my grandfather. My father's father. But I am also related to that red-haired beauty my mother calls Doro. Her sister. And there are others as well — remembering an uncle, cousins, ancestors, and much-loved friends. Red all around me. Ribbons and shirts and shoes; flowers and feathers and kitchen walls. Like the root chakra it represents, red grounds me — gives me strength. Makes a place I can call home. If I could, I'd always live in a red house. My husband says red is my color. It might be.

    - C. Robin Janning

One Fall Saturday afternoon my father came to me and asked "Do you want to see something special?" I went with him to the kitchen and I could see on the counter he had out a cutting board and a very sharp knife. On the cutting board were two of the reddest apples I'd ever seen. Without being told to, I moved the green kitchen stool over to the counter and climbed up. Normally, I would automatically begin to spin on this stool. I never tired, it seemed, of moving the seat around and around. But this day I didn't spin. My father explained that he had been to the apple orchard that day and brought home a new kind of apple. It was called a "Pink Lady." "But it's red, Dad. It should be called a Red Lady." "Watch!" he replied, and he took the big knife and split the apple in half. The inside of the apple was different than any other apple I'd ever seen. It was rosy pink at the bottom, with no white whatsoever. As you looked up toward the stem the flesh of the apple became a lighter and lighter shade of pink. "Try it," my dad said, handing me a slice. No kidding, it was the sweetest apple I'd ever tasted. My dad smiled and helped me down off the stool, while I finished my piece, and we moved over to the kitchen table. We sat there, mostly in silence, enjoying slice after slice of the Pink Lady apple. When we finished he looked at me and smiled. "Tastes pink, doesn't it?"

    - Chris McNamara

My mother wanted her new car to be red. But not just any red. It had to be a classy red. "What was the color of that nice station wagon you drove back in Minnesota?" she asked me. "Wild Strawberry, they called it," I responded. "Yes, your Wild Strawberry car. I want something like that." We looked at red cars whenever we went driving together. "Nope, nope, nope," my mother would say. We looked at cars in parking lots. "Too brassy. Too loud. Not sophisticated enough." She looked through brochures of car colors and, finally, she found a color she liked. Venetian Red. "It's perfect," she declared. So we went to a car dealership. The salesperson showed her the model she wanted. "But do you have it in Venetian Red?" my mother asked. Alas, the answer was no. Luckily my brother ended up finding her the car she wanted, in another city, at a much cheaper price, and with the requisite heated seats. He delivered the car to my mother this past weekend. All she could say was "yes, yes, yes." And everyone who saw it could not help noticing what a handsome color my mother's new car was. "Oh well," she said. "It's Venetian Red."

    - Gabrielle Vehar

The tiny red pedal tractor that my kid brother used to ride in circles around the downstairs  — through the hallway, around the staircase to the living room, into the dining room — as fast as his short legs could pedal, his face beaming with the purest pleasure, exuding joy.

    - Heather Boob

Red is the color of pomegranates — red leather outside, nature's blood, sweet-sour, inside. My father bought me my first one. He loved Greek myths and had wanted to call me Penelope, but my mother found out that was his girlfriend's name and saved me from being a "Penny" by tying me down with "Heidi" —  a good-natured, irrepressible goatherd, instead.

    - Heidi DeCoo

I had had a miscarriage and was miserable, grieving. A couple of friends offered to take my husband and me out for dinner and dancing, to cheer us up. We set a date and
I decided I should have a new dress for the occasion. I chose a pattern: a long swooping style, sleeveless, with a scooped neck. And a soft fabric, brilliant red. Just making the dress gave me a lift, and when the evening of our date came I was ready to have fun. The four of us lingered over dinner and then we danced. I felt not beautiful, but exotic, a flame that burned high. The miscarriage could never be forgotten but the darkness of it was matched by the light and joy of the evening with my husband and two good friends, as I swirled and twirled in glorious red.

    - Joanna M. Weston

He was her lifelong love she would not have another, even though he left suddenly without explanation and never an argument after their 22 years of marriage and five children. He left on Independence Day, ironically, and after the door closed and his suitcase was out of sight, the rest of her life was repercussions. She worked hard all day to make it all work, but at night she walked in circles in her dark room upstairs, I knew because I listened. Early one night she called me (I was the oldest, seventeen, and ready to start my own life, poised for college). She opened her door holding a pair of pretty red high-heeled shoes. She was always colorful, but she said to me, now you have to wear them. And so I did and she always smiled encouragingly to see me in them, and she loved my red dancing dresses too. From that day on, until her last day, almost 95, I never saw her in anything but blue. 

    - Kath Abela Wilson

Red traffic lights seem to hold no meaning in Ithaca. Red coquelicot (wild poppies),  dancing in the French field, a long-time memory. Red light, green light, a backyard game from my childhood. Red and pink together, a fashion faux pas from years ago. The house across the street from mine, painted Cherry Cobbler, do I like it? Red strawberries under green leaves, hiding from the color-blind fruit-picker. Red bathing suit, worn only once, soon to be a Good Will donation. Red geraniums, not my favorite, a spring  compromise. A painting of red apples hanging on my kitchen wall, the artist, my uncle at age 18. Bright red Austin Healey sports car zips around the streets of Ithaca. Traded in on a red Volkswagen bus that carried us across the country. A red Dasher, a red Gran Torino, a red Saab — the red cars of my life. Red tomatoes warmed by the sun, a gardener's dream. Red Christmas sweater celebrates the season.

    - Linda Keeler

Sophia Loren loved to wear red, it was her favorite color. I had the honor of writing a script for her, where she taught the CEO of JCPenney how to speak Italian. Back in that day the TV cameras couldn't handle red, so she wasn't allowed to wear it. She wasn't happy. She would wear yellow instead. So I bought myself an outfit that was all red, from head to toe, bright red high heels and all. But Sophia Loren never got to see me in it because her husband, Carlo Ponti, postponed the filming. Then they had to return to Italy and we were left with only the CEO. I kept that red dress and shoes for years, and the teleprompter version of the script.

    - Mara Alper

Red leather purse. Or jacket. Or shoes. Or couch. Red leather love. Red leather thoughts. Red leather feelings. Red leather soap. Red leather cat. Red leather shower. Waves of red leather sensation hitting the back of this body. Of this universe. Red leather spiral into the unknown. Red leather clouds. Red leather lover. Red leather boot straps that lay, untouched, on the ground.  Just pull yourself up by the bootstraps. I 'm done. So, so done with red leather bootstraps. May they lay on a dust-covered shelf, at the back of the closet, next to the greasy bottle of WD-40 and the pile of rusty nails. No more red leather bootstraps for me.

    - Marcy Little

When I was a kid I had a dog named Princess. I've always wished I had come up with a more creative and original name for her, but I totally blanked at name-choosing-time. She was a funny mix of Black Lab and Beagle. Black everywhere except at the very tip of her long tail. One Christmas my Wichita cousin, who had a dog named Duchess that looked like Princess except bigger, bought them both a present: bright red rubber galoshes that strapped onto their paws. We thought this was hilarious and couldn't wait to try them out. There was a bit of snow on the ground so we all ran outside to play. Duchess took to the boots instantly and pranced around the yard. Princess totally freaked out and stood there trembling. I called to her and knew she desperately wanted to run to me, but she couldn't make her feet work. Maybe the feel of the rubber between her paws and the ground was too much for her to comprehend. She could manage to scoot her front legs forward but then she wasn't sure how to get her back half going. It was as if she suddenly forgot how to walk. She stretched one back leg high in the air but she couldn't bring it back down to the ground. Her leg shook so badly I thought she was going to cry. So I removed those stupid red boots from her paws. Instantly she was happily dancing around the yard with her usual delight. I never made her wear them again.    

    - Marty Blue Waters

My go-to slip-ons are red. They were never bright shiny red, but now they are dull-tarnish red. That's what comes from about seven years of wear in all kinds of weather. The nice thing about their present color is that they don't clash with anything I wear, so I can just slip into these shoes as I leave the house to embark on the day's adventures.

    - Mary Louise Church

Poinsettia plants, wrapped in gold foil, were delivered to our house every Christmas by someone my father worked for. I hated them. Their look, their color, the way their red leaves would soon dry up. Then the plants were relegated to the basement, where they'd reside for far too long, as though hoping for a second life. A life which never came.

    - Nancy Osborn

I am a proud member of the tribe of red diaper babies. You know all the signals  — moist eyes when you hear a recording of Pete Seeger singing union songs; flashes of red hot anger at the mere mention of Joseph McCarthy's name; embarrassed failure to make eye contact with anyone who accurately, but irritatingly, reminds us that Stalin was not a lovable father figure, but rather was a murderous anti-Semitic monster. We brag about unannounced visits to our homes by FBI agents in trench coats and fedora hats. "How many raw eggs were you bombarded with at May Day rallies?" we ask each other, competitively. What have we carried with us into our seniority from those halcyon days? Some deny the past, have swung so far to the right that they tip over. But most of us cling to the intensity of our parents' belief that the human condition could be improved, could be more egalitarian. We still think the barriers which divide us by race, class, religion, and nationality could be lowered, if not eliminated. Bear with me if you see me tear up at certain song lyrics: "If you want better wages let me tell you what to do . . ."  or "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night . . ." Especially in these days of rage, I'm grateful for the continuity of the values and beliefs that came tucked into our red diapers.

    - Nina Miller

Red-haired ones, your time is nigh, you know how to live and you live life well. Marry each other, be fruitful and multiply, let your numbers swell.

    - Rob Sullivan

I went to the mountains outside of Urumqi, China, to collect insects for ecological research. While I worked I stayed with a group of nomadic Kazaks. Each day I came back to the compound worn and cold after searching the steep slopes for caterpillars. A young woman befriended me. She invited me into her family's yurt, sat me down, and lay her head against me. Her mother served me salty sheep's milk tea while her grandmother smiled, toothlessly. On my last day there we met on the muddy path between our homes. I handed her my wool gloves as a parting gift.   She handed me a square of deep red velvet with a florescent orange yarn border, crocheted by her grandmother. My daughter was angry that I had gone to Urumqi. When I came home a few weeks later she was angry anew because I had dared to leave, and then to return. Her round toddler face was hot and wet with tears of rage as she watched me unpack, suspiciously. I wanted to scoop her up and kiss her all over because I had missed her so much. But out of respect for her singular fury I waited, confident that eventually my embrace wouldn't be a violation. I pulled the red velvet cloth from my bag, folded it neatly and offered it to her. She eyed it, came closer, and touched it. It was soft. She took it and pressed it gently against her lips. Tears filled her eyes, and mine. Then she put her hand on my open hand, and climbed into my lap.

    - Saskya van Nouhuys

This morning: a red robin, singing in a tree, serves as my alarm clock. The red fox in the backyard, looking for my cat. A red deer, peeking around a tree, just to scare my wife.

    - "Spike" Lee

What if I painted my house bright blistering red? Red is the color of the root chakra, after all, the center of groundedness, of firm foundations, of consistent support. Would it make me want to stay put, at long last? Would it finally make a home?

    - Stacey Murphy

I don't care for the color red, unless it is worn by a maple tree in October. Then red is a joyous reminder of beauty yet to come — again and again and again — as round we go. At least for a while.

    - Sue Crowley

My son's Subaru is red. He and my husband drive ahead of us as we travel to the Tetons. In our car, my daughter-in-law, her mother, and I follow their  red dot through the golden, rolling hills of Idaho. Their scarlet car is vivid against the ochre wheat fields and the dark blue-grey of low clouds that are promising snow. The red of rock maples spatter  the hills, tracing the paths of small streams as they descend to valleys dotted with red barns. In the distance, hulking green harvesters docilely follow huge red tractors across the tan expanses. We fly past hills which grow to evergreen-clad mountains dusted with the first snow. As in a Japanese print, the brilliant dots of red remind us how bright are all the other colors. 
    - Sue Norvell

There have been so many wonderful reds in my life. My first car, a 1965 red Corvair. My 2000 wine-red Toyota Camry, which I had for 15 years. Ruby Colorganics lipstick. Earth-red Colorganics lipstick. The red leather wallet in my pocketbook. My red suede pocketbook now living hours away in Canton, New York. Strappy red high-heeled sandals, worn when I was single. A long-sleeved Habitat blouse, almost ready to wear (as soon as the temperature drops a bit). The queen-size cherry-red pull-out couch in my office. Red walking shoes, made by Clarks, purchased in Dublin. The pair of red dangly earrings I borrowed from my good friend Roberta to wear at my nephew's engagement party. A red wool swing jacket, ideal in fall or spring, from Lands' End. A red silk scarf, just one of many scarves I own.That red, orange, brown, and yellow scarf I bought on the street in Florence. An image of red eye glass frames, featured prominently on my new business logo. Red-framed eye glasses that I actually wear. The red Persian rug, left behind when I moved from New York City. Red. My favorite color.

    - Sue Perlgut

The bride, that would me, had little say in the wedding preparations. The m.o.b., that would be the mother of the bride, was throwing the party. An extravaganza wedding event for her only daughter, and that was that. So there would be the dress in the high-waisted empire style, and a carved ice swan looming ominously over the hors d'oeuvres table. The music was carefully chosen, exactly what my mother loved. "Mum," I said, "about the bouquet, the one I carry down the aisle, I would like to carry red roses." "What? That would never do! Pink roses and stephanotis will be fine." "But I like red roses. I really want them." "No," she replied again. "Red roses stand for passion," my mother said, straightening her back, "you wouldn't want that." I wore the dress, carried the pink roses, watched the ice swan melt in the summer heat. I didn't like that wedding. But then I didn't like the groom either. We divorced after two years.

    - Susan Lesser

I have always loved red shoes. I had red sneakers in my early teens that I wore with tight designer jeans. My signature colors at that time were red, black, and white. When I became a more surly teenager, I bought a pair of red high-top sneakers. I wanted them so badly, I bought them even though they were too big. They flopped on my feet, poking out from under my father's old trench coat. Red started to seem too violent and also had a tinge of patriotism about it that made it problematic for me, once I became more politically aware. I didn't wear shoes much at all during that period. I started collecting red sneakers again when I became jaded and sarcastic. I still have them, even though I divorced my jaded and sarcastic husband. Now they look like joy on my feet, like hope and humor and ease. I still like red shoes. I probably always will.

    - Susanna Drbal

First grade, not the first day of school but the second. My first-day-of-school dress, one that Mom made, was black-and-white checked, pompoms around the wide collar, matching my saddle oxfords. Ho-hum! My second-day-of-school dress is special, bought on the road during our summer trip to New Mexico, at a Navajo gift shop. It's exotic: silky desert brown with multi-colored stripes that encircle the skirt, the middle stripe a bold red. I'm so excited. It will be my show-and-tell item. The crinolines, usually stiff and scratchy against my knees, aren't so uncomfortable this morning. As I step into the classroom, I see a girl I don't know in an identical dress. The red stripe around her skirt glows; my heart sinks. How is this possible? A dress from over 1600 miles away, so different, so unusual? Grim faced, I look up at our teacher. She smiles and says, "You can go first today." She becomes my favorite teacher.

    - Theresa A. Cancro

In my wardrobe there is one great oddity: a red fleece nightdress with Scottish Terriers going this way and that all over it. Most everything else in my closet is unobtrusive, passive if you will. Consequently, this strange garment sits in my closet like an out of place exclamation mark. My mother would have loved it. She was a flamboyant woman with bizarre taste. A paisley French scarf with a zebra striped shirt wouldn't have been the slightest bit unusual. The winter after her passing, in the curious state that grief proved itself to be, I remember being fixated on the idea of purchasing a nightdress. I had never owned one before and it became almost a frantic necessity to have one. While scrolling through various styles online I came across that particular print. Oh, the sly smile and chuckle it elicited. It was the antithesis to my state of being. I don't know why, years later, it sits in my closet, unworn and mostly forgotten, except that it reminds me that maybe there might be a little of my mother in me after all.

    - Tia Haynes

I used to dye my hair henna red plum eggplant auburn deep dark red. The color of my hair dyed and dyed again to be vibrant and brighter than the sun, to be seen, to entertain, to be on fire, a burning flame like the red of my heart, a flame on fire.

    - Yvonne Fisher

A few years ago a young woman came to town and opened a Pop-Up shop  — one day only — in an unoccupied storefront near my house. The hand-lettered sign in the window said "Amazing things happening inside here." So naturally, I walked right in. Before I could ask about the amazing things the woman ran over and wrapped me in a tight embrace. "Hello hello hello and welcome," she said. She was all smiles. She had a deep laugh. I recognized the signs. This woman was from Brooklyn. She informed me that she was an artist and her chosen canvas was other people's bodies. "Let me paint your face," she urged. When I shook my head no she said "Okay, your arms, or your back or . . . ." I cut her off. "I'd like you to paint the fingernail of my right thumb." She bowed toward me. "Excellent choice," she said, gesturing toward a stack of art books piled high on a chair. "Choose a painting and I will reproduce it on your thumbnail." I selected a volume of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and found an image of poppies. "Poppies!" the young artist exclaimed. She begged me to let her paint a poppy on each one of my fingernails but I demurred; just the right thumbnail. So she got to work creating a miniature masterpiece, a red poppy with tiny flecks of white and the barest hint of green. If you saw it you might have thought it was a tomato but you would have been wrong. It was a poppy. A beautiful red poppy. I was very happy with it. "What do I owe you for this?" I asked, when she was finished. "How about a hug?" she suggested. I paid her with a hug. "Bye-bye darling," she called as I left. I love it when someone I barely know calls me darling. I mean it. I really do.

    - Zee Zahava