By S.G. Smith
My world has been pink for three weeks. Bubblegum pink skies with cotton candy clouds. Punch buildings and fuchsia cars. My own clothes blush, and the sidewalk I sit upon magenta. The faces passing by shades of salmon and coral, their hair ranging from rosewood to flamingo.
This isn’t the first time the world has gone pink. It happened much more in my childhood since the girl’s orphanage wasn’t too keen on physical affection. I once had a classmate whose favorite color was pink. Shocked, I asked her how she could love the color which often consumes the world. She stared back blankly.
With my back against Pop Shop, I sit curled in upon my thin bones, staring at the pink faces passing by. I don’t hold a sign; they know why I’m there. They avert their eyes and hold their loved ones closer, trying not to think about what life is like as a pink-seer. I wonder if they realize how easily they could become one. Just a lack of touch—a break-up, a death—and their world could become pink too.
I notice a plump man walking down the street. He has a peach mustache curled around his face. Does he know how ridiculous he looks in pink? His swollen arms like pink sausages and roly-poly belly like an oversized gumball. Despite his ridiculous image, he walks with confidence, wildly swinging his arms and holding his head high.
I shift my position so I can see inside Pop Shop. People are buying hugs and hand-holding for different amounts of time. A woman in a pink pantsuit is resting her head on a clerk’s shoulder; the clerk is checking his watch to keep track of time. She looks refreshed. I wonder how hungry she was before coming into the store. Was she hungry like me, without anyone healthy to provide nourishment? Or was she just getting a quick fix, her world becoming a slightly pink shade before she decided to go into the shop?
Three weeks ago, I could have had any physical contact for free. I was able to walk into my partner’s apartment and ask him for whatever nourishment I liked. After a filling tickle fight in the afternoon, we would enjoy dark brown coffee in lemon yellow mugs. Even ten minutes curled up on the couch with him would satisfy my stomach. During my time growing up, I was so used to surviving on scraps—a healthy classmate giving me a high-five, a potential family giving me a sympathetic hug. But after three years of color he kicked me out and now I see pink again.
Every time this happens, I wonder why pink. Is it a mockery? Does the creator enjoy watching us suffer, being blinded by such an optimistic color? Or is it a reminder of our constantly growling intestines?
Poking my protruding ribs with my fingers, I spot the hefty man approaching out of the corner of my eye. I slide my foot out right before he passes. He trips. At the moment of contact, I see a streak of brown appear in his hair. My stomach gurgles in satisfaction. That’ll have to do for now.
The man pivots to me, his face turning a strawberry pink as his mustache twitches. I can’t help but laugh. He raises his leg and kicks my thigh. I gasp as his shoe makes contact with my boney grayish-pink leg. With the burst of pain, colors begin to pop up into my splotchy vision. A car passing by flashes royal blue. The streets turn into an ashy gray. The man’s pants are splattered with evergreen spots. My stomach yearns for more.
After a quick derogatory comment, the man huffs off. It appears he’s going to Mama’s, a place where starved girls can be fed by paying men. I considered it for a while. It seemed better than the shelter I tried out, where I was only served biweekly beatings so intense I threw up my meals afterward. The girls at Mama’s have feedings at least daily, after which they are full and color-seeing for at least a few hours. But every one of Mama’s girls eventually runs away. My roommate from the orphanage lives there. I wonder how long she’ll last.
Looking back in Pop Shop, I see him. He who used to feed me in his apartment. He who fulfilled my cravings. He was never a pink-seer (he grew up in a family and has money), but he is sympathetic to us. When we first moved in together, he would ask every night if I was full. I would say yes and nuzzle my head into his chest as he wrapped his arms around me. Now, he hands the clerk money. She slides around the counter and holds him in her arms with her back to me. He melts, resting his head on her shoulder like he used to with me. For a moment, he looks up. We make eye contact. He knows what I’m doing, out on the street. I think about going inside, ripping the clerk away from him and taking her place. The world would burst into color and I would sink into his chest. Warmth would radiate throughout me from both his love and his nourishment. We could be together again.
But then he looks away, burying his pink face into the clerk’s pink shoulder, and I go back to my pink world.