Strange Color Blue
When Isla stepped down from her cloud and onto our doorstep, she looked around perplexed at first, as if she didn’t recognize us, as if we hadn’t been the family she’d left behind. I think mom was offended, but mom always forgives Isla, while being harsh on me. She needs our attention, mom says, like I don’t need attention, like I can do well without it, only I can’t, but mom seems to ignore the fact. Your sister’s back, mom yells, like I can’t see myself. Then a magpie catches mom’s attention. Hello Mr. Magpie, how’s you wife? she says, then turns back to Isla and hugs her.
Isla blames her name. She an island, she used to say jokingly, an island short of consonants. Mom laughed her heart out, secretly admiring my sister’s imagination. Things changed when Isla left. Mom doesn’t find those ideas funny anymore.
Isla hates that silent s in her name. It makes no sense, she says. She’s been obsessed with this kind of words. Not the usual ones with silent e’s, but with words like ‘pterodactyl’, or ‘tsunami’. She’s been defined by her name, spending her life, so far, feeling like a riddle. She’s been overwhelmed with that feeling, that strange feeling it’s not just her name, that she, herself, is a word with a silent letter, a word she’s not sure how to pronounce, a puzzle in disguise, a mystery unsolved.
Mom’s so happy Isla is back, she even makes her favorite cake. She hasn’t cooked since Isla left us. Dad and I ate junk food, since Isla decided to move up to the sky. Isla takes a slice of it, brings it near he lips, like she’s about to take a bite, but leaves it on the table, without tasting it at all, like it reminds her of something good she can’t relate to anymore. I think Isla is selfish. The way she left us, no second thoughts. I’m the one with the dirty job here. I’m the one who has to shower, wash my teeth, eat, pee and poo each day. I’m the one with the body, while she’s the one with the soul.
Or I’m the selfish part of the equation, claims mom, the one who can’t hold it together, the one who’s falling apart, because love can do this to people, only it wasn’t love, Isla says, love is never to blame, it was something else that destroyed us, something she can’t define, disguised as love.
She doesn’t turn around to face me, while talking to me. Instead, she looks at me though the mirror, like I don’t really exist, like she prefers reflections. You’re the half of me I left behind, she tells me, smiling at me. She drags me onto her cloud. She’s parked it outside the house. Neighbors complain about the fog. It’s May, they say, we can’t have fog in May. Mom begs Isla to move it elsewhere, secretly hoping Isla will get rid of it, but Isla insists she wants it close. She calls the cloud ‘Alabama’. There could be a silent s in it, but paradoxically enough there isn’t. That makes it more solid. Unlike her name. Unlike her. She sings ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and whispers in my ear, like it’s a secret that it’s always blue up there. Of course it is, I tell her, you live above the clouds. She smiles like that’s something she’s hasn’t even thought of.
You see? Gravity doesn’t exist here, she tells me and Isla is right. I feel light as a feather on the cloud, like all burdens have vanished. I feel light and free. She sings a happy song, in A major. She asks me to sing along but I don’t know the lyrics, I tell her, while she urges me to sing, as if she didn’t hear me or like the lyrics don’t matter.
We now sing the same song, only I sing it in A minor key, which Isla finds strange and disappointing, she says, the song sounds sad this way and I agree but I can’t help it. You’re sad, she tells me, wiping a tear that falls down my cheek and I nod, I am, I say and Isla smiles, like she knows, like she knows well what it’s like to be sad. I am, I repeat and that a in ‘am’ sounds like an A minor chord, the saddest chord, the blue chord, for all chords are also colors and I am now blue, blue dressed, blue sad, blue like all songs that start with an A minor chord, like ‘Blue Hotel’ or ‘Strange Color Blue’ and I can’t fly away, like Isla, I can’t step on a cloud and leave, I’m not a flying island like her, I’m doomed, an endless January, the month post-Christmas which feels like coming down from drugs, from partying hard, while she’s May, she’s Spring, the endless party without the drugs.
Isla blames her name, while mom blames that one time, years ago, when she didn’t greet that single magpie. That brought us bad luck, she claims. My sister wants to take me along, up on that cloud, she steps on it, inviting me, waving goodbye to misery, to mom, to that cake mom made for her. She begs me to go along, but I can’t. I can’t leave mom, the misery, the cake. She’s on her cloud again, up in the sky, floating on her small island of bliss, away from us, floating alone, she’s found a way to reconstruct bliss, she’s happy, while I’m blue, not like the sea, not like the sky, but dark blue, like all songs in A minor, like a moonless night. The best I can expect is to someday turn green with envy, which may be better than blue, but still, it’s not as happy or daring as being an island, as flying on a cloud.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, from Athens, Greece. A Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions nominated writer, her work can be found in many journals, such as Litro, Jellyfish Review, Flash Flood, Moon Park Review, Okay Donkey, Maudlin House, Open Pen and others.