In 2008 our friend Paul Meates published Aislinns piece “colourblind” in his book “picturesworth” where writers interpreted an artwork of Pauls.
Reprinted with kind permission.
“Alrighty then. I’m going to hold up some cards and I want you to tell me what you see okay?”
I nodded, to show the woman I understood.
To the first card, I said, “An orange. Or maybe a lemon.”
To the second, “Could be a canary, could be a sparrow.”
The third was easy. “That’s a cloud.”
“What kind of cloud?” she probed gently.
“A grey one.”
The woman sighed and put the cards down.
“You’ve got a very unusual condition,” she paused to look down at my name on the file in front of her, “Violet.”
I could see the irony was not lost on her. Born with black and white vision yet named after a colour I would never see.
“That cloud was red by the way.”
I shrugged. It looked grey to me.
“I’m afraid you’re colour blind. Completely and utterly.”
It wasn’t like she was telling me anything I didn’t already know. I left, wondering why I’d paid $90 to see a specialist who was just as unhelpful as the others.
To cheer myself up, I went shopping. I only ever bought clothes in black or white. Or cream, which looked white to me. This saved me having to ask the shop assistant whether a colour suited me or not (they were always lying). It also saved my clothes from going out of fashion. Black and white was always ‘in’. The other plus was I only had to separate my laundry into two piles instead of three.
As I caught the bus home with yet another little black dress from Nom D, I stared out the window at all the other cars on the road. They said red car owners tended to speed more. I’d never been able to tell myself. I wasn’t allowed to drive, not being able to see traffic light colours. Still, I knew red was at the top, orange was in the middle and green was at the bottom. I guess not being able to see other cars’ brakelights and indicator lights was more the problem.
Back in my apartment, I put on my favourite CD, The Black Album by Jay Z. Despite this morning’s appointment, I was in a surprisingly good mood. One of the benefits of my condition. The weather never affected my serotonin levels. To me, it was always grey outside.
My apartment was one of the few places where I felt truly at home. I knew there wasn’t any colour that I was missing out on. That’s because I’d chosen a white leather couch with matching ottoman, a white throw rug for the floor, white linen on the beds and in the bathroom, white tiles, walls and doors. Even the flowers in the vase on the coffee table were white. The only bad thing was that my stray black head hairs stood out like dog’s balls on the floor. (I’d been born with brown hair but to me it looked black.) Also, when I was hung over, the apartment was unbearably bright.
Tonight was going to be a good TV night. My favourite hospital dramas were on. I knew some people had trouble watching the operating theatre scenes. Not me though. Without colour, it just didn’t seem that gory. I would have loved to do medicine at uni. Or join the bomb squad. Of course both these options were an impossibility. I’d seen enough terrorist movies. Those bomb experts were always asking “Which wire do I cut? The red one or the green one?” If they were relying on me, I’d probably detonate that bomb every time.
Sitting on the couch by myself, I started to wish I hadn’t broken up with my boyfriend. We’d been going out six months. And would probably still be dating if I hadn’t ended it. He hadn’t done anything wrong per se. It’s just that he was a goth. And it made me really angry that even though he could see and appreciate colour, he chose not to wear it. Ironically, his black clothes and white skin was what drew me to him in the first place. But like all novelties, it soon wore off.
No, I didn’t mind being single. Because there was always one place I could go where I didn’t feel like the odd one out. The local arthouse cinema. They always played black and white movies on Monday nights. Hitchcock, Casablanca, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, they had all the classics. As I sat in my black and white chair, eating my black and white popcorn, I felt like everyone around me was in the same boat. They couldn’t see those films in colour and neither could I.
I was in the middle of pouring myself a glass of black wine (red to you), getting ready for an episode of Grey’s literally grey Anatomy, when I got the call. It was the card-holding eye specialist.
“Look I’m sorry to call so late. It’s just that I wanted you to be the first to know. A new drug has just come out called ROYGIBVÒ and it could help add colour to your vision. I’m looking for people to take part in clinical trials and thought you’d be perfect. Are you interested?”
“Uh yeah I guess,” I replied.
“You’ll be given either a placebo or ROYGIBVÒ for two years. It’ll be a double-blind test so not even I will know which one you’ve been given. It’s a tremendous opportunity. Plus you’ll help researchers cure colour blindness in either your lifetime or your children’s.”
I really didn’t mind if the drug didn’t work. I quite liked being different to everyone else. But it was almost certain that my kids, if I ever had any, would inherit my condition. And if the drug did work, well, I’d always wanted to see a rainbow. And get a pet chameleon whose changing colours I could actually see. Either way it was win-win. So I accepted.
“We’ll see you 8am tomorrow then?” the woman asked excitedly.
“Yeah definitely. Cheers for that”, I replied as I hung up.
I raised my glass to no one in particular before taking a sip of my beautiful black shiraz. I may not have had a colourful past. But for the first time, my future looked bright.