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To Those Who Have Painted My World Orange

October 12th, 2020     by Ruby Condon     Comments

Illustration by Ki Chin

To those who have painted my world orange:

I remember in like, fifth or sixth grade, my “aesthetic” (if you could call it that) was all pastel – as were most of the middle-schoolers with a Tumblr and a “donut talk to me shirt” (I know you know which one I’m talking about). I painted my nails with dull violets and yellows, and chose a light periwinkle for my walls.

Looking back, the pale tones seem like a symptom of settling for a pale way of life. Maybe I was. Actually, I know I was. Those I chose to be around back then spoke to me in muted tones, persistently painting me as grey until I saw it, too. Like when you’re in a museum, and the self-proclaimed “art connoisseur” next to you drones on about how the contrasts between the shapes on the canvas represent the endless war between mankind, or something like that, and you know it’s pretentious, but accept it anyway because why would you know any better than this person who clearly has credibility? It was like that. But now I do know better. Because now I know You.

You, who pulled my chin up and righted my posture, even when I rolled my eyes (shoulders in your back pockets, Ruby!). You, who let me take up space with laughs and anger and tears and dance parties, who spoon-fed me comfort until my figure filled. You, who used Your hands to guide my arms around my own body until I learned how to embrace on my own. You, who French braided strength into my hair, over and over, until it seeped into the roots and thickened the strands. You, who sang trust into me as we sailed down the freeway at speeds far past the legal limit with an inattentiveness that I should definitely not make a habit. You, who has gifted me poetry and essays and rambling letters like this one. Now, because of You, my world is glaringly vibrant, so vibrant that, sometimes, I fear for my sight. Sometimes, I want to retreat back into my old faded bubble; there’s less risk when everything has already lost its colour.

I have made a habit of this: when it feels like the world is rotating a bit too fast or when I am stuck, spinning in the whirlpool that is my brain (or, less poetically, when nothing goes how I had planned due to a pandemic), I grab my black pen and I draw myself a box, like Harold and his Purple Crayon but with less adventure. And I don’t let You in, because I’m scared to lose and because I crave control – an equation that will always result in a negative. But You remind me: that’s not a sustainable way to live. You take my hand (maybe sometimes begrudgingly) and bring me outside. You say, look how beautiful it all is! You say, look at the different shades of the sky and the trees and the flowers and all that cliché shit that is cliché because it really is true. I think about You a lot. And in month seven of this “new normal” (ugh), I miss You.

Sometimes it feels like the six feet between us holds every bit of our old life: evenings full of guests crowded into our living room, singing an out-of-tune harmony, weekends spent defiantly sipping from a shared can of beer and feigning adulthood, the late night prospect of spontaneity, early mornings at school – and if I could just put my head on your shoulder we could get that fairytale back. Maybe if I could just take off my mask and whisper something stupid into Your ear, without the fear of contaminated words, everything would be fixed. But I know that isn’t how the virus works.

If there is anything that this forced separation has taught me, it’s that I am lucky to hurt, because it means I have someone to miss. As pervasive as that familiar fear of loss is, I am grateful to have something to lose. So wherever You are, I hope that you feel my hands on your shoulders – pulling them into your back pockets – so You can colour someone else’s world just like You have coloured mine. I know my paintbrush is small, and the tones are a little paler than I’d like, but I’ll keep practicing, and I hope I can make Your day (and maybe Your month? Your year?) just a little more colourful.

About the Author: Ruby Condon (she/her/hers) is a student in Los Angeles, CA. She enjoys writing poetry and creative-non-fiction, and hopes to study psychology on her way to becoming an adolescent therapist. In her free time you can find her scream-singing songs from her childhood with her friends or daydreaming about living in an uncomfortably small apartment in New York, subsisting off of peanut butter sandwiches and true crime podcasts.

Tags: community, coronavirus, covid 19, love letter, mental health, pandemic, social distancing


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