The Day America Turned Red, Red, Red
By Koby Omansky
Election day was blue. The sky.
I flew from Chicago to New York. The landing: also blue. I had a job interview, I voted at dusk at PS 165 on 109th in New York, admiring its chalky blue stripe. I remembered the lady poll worker from the primaries; she smiled and said she was glad we are neighbors. I told her we aren’t anymore: I am just registered to vote with the address once shared with a gone thing. We shared a blue moment.
I bought milk on the way home from the bodega where the owner calls me princess habibi. I Googled this just to see the results: “PRINCESS BLUE hookah” on Amazon.
When I came home there was red. The polls. My period started. I put in a menstrual cup and also a pad on although I never need both, and I took two klonopin and an ambien with some wine because I do not own the princess blue hookah. The siren outside was red, the light was blue. My room is cream so it became both. I spiraled patriotic:
What is it like to be a woman listening in the dark? Black mantle of silence stretches between them like geothermal pressure. Ascent of the rapist up the stairs seems as slow as lava. She listens to the blank space where his consciousness is, moving towards her. Lava can move as slow as nine hours per inch. Color and fluidity vary with its temperature from dark red and hard (below 1,800 degrees centigrade) to brilliant yellow and completely fluid (above 1,950 degrees centigrade.) She wonders if he is listening too. The cruel thing is, she falls asleep listening.
— The Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson
I wake up to red. My period streaked across the sheets running like watercolor from my legs in a fitful red dream. I have never had such a heavy one. The map is all red. Gushing. I cry and that is not red, but I am heat-ridden with a scarlet fury, a deep navy blanket of whatever is shock-mute, like night hanging over a trench. I am cream so I become both.
Outside it is gray. Two different people text me “even the sky is mourning.” Is grief gray? No, I think, likely brown. I think of black living. I think of brown people streaked across the streets like watercolor, running in a fitful red nightmare; I think of the blood inside them. Their fast hearts now. I think of a white man’s PR team deciding on a tie, hmm, blue or red? I think of the blue hours I have held a girl and watched the dawn, thinking twilight lovers are for blue hearts, and because of the blue on my map, I could paint the town red with my!! very!! crimson!! love!! My very fast girl heart, my very red girl part, my very blue blue art.
Did you know it is the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht? It was blue that night but no one would know because the glass reflected all the light and the flames were red so it became the color of a scream. I think of my organic aborting, of that seed in me that could grow a little red tendril of thingness, of the red anger from red cities who would rather me blue and bloated, my cream Potential milking up the waiting room coffee, the ink in an insurance-doesn’t-cover-it pen white enough that the words don’t appear on paper.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, wrote Frost, and it mattered because the ink was dark. I will go quiet into that good night, says a man behind the wall, and it does not matter because he is brown.
The colors do not know for whom they stand. You cannot blame them [the colors] for being. I ask the white, why? but it does not speak, it answers in blue or red or glass that reflects both.
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
— Song, Adrienne Rich
Perhaps what we must do with the vast is to boil it down to the components of its own flag, to the minutiae of our daily ways of folding it into ourselves. If you paint Mona Lisa by her numbers she does not look so awfully complex, if you look at the colors in one Black Wednesday, what greater proof is there of Pangea? Kill the sense-making because it was already killed. Deport your fear. Build a wall around your unwillingness to listen. Trust the red swell within you, not the parted sea, the whole one, trust the bluebird warbling in the ear of every person you pass on your watercolor street, because did you know this is the 78th anniversary of the structural failure of empathy?
The part I do remember: that the blue of the sky depends on the darkness of empty space behind it. As one optics journal puts it, ‘The color of any planetary atmosphere viewed against the black of space and illuminated by a sunlike star will also be blue.’ In which case blue is something of an ecstatic accident produced by void and fire.
— Bluets, Maggie Nelson
On this red year that is wood with a gift for burning, I fist my hands up into blue, as an ecstatic accident, produced by void and fire. I trust women of color, I paint the flag by its numbers. I ask the other white why? and to tell you the truth about the rainbow and how a rabbi once dyed the hands of each person in the shtetl to catch the thief:
. . . it was their hands, all of their hands, a compressed rainbow of every citizen in the shtetl who had prayed for handsome sons, a few more years of life, protection from lightning, love . . . it was impossible to tell what had been touched by human hands and what was as it was because it was at was . . . when the blush of the schoolgirl’s cheeks was mistaken for the crimson of the holy man’s fingers, it was the schoolgirl who was called hussy, tramp, slut. — Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
It was all of us.
Lead Image: Modified from flickr/Eric Fischer