The Weight of Color
by Miles Coombe, 3.24am November 10th 2021

Once upon a time there was a boy. Molten, dark, pale. Silky soft. An accumulation of strange angles that never lined up properly. More like the sensation of falling than a human being. Nothing but a collection of moth wings on a star battered rooftop. Translucent. Paper-thin. Fragile.

A strange soft glow surrounds everything in the room, edges blurry like oil on water. I can see the colours that recently painted the sky reflected on the far wall. A mix of reds and pinks, slowly transforming into a dark blue. There is the smell of blood and vomit in the air. It makes me want to throw up again and my stomach shudders in preparation, but I breathe and I count and I close my eyes and then I breathe some more. Calm, inevitable. Dust motes reflected in streams of copper. Anxiety beating a distant drum in my ears.

This is when I hear the voice again. Scratching about in my thoughts, the way it used to when I was smaller. More naive. Innocent. But I am here now without form, weightless and fluid. The voice in my head like a choir throwing echoes around the curved ceiling of a cathedral.

He makes me a mixtape and I scour it for clues as to the version of me that lives behind his eyes. Like a delirious god, bleeding at the feet of its worshipper. My teenage brain, the perfect combination of arrogance and narcissism. My feet, dangling over the window ledge. Wondering what it would feel like to fall. From way up here. No fear. Palms raised to the sky. And suddenly, sound is pouring out of the little stereo like liquid gold and I feel as though I’m ten feet under water. I guess that’s one way to explain it. How far away I always feel. How completely and utterly removed I feel from everyone else. And I don't know how to fix it. Or even if it can be fixed. Or even if I want to.

I cut myself with razor blades and kitchen knives and pieces of jewelry. With nail scissors and bits of broken glass and a plate that I threw against the wall. With the sharp corner of a debit card, and sometimes, if I have nothing else, the serrated edge of my car keys.

I know how depression works. Depression collapses time. You get stuck in suffocating loops that trick you into thinking that life was always this way. That your future was always this occluded.

That your present was always this weighted.

My skin feels heavy. So I try and rein in my feelings by packing my chest with the static crunch of waves and wind. Sitting on the balcony, I make nests in the shadows—but every morning the goddamn sun wakes me up and looks me in the eye and lays the burden of every new fucking day on my aching shoulders.

I look down. Blood is still trickling down my arm, the last rays of sunlight now sparking diamonds in its nearly black hue. The pills make sure there’s a certain meaningful beauty in this type of corruption. Ecstatic degradation. Breathe in, three drips from the faucet, breathe out. A gentle movement of blood and water. I feel numb, hollowed out and tired—but not in a bad way. More like I’ve finally managed to sooth the angry, self hating creature that lives just below my skin. And this is important, for I’ve come to the understanding that our skin is a stage. Through the medium of our skin we express our emotions outward, back towards the world. We blush, we perspire, we get goosebumps, we go pale when frightened. So when the razor’s sharp release echoes through my skin, it’s simply the outward expression of the horror that now lives inside me. A reflection of my core.

It takes a minute for me to surface back to true consciousness—ascension feeling like I’m rising from the depths of our old swimming pool, the lightness growing within me as we reach the shallows. Breathing heavily, I pull us both out of the water, and for a while, I just lie on the soft ground, reassured by the line of his warm body pressed against mine.

Sound bleeds through the air in blue waves that ripple like water. Clay tile on skin, hot body on a cold floor. Drowning in gravity. The last of the day’s silver sunlight sparkles, taunting me, gleaming off the window panes like gunmetal.

But then I’m back in the room as the glowing light dims and changes once again, and suddenly, hanging heavy over this tiny piece of lonely ocean-front suburb, is a blanket of bruised coloured clouds, stretching out as far as I can see, obscuring any kind of daylight that would dare try to seep through. I can smell the rain brewing in the blackened sky. That feeling of unease from earlier must have been the storm approaching. My nostrils flare at the change in the air, the taste of lightning seeking the distant horizon.

I’m sitting on the floor of the tiny room, spine pressed against the wall by the open balcony window, blood encrusted hand resting gently atop the carpet. His absence is like a stained glass window, changing the presence of the world around me, the light shifting spectrum, sitting heavier on my skin. The weight of colour is everywhere, it’s almost too much, all at once, but it’s incredibly beautiful. Like an apocalypse. A revelation. An awakening.

I attach another small strip of Fentanyl to my left wrist—and as soon as it adheres to my skin I’m submerged in pure sensation, unstuck from time, buried in soft white fog—and suddenly I know, with absolute certainty, that everything will happen again, an unending cycle of turbulence. Until the ripples turn into waves and the tiny breath of existence becomes the roaring wind that blows through the entire tapestry of time and space. The taste of chemicals in my mouth not enough to dispel the shiver of cold that burns through my whole body. The pain of growing a new skin.

It’s almost as though I’m wrestling with all of the memories that feel unfinished, that somehow need a conclusion, and it’s only when I see them written down on the page that they feel complete. Like an ending. Or a sacrifice.

These are my favourite sort of memories. The ones that live out at the edge. In the wild. Only becoming real when highlighted. Fragile tendrils of hope in the darkness.

Once there was a boy. A small, shadowy thing. A redacted child. I wish he was in the next room, asleep. But I know he’s not. I think about us sitting side by side on the balcony, watching the thunder clouds roll in from the sea.

Outside, the storm waits to wash us clean. Clouds melting. Water pouring from the sky.

Collecting in the gutters. Overflowing.