When she yells at me, I feel as if I am in Wyoming, wasting away in gutless yellow. My Rand McNally United States map hangs on the wall and I place my girlfriend in salmon-colored-California. Her lungs fill with insecurities of our relationship before she exhales them on me. She never raises her voice, but my lack of words give hers more power. They sail easily through the open passages of the Rocky Mountain’s valleys while mine struggle up their tallest peaks. When they get close to the top, about to tumble down onto her, my words stall. They come crashing back to me and shrivel inside. The elevation of the Rockies, with its thin air, don’t let her words reach me. I can hear them, but cannot process what they mean. The less I say, the higher the range between us builds.
The color of Illinois is turquoise, but I don’t remember seeing that color during my drives through its southern cornfields and farmlands. The summer is slipping by and in the days to come she will be studying abroad thousands of miles across the ocean. On the bottom of maps are scales to measure distance. One inch can represent hundreds of miles. Picturing this, the distance doesn’t seem all that bad. Vienna to Marquette is two palms away, but that’s the worst thing about maps, they often lie.
Have you ever pondered the scent of another human being, their chemical make-up, their natural odor? When my girlfriend leaves me in the terminal alone I notice her smell has changed, it is different. A turbulence reaches my core and disrupts a balance in me. It turns my insides the color of the Atlantic Ocean, a place few words are written, because even the map can’t describe how I am feeling.
The color of Michigan is burnt orange, and this is believable, like in fall. The pumpkins get fat and the chlorophyll in leaves are dried out by an autumn pallet. The smell of spice and pleasantries are all I can imagine. This was what it was like when I first met her. I fell in love with her smell. I wanted her to sweat and not take a shower because her chemicals and my chemicals lined up, and photosynthesis was alive and covered up the true colors of her leaves. She wore too much perfume when we met, gotten good at masking her natural odor, doing this many times before. Or maybe I put my senses on hold, losing myself in her bottled scented beauty in order to lose my virginity.
Desperation isn’t a color on the map, it’s just a lens to see it all through. When winter came and the snow buried me deeper and it was hard to navigate the icy passages of the Rockies, I lost her scent entirely. When spring comes and she returns, her smell isn’t the same and my yellow no longer feels gutless. It’s confident now, courageous, and I am finally ready to end this year long fight. But what is the color of leaving? Is it the smoky grey of Canada? Or is it the color of South Dakota?
An unexpected blue.
Alex Nye is a MA student at Northern Michigan University in the quaint city of Marquette, Michigan, positioned right on the shores of Lake Superior. You can find him on twitter and instagram @alexnyeguy.