STRANGERS AND LOVERS: To live and die in colors like Eloke – Kingsley Alaribe

STRANGERS AND LOVERS: To live and die in colors like Eloke – Kingsley Alaribe

Eloke felt a queer sensation rush up her muscles. It almost made her blood congeal. She was ninety years old but still thought life was beautiful because she’d always seen it in colors, a comforting technique that made nearly anything bearable.

 

She turned sluggishly on the hospital bed and reached out with all her might for Leon’s head which rested just beside her thigh. When she could touch it, she nestled it on the bed with fondness. Her teenage grandson had refused to leave her for more than a minute since the doctor diagnosed her with cancer and said she was not likely to live longer than a fortnight. Leon vowed, thus, to spend every passing second by her bedside. And when Eloke thought deep about it, she saw a blush of indigo appear on her lifelong palette.

 

  She saw the color somewhere on the back of her mind.

 

As a child, Eloke was continually outside the social loop. Her classmates scorned her for being unconventional and a terrible tomboy. She was in far more fights than parties. At the times when she was alone and nobody would be her friend, she painted pictures of her daily life. And they always came in deep red pigments.

 

   That period of life was crimson.

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She went on to study at Vivian Fowler College where all the girls seemed genetically programmed to behave like geishas. It irked her to exist in an environment as inauthentic as that. And even sometimes when Eloke felt she was the abnormal one, she would gee up and try to get on the bandwagon; but it was always a disaster. On one of such nightmares, she was made to kiss a guy in public. She tried to plead her case saying she’d never done a thing like that in her whole short life. But no one would even pay a little attention. When they finally kissed, she bit his lips; and then she was ousted from the clique’s gigs for the rest of her stay in school. In comparison with her woes in elementary school, she hardly saw much difference.

 

   And so the best she could do was sputter scarlet.

Eloke

Eloke had her first date after three years in the university. It had happened just before her Faculty Award night. The best student in the Faculty of Arts whom people had begun to rumor was gay for not having shown any interest in the opposite sex asked her to be his date. Coming from him, she wasn’t thrilled. She accepted nevertheless. Suddenly her gray clouds began to thaw, giving way to a hopeful bright sky. For the first time in her life she knew what it meant to have the wind beneath one’s wings. Their relationship blossomed. By graduation they were the best known couple on campus.

 

   Her paintings had varied in those years from an indifferent brown to a cautious sepia, and then to peach before arriving at a really proud violet. Here she experienced the beauty in love and it had come to stay.

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Her family life was snow-white, although it had horrid blotches now and then. Sometimes they were dainted yellow, and even green or black. Whatever the case, she kept her family tightly knit until they came to that bridge where the children were no more kids and had to go find their own lives. It was tough for Eloke.

 

   It was melancholy blue.

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From that moment on she viewed the world with a film of tears in her eyes either due to some good or some ill. She had cause to get acquainted with a wide range of colors. Mostly, however, she oscillated between green and brown; and often, orange. But when her husband died several years later, she permanently remained within the confines of blue – the murky kind.

 

As her weak hand continued to nestle Leon’s head on the bed, it was not hard to see what color she’d come to be left with on the small bed she lay, cosseted by the love and affection of her grandson.

 

   The world was white again.

 

   That was the color with which she would know it for eternity.

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