The future of color

Many nights I lie awake and dread my unborn son's skin.

Published January 9, 2001 8:42PM (EST)

Many nights I dread his future color, my alertness pronouncing itself in prayers to a doubtfully existent God. These nights of a not-yet-mother trespass daytime.

At work, I pull back from the mud-colored poverty, not wanting the stories of lost battles. I say I will do my best but I know my best is never effective. I am a social worker who is losing faith in change.

Back at home, the slums crawl into my dreams. I cry and turn to all the religions for support.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Days pass, counted according to the medical calendar: seven, 15, 45.

Under an exquisitely hot sun, I make the two-mile walk to the doctor's office.

"What are the chances?" I ask him.

He has a coffee-colored skin, already wrinkled in places, big glasses and an air of pride.

"I don't understand your concern," he says.

"You don't?"

He stays silent.

Soon the time comes to see my son. Once I am lying in front of the ultrasound screen, I close my eyes.

"Tell me he has my color, the color of Ken, the doll," I want to say. "The color that is unquestionably accepted." I mean to say it but I don't. "What does he look like?" I finally ask. My fingers squeeze my eyeballs until I see red and yellow dots.

"He looks perfectly healthy," the doctor says. "He has everything he needs at this stage, and everything is in place. You can open your eyes now."

I look at the black-and-white screen and see my baby son in a fetal position.

"Oh!" I say.

"I love him," I don't say. The words slide back inside.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I speak to my baby when I feel him pressing against my insides. "Your father and I became one, the way darkness and light absorb each other in the exchange of day to night. That 'one' is you, our baby."

There was a father with a deep color, unlike my pale one. He had chocolate tones of skin and palpable warmth that lingered underneath.

Yes, there was a father, but there isn't any longer.

I dread the day my skin the color of sea sand will not clothe my son. Even so, he will never be one of the kids who linger under the city bridge or in the strategically located crossroads. He will not have to use his infantile charm to receive food. No. He will be the one dot of color in the classroom of a private school.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Day No. 200 brings a chilling wind. From the bus, going to work, I see children getting out of cars in front of the school's entrance. I want to celebrate: I'm purchasing my first car today. I can't celebrate. My mind goes back to the talk-show celebrity interviewing a cocoa-colored millionaire.

When he drives his Mercedes, the millionaire says, people think he works as a driver. He told the truth, I could tell. The interviewer and the audience laughed. He laughed too. He started as an office boy and worked his way up to a place where he can laugh.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I am driving my new car when my son starts moving. It is the only discomfort I have ever loved. My body is our home. "You see, baby, inside we are the same. You shoot my belly up toward my heart, and all my body twists although I am not moving."

I dread the time he will find out colors have meanings. He must not notice our different skins. They will be there, for the world to pass judgment on, but not for us.

"Together we embody my past and your future. You will be safe with me."

I must be strong.

I tell him about his father. "He was not handsome, but his eyes and mouth, his hair and waist and limbs and skin had the truest look, the strongest sense of living. I knew his touch before he touched me, and when we loved, it was love. If you ever ask, I'll tell you more, but you may choose not to ask. What's the point in knowing anything else but that you are the fruit of this kind of love?"

- - - - - - - - - - - -

I still count the days according to the medical calendar, but according to my own as well. I feel our mutual motion at nights, when the womb's undulation lulls us both to better dreams. We grow, my son and I grow up.

It is the night of the 290th day, and it is a good night.

I cannot be afraid any longer.

When it gets dark, I let my body rest against the pillows on my bed. The night lamp sheds tender light and the posters of Kandinsky and Miró color my white walls with festive colors.

Never fear, my son. Never fear.

By Avital Gad Cykman

Avital Gad Cykman, a native of Israel, has lived in Brazil for the last 10 years. She has published her fiction in numerous journals, and is currently completing a collection of short stories.

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