When I was four years old my mother told me I was colorblind.
“Damon, you’re colorblind.” She said.
I was four; I didn’t know what colors even were. She held charts up to my face and told me to distinguish the letters from the dots. I didn’t understand the question. I still didn’t even know what colors or letters were so I just stared at them until they took the charts away.
“Damon, you can’t see colors.” She said.
I got into trouble a lot in Kindergarten and Sunday school because I would just take random crayons that never matched what the color of life actually was and used them. I was once scolded for coloring Jesus with purple skin. Or at least what I thought was purple.
“Damon, Jesus isn’t purple.” They said.
“Damon, Joseph’s coat isn’t black.” They said
“I’m colorblind.” I said.
Word apparently spreads pretty quickly around the public school system once your are diagnosed with a visual handicap, because for the next twelve years of my life on the first day of school my teachers would call my name on the roll and make a comment similar to:
“Damon, you’re the colorblind one right?” They said.
Look at my dark green shirt and my baby blue sneakers and ask me that question again. Or at least what I thought was dark green and baby blue. For the next twelve years I was the colorblind kid. People would always hold stuff up to my face and ask me to distinguish what color something was. I guess they didn’t know what the word colorblind meant, but their laughter, when I would inevitably guess blue, would make my face orange. Or at least what I thought was orange.
“Damon, it’s purple.” They said.
I didn’t know any better apparently. Other than being colorblind I lived a pretty normal life, the only thing that distinguishes me from anyone else is a little mark on my driver’s license and the ability to not see colors. Once I graduated high school, I went to college (1), got married (2), had a kid (3), but not in that order (3,1,2).
When I walked into the doctor’s office for the exams that every man gets when he turns 50, the doctor said something that I’ll never forget:
“Damon, you’re colorblind?” He said.
That’s not the thing he said that I said I’d never forget though, he said something else after the exam, something about cancer. I don’t know. It was kind of hard to digest all the big words. I went home to tell my wife and child about the cancer the doctor had told me about, he said my lungs were black. Or at least what I thought was black.
A few months later my wife told me I had changed since the day at the doctor’s office and that she was leaving me. She moved into a blue house on the other side of town. Or at least what I thought was blue.
“Damon, you just don’t see it.” She said.
What she didn’t know was that I had three smart-ass comments to that statement, all of which involved color jokes. However, I did see it. I no longer cared and I no longer cared that I didn’t care. I shut myself off from the rest of the world like the colors had shut themselves off from me. Life began to move at a much quicker pace because everyday looked the same and there was no purple Jesus to save me now.
It really used to bother me that I couldn’t differentiate colors like everyone else. I wanted to know what yellow was because my mother could never explain that one to me, or any other colors for that matter. I always wanted to know what the colors of life were. I always wanted to know life in something other than shades of grey. Or at least what I thought were shades of grey.
Then she walked in.
It was three years after the divorce and four years after my wife moved out.
She walked in and my situation no longer bothered me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that her hair was a soft peachy purple and her dress was a slightly lighter shade of the same color as my carpet. But I didn’t care what color I thought she was, I no longer cared what colors were.
If the incident happened anywhere but here things would be different. She walked into the room and I changed my glare from the corner of my eye to the center of my pupils.
I swear I saw the color of the wind behind her. I matched up the colors of the rainbow in the sky in correct order (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet) and I knew her hair was a light shade of brown and that her dress was sea foam green, which I then realized to be a terrible color for carpet. She left almost as quickly as she had strolled in and I never saw her again.
I went to the doctor and demanded a colorblind test.
“Damon, you are not colorblind.” He said.
I would later learn that I was never actually colorblind. My entire life I had always seen the color yellow but since I was convinced I was colorblind I assumed it to be a shade of grey. Since no one can explain color to a colorblind guy, orange was just a different shade of grey.
When you live 54 years of your life as the colorblind guy only to find out that you are not actually colorblind, your life is still seen in grey tones. I went to the park and found that the grass is actually green and not what I thought to be yellow but I still saw it as grey. My car was actually white and I was a little disappointed that it was white because white was a color I always understood. I drove through the town naming colors that I had only heard rumors of my entire life. Blues, reds, browns, magentas, they were all streaming into the streets like music from a speaker, but I was still saw them as grey.
I spent the next months of my shortened life looking for the woman that walked in and made me understand color for the first time. I never did find her. I wonder if she holds some other key to my life, another paradigm shift that I didn’t know I needed. If I had gone my entire life thinking that I was colorblind, what else could be a misconception?
After a few months of knowing what colors were and looking for the woman, I went back to being the colorblind guy (by my own choice). In realizing that I was not colorblind, there was no real revelation of color. My eyes did not turn into tie-dye swirls after I blinked, but what I found it that the color of life bored me. I had made them out to be something more grandiose my entire life and they actually weren’t. Since green to you had always been grey to me, all of life was still shades of grey. I went back to being colorblind because the world of color ended up boring me, it was not as mysterious as it used to be. The glorious colors I always thought I was missing out on were actually just the one thousand different shades of grey I had always known.