roses on a balcony in Paris featured in Rhetoric creative writing, art, music and photography magazine”I need a coin,” you say, your voice suddenly carrying the authoritative undertone that it has always lacked. She raises an eyebrow at you. “It’s the least you can give me,” you insist stubbornly, and she sighs, a soft, indulgent exhale, and manages to dig out a grimy coin from the pocket of her shorts.

“Here goes,” you say, before flipping it in the air, watching it fall to the ground with the sound of finality. This is where your old life ends, where your world begins to gain something resembling colour.

You wake up.

The ceiling above you – the walls surrounding you – the sheets covering you; they are all varying shades of grey.

You close your eyes, expecting the insides of your eyelids to be crimson – that is how you remember it. Instead, it is all black, an abyss.

It takes you a few seconds to remember, this is your life.

Stepping outside your door, you look up at the sky, look at the grass beneath your feet, the banners, billboards and posters littering the edges of the roads, thinking blue green red yellow purple, hoping that colour will bleed into the world instead of out. It is a desperate hope that you have kept for far too long, but it is also an unshakable gleam in the midst of black and white, so you grasp it, cling to it, pray that it will take you someplace else.

This is your life: You have a job which you hate, but which pays off your student loan, your rent, your mother’s (futile) medical bills. Finishing law school, you had thought,

this is it, this is where my life begins.

Back then, when you walked down the street, there would be colours (bright ones, mostly blue and green with an aura of hope).

You had a girlfriend whom you had thought you would marry. Instead, she took a look at you one morning and smiled a little sadly. Clearing out her things after a year and a half, she kissed the corner of your mouth and whispered that she was sorry. You remember her pink lips, the yellow of the nail polish she wore; you still see her, sometimes, when she walks past your desk, but she blends in with the grey behind her now.

In a way, the lack of colour is gratifying; without it, you almost do not recognise her at all.

You begin to question whether your life actually ever began at all, simultaneously wanting to know and being afraid; because what would it say about you if it turned out that you have spent the best years of your life in only a pre-life stage? On the other hand, if this truly is life – if it has begun without you noticing – does this mean that there will be no more beginnings, that you are stuck here until your miserable life ends?

One afternoon, while you are still busy turning this over in your head, you take a shortcut home from work and somehow end up toppling over a young woman in the middle of the street.

Standing up quickly, you flush, offering your hand to help her up, but she needs none of your help. She looks at you for a long time, eyes boring into yours –

she has really striking green eyes –

before she offers you her hand, her name…

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