If I painted us, we would be shades of brown. Not lemon-curd yellow fingerpainted by a child; not the rainbow of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on birthday cupcakes.

Our undercoat would be the chestnut curls I tugged in first grade, then drew around myself ten years later. Your eyes, almond-shaped and walnut-shaded, seeing through my veneer, loving the material reality underneath. Drizzles of tawny onion soup in chipped bistro bowls, unfinished when we couldn’t wait. Lazy Sunday morning lips traced with café au lait. Honey and honeymoons.

Only a careful observer, a connoisseur of life’s master strokes, could see the scars of dried blood in the laundry bin. An unfinished teddy bear, knit from old flax (nickname: Gingerbread), tucked away in a drawer next to sketches I aborted, never good enough. Your skies on the sunniest of days. I brushed over and through them, unknowing and unkind. Scotch, not tempered with water because straight is better at slicing through the knot of pain you won’t let me untie, wash over, dilute.

With time comes my own mocha sky. Every color of coffin at the funeral home. Cold coffee, strong and dark, to keep me on the right side of sober. You in your lace gown on the mantle, all sepia promises and chestnut curls whose gray I will need to pencil in.

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—Christina Dalcher is a linguist and writer from Somewhere in the American South. Her writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, New South Journal, Star82 Review, and other colorful corners of the literary ether. Her paintings appear nowhere. Follow her on Twitter: @CVDalcher.

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