We don’t see color until we’re four months old.
As a newborn and until I am four months old, my world is black and white.But I still opened my eyes. I still wanted to see the color. I patiently waited.waited.waited until I saw the color.
Once I did, the world made sense. It was brighter. Happier. Black and white made it hard to differentiate objects. Sometimes they looked so close, I couldn’t tell what was what. It made it hard to see.
I used to open my eyes more. Looking for the color. Feeling the excitement when I saw the reds, yellows, and blues; the shapes, the lines, the beauty. From the age of four months until I was three years old, that’s all I saw. All the colors in-between the primary ones, and all represented new beginnings. New adventures. They absorbed everything they saw. A lamppost representing travels along the streets at night. A rock representing a house to build. A car representing the freedom of the open road. All had potential: the potential to create different shapes, to form new lines, to see new beauty.
From four months until three years old, my eyes, wide-open, craved the colors.
But at the age of three, my world faded to black and white again. Slowly desaturating, my world became more colorless.
My eyes never gave up their search for color, though. When I was watching movies on my father’s lap, the color absorbed back in. When my mom took us to get candy, my eyes absorbed color then, too. When my siblings and I ran outside and built our treehouse. When we caught frogs. When we ran up into the trees, watching the height of the trunk grow up and up into oblivion. Each shape, each color, each line, they all seared technicolor memories into my brain. Forever stuck there. Forever representing hope.
But trauma does weird things to the brain. Sometimes it exaggerates memories; it takes emotions and amplifies them times one hundred, times one thousand. These emotions suffocate the colors, blurring them together until they’re chaos, blending into murky browns, indistinct grays. But other times the brain erases; it removes the memories. Removes the colors. Maybe that’s why I only see what turns the vibrant reds and yellows into black and white.
At the age of three, trauma sucked color from my eyes. Trauma told me, “Don’t open your eyes. Don’t give yourself hope. It won’t last. Love will fail, relationships will fail, nothing remains. Do not open your eyes.”
But then the memories, filled with color, they refused to let the reds, yellows, and blues be sucked into the nothingness of white and the vastness of black. The memories stared back at me while my eyes stayed shut; they screamed in vivid hues. Through their eyes, they screamed at me to hold on to hope. To wait.wait.wait like my three-month-old self did. To wait until the colors became saturated again, contrasting with the objects around them. The memories said to wait until yellow becomes the sun, blue becomes the sky, red becomes fire. Because soon, they promised, the world will be brighter. Soon the world will be happier again. Soon, the world will represent hope.
But my eyes are no longer wide-open; they remain shut. They are sealed, stitched together by a black thread. Within, my eyes search into my memories, longing for the color; longing for the vibrant greens of the grass. The way one strand is more yellow, and the other more olive. The way the greens represent a strong, healthy spring. My eyes long for the way the sky can change from black to navy blue, all the way to a complementary orange. The beautiful way the sky transitions from dark to light, and the way that represents a fresh start. A new twenty-four hours.
My memories’ glares are so strong. They pierce my soul, slowly prying apart the stitches around my eyes, one by one. Soon, I know the blacks, browns, and grays will release their color. The light will cause my pupils to retract, and color will flow through my brain and into my veins. Soon my eyes will open, but for now, they will remain shut—shut in ignorance to the harshness color holds. They will close themselves away from hope and happiness.
When they’re shut, my eyes cannot be harmed by the light. In the darkness, they relax; so in darkness, they will stay.
Abraham Rattner, Three Heads, Lithography, 1969