The Color of Wine

by Mauli Chopra

My walls are stained with the skittish color of burgundy. 

A shade that reminds me of my mother, 

as her cheap lipstick would stain her husband’s cheeks momentarily

before her kiss was wiped off with a rag-like handkerchief. 

My ceiling is a smooth surface that makes me dizzy if I stare at it too long 

and my eyes have beaten themselves away 

because old age is a shadow cast over my pupils. 

The windows hold the vision of moonlight shining onto my bedsheets 

illuminating the empty space next to me, 

nowadays I keep the curtains closed 

which makes mocking the absence of human warmth a much harder task.

My walls now seem to be stained with a blurry depiction 

of when papa would call me an old soul 

for wanting boys to bring me flowers instead of cigarettes. 

Somehow I always ended up being surrounded 

by a sticky cloud of smoke and neck kisses that would make me giggle.   

I can’t get out of bed, 

but sometimes I can still hear your Cadillac Fleetwood pass by in my dreams. 

The rare occurrence of when we used to be seated on green leather, 

bumping along the road, where the smell of expensive cologne would overwhelm me. 

The silence soon to be extinguished as our voices seemed to collide in a desirable harmony

speaking of menial things that won’t matter in a couple years.

“My tummy hurts” is what I used to say as a teenager to my mother 

when I came home late from parties I was never invited to, 

throat burning with heavy liquor and your broken promises. 

Now as my tummy aches, I know it’s from the hunger of being deprived of your voice. 

A compromise between missing you and not being able to eat makes my rib cage poke out evidently.

My teeth are yellow and blackened with cavities. 

The colors remind me of a fading beehive 

as they yearn for one more chance to smile without a toothache.

I can’t sleep

so biting my lip 

and tinting it with the murmurs of anxiety is how I spend my hours. 

My walls are soon repainted with the flirtations of the winking sun 

and the dancing silhouettes of the world forcing themselves to be heard. 

I can imagine wishes being made on floating pollen, birthday candles, shooting stars, and pennies being thrown into fountains. 

But the sound of ambulance sirens cuts through my imagination where materialistic objects carry multiple secrets and ambitions so that we don’t have to deal with the weight of our failures.

An orchestra of chaotic voices flood through my door, unwanted parts of random conversations oozing themselves into my ears. 

My sweater clings to my bones like itchy honey, 

my bed sheets are damp with the salty tears 

and sweat of my unhygienic pain, 

and my hair is a recycled ball of yarn 

waiting to be crafted into something beautiful again. 

Am I seventeen or seventy-one? 

I’m not sure but I can play both roles if that means you’ll come back. 

Where are you now? 

Are you wandering in New York painting someone’s fifth house the color lime? 

Or are you smoking your cigarette in seven different positions on a gloomy Chicago street? 

My skin feels like sandpaper, I am no longer young and beautiful due to the illness of life that courses through me—disease, dehydration, dwelling, and death. 

These walls are untouched by our sins and midnight storytelling, 

where my tongue would twist and battle

to sculpt fairy tales that were suppressed by your childish laughter. 

This room is raw and empty 

without our homely scent of irresistible limerence and italian white wine.

I don’t see our chairs or our collection of Frank Sinatra posters

nor have these walls heard your angelic angst while watching 1900’s films. 

But perhaps walking on crushed cigarette roads

instead of a pathway full of mushy flowers saved you from seeing me like this.

My heart is pounding slowly for the fragile body 

that you made strong by your absence, 

the world grows quiet as if it’s holding its breath for a nervous moment. 

The walls are stained with the skittish color of burgundy, but ours were lime.

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