by Victoria Loehle
It should be little more than a label for certain frequencies of light. To her, it is also a color reminiscent of bruises and depression and marrow-freezing cold. To them, it is a name.
Her skin is the color of a body of water beneath a cloudless summer sky mere moments before sunrise, but they call her Blue. Their skin is pinkish and pale and sometimes almost tan enough to look bronze, but she never thinks of them as White. Instead, she thinks of them as sort of small-brained and stubborn because, no matter how many times she reminds them of her name, they always fail to call her Ray.
They stare at her, too, always through eyes that are a bit more than curious yet a bit less than cruel, because she braids strings of shark teeth into her hair and wears a manta tail around her neck like a scarf—just like her mother and both of her grandmothers and all six of her aunts. She loves those shark teeth—memories, good and bad and beautiful and sad alike, bound together with sinews borrowed from some of her great white-bellied allies—and she is too proud of that hard-earned manta tail to ever give it up.
“I wish they would stop,” she grumbles, as Mara places a gnarled grey finger beneath her chin and lifts her gaze away from her sand-dusted toes.
“No,” Mara states, her voice as firm as her deep silver eyes. Her wrinkled face quivers with close to a century of repressed pain and grudging acceptance—she used to wish and pray and dream about things, too, but she knows better now. “That wish is a waste of breath. They do not know how to change.”
“But we do,” Ray whispers.
Mara narrows her eyes—a glare as sharp as a harpoon.
“We just… choose not to…”
Mara folds her sun-freckled arms across her drooping chest. “And you disapprove.”
Not a question.
“You are too young to understand,” Mara growls, stabbing her carven whale-bone cane into a warping plank of boardwalk wood and struggling to rise from their sagging, meet-up-here bench. She steadies herself on her time-withered legs then faces their Ocean—a world of water and wonders born long before Her overpopulated shores of sand and stone, now beckoning to Her most audacious landlings from beneath a mask of glimmering indigo and orange waves and a crown of sinking scarlet sun…
Ray wants more than anything to return to Her—Then Mara recaptures her attention, and she obliges herself to remain seated and listen:
“You look at one of them, and you see another living being—something beautiful and intelligent, something to be valued and, at the very least, respected, something much like you. You notice subtle differences between us and them, of course, but you are too naïve to think of any of those as flaws. You thus fail to judge them.
“They look at you, and they see Blue—something strange, something to be frightened of and, at the very least, evaded, something not at all like them. Yet you wonder why they judge you, why they stare… To them, you are flawed. To them, you will never be good enough to be their equal; no matter what you do with your life, to them, you will always be a lesser being.”
Mara closes her eyes, breathing in a warm, salty breeze from their Ocean.
“Why do they see Blue?”
“Because they choose to see nothing else, and they do not know how to change.”
Victoria Loehle is from Morganville, New Jersey, and studies electrical and computer engineering and management engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts. She has co-written two plays and a forthcoming science fiction novel.
Photo credit: Lapis lazuli from Siberia. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 10 Mar 2016.