The Visible Spectrum
The woman procured inimitable shades of color. She blended paint into a single concoction, then left the liquid to be mechanically shaken. This was her work—beguiling small business owners, do-it-yourself parents and adults of all ages who pursued passions like juicing and CrossFit and had marvelous one-bedroom houses displaying their very real talents for art and living fully. Her calves, naturally thick, were made thicker from standing. She wore unpretentious glasses—thin silver frames of rounded rectangles—that her peers found unappealing. Paint stained her shirts despite the apron she wore. She was immune to the scent and toxicity of paint.
Customers sometimes told her where the paint would go. “This is for our master bedroom.” “The dining room is being renovated.” “We’re finalizing the color scheme of our new office.” And then again, she guessed. She imagined the powder blue with a hint of moss would adorn a hallway bathroom with a square upper window and seaside aura. The burnt sienna would become this hipster’s anthem for smoking pot and sexual misadventures. A woman once disclosed that her child had been killed by a car in a driveway accident and the burgundy paint would cover the boy’s playroom walls. The bloody shade tugged at dendrites attempting to connect in her brain.
One day, after surveying her own apartment, she decided to add some color.
She thought of the 35-millimeter camera she brought with her when she traveled. She thought of photos of singular flowers she’d taken and exposed—canary daffodils, periwinkle pansies, titian marigolds. She thought of orchids with spots of fuchsia crowded at the center of each bloom. She thought of lime green bamboo, pine needles stinking of their aroma, palm trees posing against the sky. She thought of the sound of the ocean and its infinite shades of intersecting blue, teal and white propelled from the sea floor. She thought of swarms of gold and amber koi fish swimming in the ponds of a Japanese garden. She thought of her first day of school as a young girl and the careful way she’d learned to cut shapes from construction paper of primary colors. She thought, too, of her community college’s colors—muted derivations of Stanford’s cardinal red and Cal’s Berkeley blue—when a degree was in her plan.
She brought home as many sample-sized paints as she could and began painting with very small dots. Each dot held a simple memory. Some seemed to repel others, but she placed them beside one another anyway. The growing conglomeration left guests off balance as the wall seemed to vibrate steadily more, week by week. She was so exhausted when she finished, she lay on the floor and went to sleep. Almost two days later, she woke to a searing headache that left her unable to walk. She called a friend to bring her to a hospital. Doctors ran tests as she waited in a narrow bed. Within twenty-four hours, she learned she had advanced brain cancer. Five days later, she died.
The building manager unlocked her apartment for her father to reclaim her effects. The men stared at the mural in silence. The manager found a point of ochre reminiscent of the T-shirt he wore the day he met the former tenant. Her father found a replica of his clear livid eyes looking back at him. They traveled the points of her life and murmured at its totality—yet it observed, watched and captured them, still. They turned their backs to its arresting pull.
When the apartment was emptied, fresh white paint rolled in wide strokes over the wall.
As of 2016: Amanda Wilgus lives and works in Los Angeles, teaching children with autism by day. She has taught English in her mother’s native Taiwan. More of her work may be found in The Bicycle Review, The Commonline Journal, and Blue Lake Review.