The Turquoise Boy
Edited from feedback: 21 May 2016
If there is a colour in paradise it is certainly turquoise. For Mother and Father it is the colour of their newborn boy, innocent and pure, lovingly cradled and doted upon by his inexpressibly happy parents. It is the colour of his shallow eyes as they fill with the world around him with the knowledge and encounter of phenomena that gently draws him from this to that; from one to all; from me to I and eventually to you.
Mother and Father revel in the assisted discovery of the world of their only son. They jump from one aspirational plan to the next, giddy with vicarious excitement: their son will have all the opportunity that the world has to offer, and will pursue and live out his dreams as though told in an heroic soliloquy to an awestruck audience. He shall want for nothing, yet discover the true virtue in living an honest, hard-fought-hard-won life: he will be everything they failed to be, and more.
Then the second and third person set in. The Turquoise Boy moves from the purity of learning the world around him by sensation, to the discord and contemplation in interacting in a shared world; a shared experience. The turquoise wells in his world-wearying eyes sink deeper into his subconscious, and its waters darken to an opaque blue. His parents wonder, now, what their son is thinking and feeling; whether his words and deeds are imbued with the same childish naivety and sincerity, or increasing indifference. When did this happen? How? What of their great plans, and of the opportunity they are striving to afford their only son? What of their legacy?
In his early teens, the Turquoise Boy withdraws himself from family life piece by piece. One day, he decides he no longer wishes to go with his mother to the church coffee morning to help set up. Another, he informs his father that he doesn’t enjoy the football any more, and would prefer to spend his Saturdays doing something more productive. Various extracurriculars similarly fall by the wayside. Mother and Father, wishing to respect his burgeoning independence, though worried for a course set to Missed Opportunity, can do nothing but accede. It must be a phase, they tell themselves, as they rig their expectations on parental tenterhooks.
At sixteen, the Turquoise Boy is facing choices that will lend substantive steer to the formative years of his life; obscured beneath the muddying waters of educational attainment and progression, his aspirations – or his parents’ – have long since lost their twinkle and taken on the greying hue of foreboding; low-lying cloud cover and its pathetic fallacy. Mother and Father search his eyes for the turquoise glow, long diminished, and lie awake at night silently debating where they went wrong – staring at the ceiling and bedside table respectively, willing this phase to pass without irreparable damage.
On his newly freed up Saturday afternoons, the Turquoise Boy wanders the moors on the outskirts of town, admiring the ubiquity and resilience of its purple heather. Tracing the horizon to the sky’s highest point above his head, he wonders at the limits of the turquoise expanse and the fate that is befalling his most prodigious dreams; dreams that seemed so indestructibly inevitable and that now feel disingenuous and translucent; terminal as a shallow ocean pond with a feeding stream from a nearby oil spill. Yet time draws relentlessly on: the Turquoise Boy completes his mandatory education, and succeeds if not spectacularly. Mother and Father beam with pride, though neither would outwardly admit they would have preferred perfection.
One evening the Turquoise Boy goes to his local pub to contest the weekly quiz with his friends. The quiz is a ‘Family Fortunes’ set-up, with surveys and ‘top answers’. Though the aim of the game is to correctly identify the answers a ‘sample of people’ have given, he secretly enjoys being wrong as much as right: it serves in some way to confirm that he isn’t like the every-sample; that to be wrong is to both have his own answers, and to reassert the mystery that is other people’s minds. This evening, however, he is in a more reflective mood than usual. In the year since leaving school he and his friends have embarked upon the next stage of their lives, and for the first time find that they are not doing exactly the same thing, at the same time, with the same expected outcomes. They have set off on their journey to being their parents. Around the table, the Turquoise Boy is struck by how together and decisive each of his friends seems to be. That they are unconcerned with tomorrow, or the day after, or the year following. In fact, he has the feeling that he is the only one thinking of tomorrow; that his friends have an enviable ability to see its gift wrapping and not speculate as to its contents. He wonders, then, how they seem able to put one foot in front of the other and make steady and decisive progress towards their future. What’s more, he wonders, when did they make these so called life choices, and how do I seem to have skipped this?
It was about this time, and perhaps in no small part because of this episode, that the Turquoise Boy had a Newtonian moment. Quite literally. Taking one of his ambling Saturday strolls across the moors, he happened across a horse chestnut tree, beneath which lay its fallen seed. A little further along his path, he followed a small stream as it wound its way down a valley into the gorge. In both cases, the Turquoise Boy could not help but equate the journey the seed and stream alike were taking towards a seemingly inevitable end point, with that of his friends. Why did the seed fall to the earth? What drove the stream to cut through the valley and down into the gorge? Gravity, of course. Could gravity be the force behind his friends’ various decisions? Were they inevitably and inextricably attracted to the path they were now set upon? Did they fall into the curved space of the opportunities available to them without resistance?
Such applications of his understanding of gravity would be applied to phenomena in his life for years to come; everything from a tendency to return home the further away he went (gravitational potential energy; without going so far as to breakout beyond his home’s gravitational attraction) to disturbances to his orbit where a significant mass entered his solar system, or indeed left it. Let us take such an event: one late autumn day the Turquoise Boy is killing time between lectures, and searching the local town shops for nothing in particular. He notices a cafe he has not seen before and decides to investigate. Upon entering he is struck immediately by a vision so beautiful his initial response is to search his memory for a trick, that he might be projecting in some way – a dream, perhaps – upon the girl behind the counter. But no: it is the realised vision of something he has constructed so frequently and completely in his mind’s eye that the absolute familiarity is unsurprising – though simultaneously breathtaking. Standing in the doorway, caught in this thought process, his soul and eyes ablaze, the Turquoise Boy stakes every second of his being to this point on the mere opportunity to see her again; to sit with her, listen to her, and lose himself in her bewitching emerald eyes. He returns to the cafe each day for a month, each time learning what he can about her in the brief moment he has between ordering, paying for and then drinking his coffee. In this time he builds up a mild addiction to caffeine which he later has difficulty shaking off. Already, he notes, his orbit is changing: since the arrival of this celestial body in his solar system, he has not only changed his physical patterns of transit, but also his mental ones. Seldom, now, does he walk among the moors. Rather than read, he has taken to writing. As he attempts to reconcile himself with his new orbit, he finds a daily change to his immediate and long terms desires and aspirations, like he is clamouring for a higher purpose, a greater satisfaction, that he knows is unlikely to be fulfilled without her. It is sheer sublimation. Eventually, he asks more of her than a coffee to go – and so begins the business of charting new territory in their cohabited solar system.
To the Turquoise Boy’s astonishment – and the welcome eclipse of his previous concerns with the direction of his life – plans seem to appear and roads be taken without so much as a second thought. In their early meetings, he found himself talking and talking at length about all the wonderful things he wishes to do and achieve in the world, and by implication with her. What is most surprising to the Turquoise Boy – beside her continued interest and attention – is that he is hearing of these ambitions for the first time too: it is as if she has decrypted a part of his soul that he did not know had existed. The Turquoise Boy surveys the world afresh: he now believes it to be abundantly pregnant with possibility, its beauty shimmering in the haze of dawn, dew reflecting the early sunlight. Even the purple heather, previously an avatar of stubborn subsistence, clinging onto its place in the world in static rebellion, rises with the morning sun in a chorus of life-affirmation. The intervention of a celestial body with Emerald Eyes was all that was required, after all.
A child soon follows, a little girl with delicate skin and soft hazel eyes that follow the Turquoise Boy’s own with a curious interest. Mother and Father are now Grandmother and Grandfather. Images of creeping shadows across ceilings and bedside tables are a distant memory, so much so that it might have been nothing more than a briefly shared nightmare that stretched across a short period of waking and sleeping hours. What had they been worried for?
The Hazel Girl’s early years race by like a flipbook of cataclysmic moments. Life takes on a fevered state of firsts for the Turquoise Boy who takes each in his stride with embrace of challenge and determination he had not known to be possible before. Piece by piece he rebuilds the jigsaw of his family life; Grandmother and Grandfather flow into and through their lives once more, like a stream feeding a pond with the purifying elements of the ocean beyond. The Hazel Girl is loved and attended as the Turquoise Boy had also been, though they are careful to let her dream for herself, and allow space for worry and indifference in equal measure. Imbued with a sense of a purpose and responsibility, the Turquoise Boy and Emerald Wife venture into professional pastures new, displacing the worry of What to do? and How? against the necessity to provide: he lands himself in a small editorship in an online, not for profit newspaper; she opens a local community centre and cafe.
In this time the Emerald Wife notices what the Turquoise Boy does not: that, in these years of accelerated growth in which almost nothing can escape the entropy of time and change, the Hazel Girl’s eyes still follow without lack of attention the line of her father’s turquoise gaze. In moments of uncertainty she would seek out the turquoise wells for reassurance and comfort. The muddied waters of his indifferent youth have all but dissipated; the twinkle of the ocean pond has returned, a little greener, a little wiser, with carefully scaled depths that holds in its preserving embrace the wreckages and secrets of yesteryear – the topography and topology of his life and learning.
Grandmother and Grandfather retreat gracefully into their well earned retirement. The Hazel Girl blossoms into the Hazel Woman, flying the nest full of ideas and ambition and just the right ‘lack’ of a plan. The Turquoise Boy and Emerald Wife take stock for the first time since his epiphany in the cafe doorway. Their eyes meet, and hold each other’s gaze; they search these wells for the fullness of their love, overflowing as they are with formative moments and the shared turmoil of an ocean’s ebb and flow. They wander the moors and make no plans for the future; they welcome the rise of each day with dewy eyes and silently agree that if there is a colour in paradise, it is the colour in your family’s eyes.
- Spearmint gum
- The flickering edges of burning gas
- Baby boy
- Element (?)
- shallow ocean pong
- Shallow waters in sun