She was Red.
It wasn’t just the long golden locks pinned up in a neat bun, the wine matte lipstick tinting her thin lips, or the pair of rectangle black-framed prescriptions she chose to put on. It wasn’t just the dark blue dress she was fond of wearing, the leather-strap analogue watch on her right wrist, or the uncomfortable white wedges she loved so dearly—constantly gluing the soles back in extension of its lifespan. Red was more than the body she dolled up in the mirror.
Red was quiet but not shy. She kept her thoughts to herself unless in the company of her closest friends. Red often wore the widest smile whenever she strolled into a bookstore as she enjoyed epic flights of fantasy—knights, dragons, and great adventures—and held no judgement toward questionable covers of captivating-titled books. Red was also an avid tea drinker. Sunday evenings with her best friend Amelia would be incomplete without a scone and a cup of freshly brewed chamomile.
Red was ordinary yet different. She was bold and daring, but never loud or boisterous. She was a calm in the storm—the anchor that kept their ship from drifting into the abyss. And if you didn’t know Red, you would think she was just like everyone else—a creative twenty-two-year-old with talents, dreams, and goals.
Was she Red?
No, she wasn’t. She didn’t like her hair pinned up. Even in the heat of summer, she would let her locks loose—curling past her shoulders. She also preferred a brighter lipstick and would rather spend a few minutes everyday putting on contact lenses than the convenience of Red’s glasses. Often, she would shy away from Red’s side of the wardrobe—donning one of her wavy, floral dresses, paired with her comfortable grey sneakers.
She wasn’t Red. She was always the life of the party. And when she shared her inner thoughts and feelings, she trusted her closest friends to keep her secrets. She enjoyed the company of her support system—making time to shop, eat, laugh, and play with Amelia, Sasha, and Joy. She was also a coffee lover. She would almost always order a cold-brewed americano every Saturday breakfast with the girls.
She was different yet ordinary. She wasn’t brave or fearless, but she was kind and jovial. She was wild at heart—at times reckless with her decisions. And if you didn’t know her, you would think she was just like everyone else—a carefree eighteen-year-old with talents, dreams, and goals.
Red she was.
For most, it would be hard to imagine waking up in a foreign body. But for Red, it was her life. In her world, she stood at five feet four with short black hair, bright blue eyes, and a narrow chin. But in this world, they saw her differently. Everyone saw the girl in the mirror—a face and body that didn’t reflect her inner being. And the best that she could do was try… to look a little more like herself.
Red knew that Gwen didn’t like it when she tied their hair in a bun or when she walked a whole day in wedges. She knew that Gwen would frown if she found herself in a bookstore or a library. Gwen would certainly sigh if she had to finish a cup of tea Red had ordered. But those were the only things that made her feel like herself—Red being true to Red—while she faced the outside world. And thankfully, Gwen understood.
Red was she.
For most, it would be hard to imagine a split life—how can one have two, and how can two be one? For most, it would be difficult to even tell Gwen apart unless they truly knew Gwen for who she was—if they could look past the blond, athletic-framed teenager with brown eyes, to see the person within. But despite the challenge, Gwen needed Red.
Gwen knew that Red struggled too. Their life had never been easy—a battle since birth. And without one or the other, they wouldn’t be alive. Without Red, Gwen wouldn’t know how to live. So as much of a separate being as they both may be—with different thoughts, interests, and feelings—they were still one. They were connected—joined in a way that made them uniquely them.
Gwen was Red. Red was Gwen. They were each other in a way different from us being us.
She, was, and red were words given by Ethan Otto on Facebook. Ethan challenged me to make sense of these three words and I think I did a pretty decent job. As someone who has always been fascinated with the human mind, I hope this piece brings to light the world of mental health. Let’s all learn a little more about the people around us—understanding that some of us may be different but still worthy of our care, love, and kindness.
Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. I’m now challenging you to make sense of them!
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)