Fresh Story Friday came early this week.
This is the story that I wrote to celebrate Congratulatinos's new album, Don't Fade. This really is a beautiful album and it was very easy to get inspired while I've been listening to it on repeat this last week. I just hope that this story does it justice.... which I'm certain it won't.
Anyway, the album releases tomorrow (8/12) and I would definitely recommend that everyone check it out. You can find more information and a link to their FB page here. Seriously, these guys are going to be huge and you'll want to say that you were there in the beginning.
The story is below with a commentary at the end.
* * * * * * * * * *
‘Almost everyone has three,’ he said, as he held up three fingers. ‘Some people have only two. Which generally means they can’t see as many colors as everyone else. We call those people colorblind. And sometimes it can go the other way. Sometimes people can even have four of these cone cells’ he said, as he held up four fingers. ‘But this is very rare and usually there is no difference in their vision, in their ability to see colors, compared to a person with just three.’
‘But,’ he said, as he smiled and looked up at the boy dangling his feet off the edge of the exam table. ‘On very, very rare occasions, this fourth cone cell can actually be active and it can open up a whole spectrum of color to the individual. A fourth dimension of color.’
He couldn’t remember his name. The doctor, that is. He was a good doctor and he was kind and he went back to see him quite a few times after that for follow up tests, but that was almost thirty years ago. So much had happened between now and then; he was surprised he could remember anything before the gray. Life had plowed through his memories and the wake of steam and the sparks of the wheels sometimes made it hard to make out the details of the landscape. He sometimes wondered how much of his life had slipped away over the years. How many thoughts and experiences had flashed into existance in his head, pumped out their phosphorescent glow for a while only to burn out and fade into nothing. How many synapses had been erased? How much of his life was he now ignorant of? Was he a good man? Was he a good man because he’d forgotten all the bad things he’d done? He considered this as he took another drag of his cigarette and walked down South Front Street.
He thought about ignorance a lot, but more so when he was younger. His fourth, active cone cell had put him in a unique position to ponder ignorance from a very early age. The Color Savant, they called him. He had a gift, a super power. There were only five documented cases of true tetrachromacy in the word, and he was the only male ever known to have it. But none of that really affected him because a four-dimensional color spectrum was all that he’d ever known. He remembers feeling almost envious of the three-dimensionals; the trichromats. He was living in their world. What good was a gift if you were born with it? If you didn’t know what life was like without it?
‘Spare change. Spare change. Anything helps.’ An ash-colored bum shakes his gray and red cup at him as he turns the corner and takes a right onto Market Street.
So he did the thing that everyone told him he should do. He became an artist. He painted. He painted landscapes and sunflowers and city streets at night. That was how they met. He flicked his cigarette and took another drag as he thought about when he’d first seen her walk into Studio II. There was a humming in his ears whenever she talked to him. Their love became a type of madness. They got lost in the flourescant glow of one another's passion. They lived in a world and in a time when beauty reigned.
‘Oh, here you go.’ He holds the door open as two middle-aged men descend out into in the cool, salty Wilmington night in tandem.
The bar was empty except for two young guys in the corner plucking their guitars lightly and singing in beautiful falsetto notes.
The bartender gives him a head nod. ‘What’s up?’
‘Can I get a…’ he leans over the bar to look down at the row of taps. ‘Can I please get a… Yuengling?
He doesn’t want to admit it to himself. Either he doesn’t want to admit it to himself or he genuinely has some rational doubts. He goes back and forth on it. The facts are; yes, the color started to go about the same time she left for Sydney. Yes, the color has been going away ever since. Yes, he’s been watching the darkness and the dullness tunnel in on his field of view for the past nine years and, yes, he is terrified.
But he is a huge advocate of putting every pair of occurrences through a nice gauntlet of causation-versus-correlation logic before pointing any fingers. After all, he was the only one of his kind. Maybe 26 is, biologically, the right age for that additional cone to start shitting the bed. And maybe, in a true, male tetrachrome, maybe it’s normal to lose your blues at 28 and then your greens by 30. I mean, if he’s the only example, then whatever happens to him is normal for a male tetrachromat. What does normal when the entirety of you sample set is sitting at a bar in downtown Wilmington, on a Thursday night, waiting to meet the last person that they ever remember seeing in full color?
‘Here you go.’ The bartender puts a coaster out on the bar and gently places the bottle on top.
‘That’ll be, ah, six fifty.’
‘Alright.’ He shuffles over to one side and fishes out his wallet.
‘Did you want to, uh, start a tab?’
‘Yeah. Here ya go.’ He thumbs a debit card out of his leather billfold and offers it out to the bartender.
‘Thanks.’ The bartender snatches it up and fades away to the cash register.
It wasn’t so bad when it first started happening. The first colors to go were the ones that only he and a handful of other people in the world could see anyway. He finally knew what it was like to see like everyone else. At the time he thought that he’d been fortunate to be born with this fourth dimension of color but now his run was over and he was going to live the rest of his life like everyone else; as a trichrome. He was sad to see his spectrum diminished, but he made peace with it and was grateful for all of the years that he’d had. Things began to get desperate, though, when he started noticing his blues slipping away. He’d tried everything to get the color back over the years. At first he thought that it was the pollution in the city, so he escaped to the wilderness for a while. But that was nothing but olive grass and gray trees and a two-tone night sky. Then he turned to chemicals to free him from the sepia prison that was closing in around him, but those only made him sick. Now he was frantically grasping to hold on to the last bit of red that he had left.
And now he was sitting alone at a bar, squinting his eyes to try and make out the faint garnet tone of the lettering on his bottle of beer, and thinking about the only person he ever thought about when he was alone. The same person that he thinks about right before he goes to bed and the first person he thinks of when he wakes up in the morning. The same person that he’d avoided seeing all these years because he didn’t want his memory of her to be replaced with a gray-scale substitute.
The fellow on the right is plucking low on his guitar and singing softly in French:
Souvenir d'un temps où la beauté règne
et les jours s'écoulaient, heureux, reviennent à moi
He hears the door to the bar open behind him. He can smell her before he hears her voice. Nine years and she still has the same scent of fruity shampoo and dryer sheets. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath through his nose. He considered staying like this, eyes closed and breathing her in and never looking at her again. Only smelling her. Hearing her. Feeling her presence. Having the technicolor version of her that still existed in his memories be the last vision of her that he would ever allow himself to have.
'Can I help you?' He hears the bartender call out.
'Yeah,' he hears her say as she approaches the bar. 'I'm supposed to be meeting someone he--'
He decides to take the plunge and turns to face her, still with his eyes closed.
'Hey,' he says. This is stupid. He has to open his eyes.
He opens his eyes and immediately has to squint at the vivid orange and yellow and pastel glow of her skin. She smiles and light radiates from her in deep, thick, silky beams of indigo and lavender and gold and a thousand other colors without names.
'Caroline,' he whispers as a tear breaks free from the corner of his eye. 'It's been too long.'
The two fellows at the corner have their eyes closed as they harmonize into one microphone and build up to a crescendo:
Walla walla walla woah
Come find me
-- the end
* * * * * * * * * *
Let me start off by saying that this was the first time that I've done something like this before. In fact, it was a first time for both of us. But when Marco approached me about writing something for the upcoming album I jumped at the chance - not really sure how it would turn it. Now that it's all said and done, I have to say that I am happy with the result.
So, let's talk about some of the obvious inspirations that I incorporated into this story. First, yes, the two young guys playing in the bar are indeed Diego and Marco from Congratulatinos. And, yes, the lyrics are from one of the songs on the new album, Souvenir. And yes, the girls name, Caroline, was taken from the first track on their album Don't Fade. I went back and forth on this one; on the one hand it seemed like an obvious way to make a really tight reference to the album. On the other, it seemed a little too obvious. A little too on-the-nose. In the end I decided to go with it because, well, I liked it.
Okay, so some of the not-so-obvious references:
Once you listen to the album, like really listen, you'll be able to pick up on a few lines that I lifted from the lyrics. Without going back and counting, there's about 5-6 fairly direct references to song lyrics on Don't Fade. I could go through and list them for you, but that would take away all of the fun, now wouldn't it.
You may be wondering why the hell I decided to have this story take place in Wilmington, NC of all places. Well, I'm afraid that I can only give you a rather vague, artsy-fartsy answer. Basically, and keeping in mind that I am very ignorant when it comes to music theory or composition, but to me this album had kind of an indie/island-music/jazzy/latin vibe to it and it made me think of walking around at night in a city that was next to the water. When I was trying to think of a setting for this story, downtown Wilmington kept popping into my head. More specifically, the intersection of South Front Street and Market Street, right by the water.
You may also be curious about the whole color thing. Well, I picked up the tretrachromacy term from an article I read on reddit the other day and thought it was an interesting idea. A lot of colors kept popping into my head while I listened to this album and I know that both Marco and Diego have backgrounds in the life sciences, so I decided that the tetrachromacy thing would be appropriate and kind of fun.
As a final note, this idea of lost/unrequited love and longing are reoccurring themes on the album. So I decided to write a story about someone losing someone/something that was very dear to him.
Anyway, that's all. Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the album.