Grey. Not the most appealing of colours. Nobody wants grey, nobody asks for it. Yet, in a world where things are seldom black and white, it is an unavoidable colour. There are exceptions on the colour spectrum, as there are in life. There is the occasional moment of bliss, of overwhelming all-encompassing joy, and the moments of deepest despair, but they are only moments. The rest of what we call life tends to fall somewhere in the middle of the scale, somewhere in the turgid world of grey.
These are not the summer days, nor the winter nights. This is the grey existence. Grey clouds that swirl above the grey city with their own graceful majesty, each a portrait simultaneously uniquely beautiful while exactly the same as every other. Below the far off tempest, life commutes. Grey cars drive along the grey roads and alongside the grey buildings. The sidewalks are filled with grey suits distracting themselves with their grey phones. Glazed grey eyes fill the subways beneath the city streets, each set clinging to its own shade, content with its individuality, while never straying too far from the greyness. Conformity. Some lives are more grey than others, and in more ways than others. For some it may be personality, for others a landscape. For us, it is a name. Theodore ‘Ted’ Grey.
It was an unassuming morning. The alarm went off and Ted lay there, hoping that if he kept his eyes closed, the universe would grant his wish of an extra five minutes in bed. This continued for twenty seconds or so before he let out a sigh, embracing the futility of the exercise, just like he did the morning before. He rolled over, blinding reaching for his phone until the noise could be silenced, only to be replaced by the dawn chorus of traffic five floors below.
He stumbled around his small downtown apartment, rushing out the door with a half-eaten slice of toast in one hand, and his tie in the other. Not one for waiting, he took the stairs and emerged onto the street ready to be seen by a world which never noticed. It’s certain that there was a more productive use of Ted’s time than the 5 minutes spent in front of the mirror in order to make his mop of brown hair the best degree of messy, the dream being that it looked as though he had done nothing it all. He was sure it was worth the time as he nodded at his neighbour as they passed in the hallway, blissfully unaware that his neighbour didn’t care at all. That said, Ted had failed to notice his neighbour’s new coat, so it all balances out.
Ted set off for work in his grey suit, on his way to an office job he neither loved nor hated. It paid enough for him to afford a small downtown apartment, and that was all that mattered. He was 24, two years out of college, where he had been a solid B student. He had a few close friends, but they were back home in another distant city. His was the quiet life. Delightfully unremarkable in just about every way. He was grey, and that was okay. This is why he was most surprised when he stopped off for his morning coffee that day.
As he went through the threshold, it was as if a spell had been broken, or a trance had been lifted. He would remember this moment for years afterwards, well aware that it changed everything, yet he would never be able to explain exactly why. It might have been sheer shock. There was the deafening silence which engulfed the place, and everything in it. But, what he suspected was that it was the colour. The handbag of the girl standing against the wall, and the shirt of the man lying on the floor. Her lipstick, smeared on the side of the cup of coffee which had fallen, and his blood, splashed on the counter. Everything screamed red.