They painted the house brown. Not a nice brown, but a muddy, dull brown that took away any personality it had had before. Before — when we had been living there — it had been a kind of sea green, a comforting colour. A true colour of nature, one of movement and life and sound. Not of slow erosion and memories long forgotten.
The house had been easy to spot, the orange car easier, I guess. Maybe that’s where I got my love of colour from. Maybe it got into my pores through the paint and the smell of the garage. Maybe it’s forever coded into a sliver of DNA somewhere in that word that lie within every cell of my body.
Now I try never to pass there. Even when my curiosity wants to get the better of me. The wall, you see. The now brown wall had also been rebuilt. The handmade gates sold off for scrap or thrown on a dump somewhere. I could only imagine what they had done to the garden if that was their taste in paint colour.
The garden had been large and beautiful and filled with plants and flowers and trees. I remember the sweet peas had grown huge and wild that year in their bed in front of the living room, as if to prove something. They were still there when the family gathered for the news.
My grandfather was crying while he looked at them. It was one of the very few times I’d ever seen him cry. Who sat where … that I don’t remember. I remember him crying, and my own warm tears streaming over my face as I stared down at the carpet. Maybe, I told myself. If I looked down, stared hard enough, not blink, not make a sound, no one would notice me crying with awful hot tears that wouldn’t stop.
“She said the flowers were the most beautiful she’s ever seen them,” my grandfather said then, his voice raw and rasping. And suddenly the whole world was broken. No, I don’t want to know what they did with the garden. If they ripped out the grass and the bottlebrush. The aloe and the rock garden. The lemon tree with its fragrant leaves. The rose bushes that were planted some thirty years before that day and that flowered outside my bedroom window. I did not want to know if they paved it over. You never know, with that taste in paint colour.