All people start out as a blastula. The root of blastula is Greek for to bud or to sprout. Some sprouts are green but humans begin at purple. Blastulation starts with the number two, but our cells expand at multiples of four until the molecules add up to human. All life is divisible by four; that is, we can be reduced to infinitesimal quadratic equations whose points of origins all point back to purple.
I cannot remember my father ever touching purple. His hands are wide with long fingers like a garden rake, always bent to scrape at keyboards stiffly. He has touched brown leather billows of antique cameras, the gray fur of a seven-toed cat named Miles, and the orange copper circuitry of model rockets, but never purple. Maybe that is one reason I wore purple so often as a child. I think I was hoping he would hold me.
The teeth of the Rocky Mountains are purple. The Rockies extend into Las Cruces where I was born. The desert around me was burnt orange but the mountains and I were born purple, erupting from the center of the earth where purple things melt into magma. I inherited three things from my mother; blue eyes, which are Dutch, small hands, which I think might also be Dutch, and Jesus, who was not Dutch but might have been Turkish. Nothing she gave me was purple. Still, I came by my purple naturally by way of the mountains and my constellation, Aquarius, whose birthstone is the purple amethyst.
There is a mollusk in the Mediterranean which bleeds purple. The shellfish are squeezed until the color is rendered, a shade which Moses referred to as Argaman. Tekhelet was also purple, but the modern Bible erases that color and calls it blue. This is important because tekhelet is closer to Cerulean, which is like blue but also like purple. Since purple is not primary, transcription altered the god tongue to say blue. In the Talmud, tekhelet is still sacred. In the Crayola Crayon Box, tekhelet is one of seven shades in the family of blue.
Purple lives in middles. Blue is for boys and pink is for girls, but purple is transgender. I was born purple but dressed in pink. I think pink is fine, and blue is nice also, but I prefer the transient nature of purple, the way that purple cannot be forced to make a decision. I like how purple lies on the horizon line on the tops of mountains or oceans and how, when the sun is setting, purple marks the dusky places on the sky map between the land of indigo night and lapis day.
There are many names for purple. Here are some of my favorites: Lavender. Amethyst is the stone of the star I was born under. Mauve. Heliotrope is a hairy bush that produces the tiny fronds used for kings. Mulberry is a type of berry used to make the fruity syrups served out of orange bottles at IHOP. Orchid. Pomegranate is often more red than purple, and the seed is pulpy white, but the middle of the kernel is purple. Pomegranates have a million tiny hearts that look like my foster mother’s toenails.
The translucent membranous filaments of bat wings are purple when they are stretched in flight. Some butterfly wings have purple spots like bird plumage or the skins of poisonous snakes. When my dog plays outside, she morphs into purple. She slips down hillsides and her back muscles fold like waves under a black coat that shimmers purple in certain shades of daylight. Many animals turn purple when you aren’t looking, like cats, who carry secrets in their paws to lick when they are bored or when people quit paying attention.
The underworld is purple. Hades is purple, and the River Styx. Caves absent of light are purple with drops of water like glow stars. In some caves, there are shrimp which have no eyes because they see by hearing. These cave shrimp branched off their sister shrimp which live just outside the caves; bejeweled eyes developed for sight. The two species of shrimp used to have offspring, but then they differentiated. The two families, separated by a rock wall, have mutated away from one another so that one lives in a world of blue sun and the other circles a purple moon pool.
I used to own a corduroy suit made entirely of purple. I wore it every day, and when the suit was dirty, I made sure to carry something purple. A button, or a piece of paper in my pocket, so that I would always be a prince. The overalls I wore were purple, and the silk button up shirt underneath. I had a pair of purple boots that I would march over the sidewalk and sing these boots are made for walking. My sister would dance with me. We purpled up and down the hill between our house and the deli counter where we purchased the following items; salami, which is pink, and blueberry flavored rock candy, which looks blue on the stick but paints lips to match my boots.
There’s a poem titled, “When I Am Old,” it is about aging and purple. I think everyone should wear purple as much as possible. We should not wait until we are old or stop when we are no longer women. My father’s mother, who I called Nemo, accidentally dyed her hair pale purple with a tinted horse hair conditioner. Nemo’s hair was silver, and the lather was purple, and when she came out of the bathroom, she looked like that species of faeries who age backward. Her silver hair glowed purple in the desert sun. When I’m an old man, I’ll wear purple as well, but I will shave my head for contrast.
My foster mother died of liver failure after battling breast cancer for fifteen years, when we placed her in the oven her toenails were purple with silver glitter sparkles. My foster sister and I had painted them purple the day before after we rubbed her swollen ankles with lavender lotion to move the blood up into the heart. Water pools at the feet, and so does purple, leaving bruises like roses petals of the soul.
The places where purple does not live interest me. Ideas and colors become valuable only because of the places they cannot be found. Here are some words which mean the opposite of purple; Stark. Lowborn. Bald. Achromatic, which is to say an absence of color entirely, including but not limited to purple. Simple. Prosaic. On the color wheel, the opposite of purple is yellow. Daisies. Daffodils. The inside of an unripe peach is yellow. Lemon peel. Nicotine stains. Depending on how you spin the color wheel, purple can be mistaken for pink. Pink is the opposite of green. Limes. Some apples. Certain types of worm.
The artist formerly known as Prince decided to be the color purple, and then he became a symbol. I think it’s interesting that we can be people and symbols and anything other than a name and still the world will recognize us. Maybe we see purple before we see the person, or maybe purple is the spec that floats on an iris designating the presence of the soul. I am not certain because I have always had trouble looking people in the eye. I have wondered if my inability to look at people straight on makes them think I am a liar. Half-truths and lies are purple; a floating value that hovers between absolutes like Prince hovered between being a person and being a symbol.
My foster mother’s toes turned purple by death, but my birth mother loathed purple. Maybe that is why purple is my favorite color. Our house was devoid of purple and all related shades of lavender and even some pinks my mother deemed too gaudy. She loves yellow, the sorts of yellow that pierce your eyes and make your teeth ache. I had a pair of lavender colored glasses I wore throughout the house, rendering my mother’s world in a subversive purple palette.
A liver looks purple but is closer to brown. Gray eyes turn purple if the person wears purple or pink or certain shades of blue. In some countries, blue does not exist but is considered a shade of green or purple or pure white. Imagine sitting on the shore of a beach, toes anchored in white sand. You point upwards and say, look at how purple the sky is today. How lavender. How amethyst. And look how blue the clouds are when the sun has reached its zenith.
When I think of purple I think of small things people leave on the side of the road, things that were valuable but that got forgotten once they were used up; lottery tickets, wedding rings, chewed gum, soda cans, and dead mothers. We use a great many things we do not keep because when their use is done we forget their value. The shadows left behind from where we once cared for a thing or a person have a purple sort of sadness, a weight like the drapes hung on the bedposts of a dying man. We sling memories off for storage and leave the things we do not need any more in piles like rags.
Tamlin Thomas is a Creative Writing and Graphic Design student at Maharishi University of Management. As a trans gender man, Tamlin’s hybrid pieces often focus on themes of gender and sexuality as well as family life, science, and religion. Tamlin has previously been published in the Austin Community College literary journal, The Rio Review, as well as the Maharishi University blog. Tamlin is a member of Soapbox Speakeasy, a spoken word group delivering topical poetry in the small Midwestern town of Fairfield, Iowa.