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    They named me Green, after the colour. Green like the springtime. Green like my mother’s eyes. How disappointed she was when I didn’t inherit those same jade tones.

    “Her name makes no sense now,” she lamented, waving menthol cigarette clouds over my crib.

    My father comforted her—turned her away from the sight of me. "She’s still a baby. Her eyes will change,” he promised.

    And change they did, but not to green. Instead, I was gifted the same watery blues that he had, waned and weakened through generations of recessive design. Colour blind, to ensure her absolute dismay.

    “She’ll never know how pretty my eyes are now,” she sobbed—and she was right. I saw the world in displaced hues, sometimes red, sometimes blue, never green. I saw her eyes as angry pinholes. Never pretty.

    My father did his best to show me the beauty of my namesake. We collected pine needles at Christmas time and planted sweet peas in March. We made friends with the glass frogs that visited our garden. In the summer, he would muddle fresh mint leaves into the palm of my hand and tell me to breathe in real deep.

    “You spoil her,” my mother scolded when he presented me with an emerald pendant for my ninth birthday.

    He waved away her disapproval, and for three days I cherished that precious gem, studying all its gleams and glistens and mossy caverns—then the garbage disposal jammed, and I never saw the stone again.

    They named me Green, like the colour, and over the years I came to know it well.

Green like the lawn my father neglected. Green like the cash he didn’t earn enough of. Green like the too-thick lime in his too-many gins. Eventually, he waved to me goodbye from a dark green taxi, and I chased that colourless cab right down the road.

    “Stop fussing”, my mother said, dragging me back to the house. “If he loved you, he wouldn’t have left.”

    And then, it was just me and her.

    The pine needles turned brown, the frogs stopped visiting, the herb garden died. It was just me, my mother and a world without green.


    “You’ve overcooked the spinach again,” she complains, pushing her plate away.

    I apologize, mid-tuck. “I’ll fix you some more, Mother.”

    “Don’t bother. My appetite is ruined.”

    She’s weak now, saving the last of her energy to wield that viper tongue. She watches as I load the tea trolley, condemnation cocked and ready.

    “It’s a lovely day, Mother. Why don’t I take you out in the sunshine for a while?”

    “You left me out to burn last time.”

    I didn’t but I know better than to argue by now. “How about a nice green tea?”

    “I'll take black,” she says. “I don’t like green.”

    “The doctor says you can’t have black tea.”

    “I’ll have a cigarette then.”

    “You can’t have one of those either.” I plump her pillows and she slaps me away, her hand all veins and crepe paper skin.

    “If I’m going to die,” she says, “I’ll do it with a cigarette between my fingers. Inside, thank you very much. Too damn green out there.”

    The walk to the store is a long one. I take the shortcut through the woods, ignoring the pine needles that crunch beneath my feet.

    “How’s your mother, Green?” asks Mr. Irving from amongst the canned beans.

    “Dying,” I reply.

    He nods, sympathetic. Then asks, “Menthols?”

    We make our regular transaction, and he presses the cigarette packet into my hand, sighing and well-wishing as he rings up the sale.

    I pass the box back. “These are the wrong brand.”

    He gives me a funny look. “It’s the same brand she’s been smoking for thirty-five years.”

    I check the logo again. It’s her brand all right. Same name, same bold font, same cool and minty rhetoric. But there’s something different about the packet. An unfamiliar colour that outlines each of the letters, a swoosh of the same foreign hue just underneath.

    “What is this?” I ask.

    He’s confused, but not for the same reason I am. “It’s green.”

    I take the shortcut home again, but this isn’t the path I remember. As I walk, the forest rises around me, chlorophyll oozing into the trees like an artist’s brush on canvas, becoming more magnificent, more viridescent with every step. First the maples, then the laurels, then the pines. I scoop the needles off the ground and marvel at their vibrancy. It’s green. It’s all green! I burst into the house, tossing the menthols on the kitchen counter.

    “Mother!” I call out.

    There’s a silence in the air, a calm that wasn’t there before. The air feels lighter, brighter somehow.


I find her upstairs in her bed, motionless, still warm, no pulse. Her eyes are open and staring. They are the most beautiful shade of malachite, just like she always told me.

    “So pretty, Mother,” I whisper.

    I close them, one by one, and my world grows greener.










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