True colours

They call us white men. But, at times, I am pink, red, beige, yellow and, lately, a kind of bluish purple in a certain light at a certain time of day.

Recently, two very dark women befriended me, or maybe it was mutual. I do not know. One of them is African and the other from India. The Indian woman works in a store in which I often shop. We have pleasant conversations when time allows, and I’ve noticed that she sometimes makes oblique comments about her skin colour. I asked her once where I would find the suntan lotion, and she said “I wouldn’t know. I don’t need it.” It was all in good fun, but it made me wonder how her life had gone because of her difference from most of us.

The African girl was a recent hire in a coffee shop uptown, and one of the nicest people I have ever met. I could see she was struggling a bit with the new job, and was very eager to please her customers and her boss. When she made a mistake, she would look downcast and would apologize profusely. I felt embarrassed for her, and would look her in the eye and tell her not to mind.
I am hoping that her character will win people over and help her to be more confident in her job.

There is a fast food place where I often stop for coffee. For various reasons, they have a high staff turnover. One day, I noticed a new girl there with a trainee badge on. I think it might have been her first job, because she was very young. At times she seemed at a loss as to what to do next. It was a busy environment, and the minimal staff seemed to have little time to devote to her proper training. She indeed looked almost at the point of tears a couple of times. I felt for her, because I remembered my own first jobs and my feelings of inadequacy. I tried to catch her eye at least once, hoping I could help put a little smile on her face. Recently, I saw her in a new job. She is a customer service rep for a company, has gained a lot of confidence, and seems happy.

For my own colours, I see the pink, I think, as representing moments of embarrassment and inadequacy. The red, perhaps, as unreasoning anger, and the beige denoting periods of humdrum but welcome “normalcy”. The yellow and the purple I save for last, as they are the most uncomplimentary. The moments of cowardice and falsity, like Simon Peter’s thrice denial. The festering ugliness that many of us have. The primal and the animal. But, there are other colours that don’t show very often, at least for me, and they are the saving grace of the aura. Perhaps I can make them shine more brightly, and keep the yellow and purple bruises at bay.

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