I Asked a Color Once What Made It a Color

by Jon Alston

green“Light,” it said.

The color green.

On a hike, it’s the easiest to encounter.

“There’s nothing more to it?” I said, walking beside green up a shallow grade.

“I suppose fundamental physics are involved, reflection, refraction, light absorption, quanta, but what difference does that make? It’s all about the light.”

“So is darkness, but that’s not color.” Green scoffed, a rough barking laugh that shook tree branches.

“I suppose fundamental physics are involved, reflection, refraction, light absorption, quanta, but what difference does that make? It’s all about the light.”

“Absence of light,” it said, “dark has nothing to do with light. It’s simple: take any light source—I prefer the sun, I think most colors do; except gray, and black—and shine it on any object. And what do you see?”

I didn’t know if it wanted me to answer. “Color,” it said.

“But it’s more the inverse of color.”

Green rolled its eyes. “Nonsense.”

“No, hear me out.” I stopped and sat on a decayed tree stump patched with moss, green wrapped around me. “You can’t be the color I see, because that is bounced light from an object.”

“Yes. Color.”

“If what we call a color is unabsorbed light by an object, then what we see is what that object is not.” Green pulled all the branches around together, focused on my mouth. “Color is intrinsically connected to objects: for color to exist, so must the tangible source for that color. Black, for instance, how much light does it reflect?”

“None,” green answered before I could. “It absorbs all, the greedy bastard.”

Leaves shook.

“The absence of reflected light. I don’t see anything. Which makes what I’m not seeing, the light absorbed, white, since all light is white before being split.”

“That makes no sense,” green shouted. “Color is color. Light is light. All things are what they are, not so complex.”

“No, it’s all about perception. What we see is the opposite of the color the object is.”

Green went silent. The wind started pushing green along the branches, away from me. It still remained silent. “You know I’m right,” I yelled.

Green turned as it blew away:

“Why try so hard to quantify beauty? You can’t rationalize these things.” Then it was gone.

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About Jon Alston

Jon Alston is a native of Northern California, and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from California State University, Sacramento. Married for over seven years, he and his wife run JSA Photography. On the off chance he isn’t writing or working on photography, he works for Copilot Press as Assistant Editor editing and binding handmade books, and teaches English at the International Academy of Design and Technology. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in such journals as Midnight Screaming, Conium Review, Skive, and The Encyclopedia Project.

Jon Alston

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