Color Blind

by Elsa Combs, age 10
Color Blind Elsa Combs is a writer and illustrator. She likes to do gymnastics and play soccer.

“The next day is Monday. I sketch on the bus like I do every day. I love art. A lot of people say I can’t because I don’t see color, but that’s not everything about art. Art is also drawing and painting, which I love. And I’ve seen some real black and white paintings before. “

“Sophie..” I can hear Mom calling to me in my room. I wipe my tears away and look around my room. My black and white room. I see my gray bed. My white lamp. My nearly black rug.

“Yeah?” I ask. 

“Your friends are here.” She calls back. I stiffen, but get up and go downstairs, wearing my gray hoodie, black leggings, and white socks. Nervously, I play with my braided hair. I see Alex and Emily waiting for me downstairs and plaster a smile across my face. 

“Hey, guys! Come on up. Last playdate of the summer, I guess.” We go into my room and close the door behind us. I wonder what colors they’re seeing. I ask them. Alex points around my room. 

“It’s mostly yellow.” I relax at that. I am always unsure if they really are my friends, but most of the time Alex and Emily are nice to me. We watch a movie and eat lunch, and then they go. I ask Mom what color my room is. 

“Purple.” She responds.

The next day is Monday. I sketch on the bus like I do every day. I love art. A lot of people say I can’t because I don’t see color, but that’s not everything about art. Art is also drawing and painting, which I love. And I’ve seen some real black and white paintings before.


When we were at the art museum, Mom pointed out some of them, since I can’t see the difference between color and simply shades.  As I step off the bus, I muster some courage, suck in a breath and confront Alex and Emily. I’m nervous about their reaction. What are they going to think? Will they stop being my friends? 

“Umm.. You said my room was yellow.. It’s actually purple..” I duck my head and look at them through my long strands of hair. Emily laughs. 

“We were just joking with you. And how would you know that anyway?” Before I can say anything else, they walk away and I’m left standing there, wondering, not for the first time, if I actually have any real friends. 

We had math first thing this morning. I think I’m pretty smart. I get all the questions right. But then Mr. Hunt gives us an assignment to color code a bar graph. I open and close my mouth. Since our math teacher is new this year, I haven’t had the chance to tell him about how I see the world. 

“Which bar should be colored yellow, and why?” Mr. Hunt asks me. I desperately look around for backup, but everyone is silent until Sam, my partner, nudges me and whispers, 

“There’s the colors on the wall.” I flash him a grateful look and find the yellow color, matching it with the shade of gray on my paper. 

“Uh.. That one.” Mr. Hunt smiles. 

“Great. Now, can anyone tell me why?” He points to Heidi, but I’m too relieved to hear what she’s saying. I sink into my chair and stay quiet for the rest of class. The bell rings and he dismisses us. I make sure to be last to walk out, and place a note on Mr. Hunt’s desk. It says, I do not see color. From Sophie. I feel something heavy lifted off my shoulders a little.

Our next class is art. I’m really excited. The teacher, Mrs. Scanzera, is really nice to me, and always points out the colors and the names of them. I always pick two random colors from the wall of colors, and paint with them. I sometimes get green and brown, and paint a forest, or I’m sometimes in the mood for abstract. I can’t see the colors, but I always hope everyone else can see them and think it looks good. Today we’re starting a new project – comics, or, in my mind, graphic novels. In this class we are starting to design the character. I draw a girl was short, wavy hair and freckles. She also has a fringe, and a sweater and a skirt. I show Mrs. Scanzera, and she grins. 

“This is amazing, Sophie! Maybe you should start working on the shading, too.” I nod and sit back down at my desk. I feel more and more people crowd around me, and I start to get uncomfortable. Are they watching me because I’m doing something wrong? As I look up at them, then there’s a flash in front of me. I turn back, and feel tears starting to well in my eyes. Someone has drawn a mustache on my character in Sharpie. I can hear some people giggling, and a girl whispers to her friend, “Does she even know what color that is?” I get up and ask for a bathroom pass, then run down the hall, locking myself in a stall when I get there. I let the river of tears flow slowly down my face. I look at the walls of the bathroom. As usual, there’s writing. But this time there is a few new words. They say ‘Olivia + Lily’. I wish I had a best friend.

At the end of the day, I get off the bus and take my usual route home through the park. It usually cheers me up, seeing the varieties of flowers and animals, but today I arrive home still in a bad mood. Dad’s home from work early. 

“What’s wrong?” He asks me. I tell him about Art and Math, and how Alex and Emily teased me. 

“They’re probably just joking..” He murmured, but I could tell that neither of us believed that. 

“That’s what everyone always says,” I mutter. “No one believes me. It always feels like they’re joking at first, but now.. I don’t think they really are.”

Dad is silent at first. “..I’m sorry.” He says. I lean against him for awhile and he lets me. We stand there for a few minutes, and then I break away. I go to the fridge and grab some chicken. I put it in the microwave for a minute, then take it out and sit down at the table. About ten minutes later, my parents join me. Mom looks worried. 

“Is school really that bad?” She asks. I just nod, fiddling with my braids. A few minutes later, I ask my parents what colors I am like I always do. Today, my shirt is white with red stripes, and I have navy shorts. My is hair is brown and my eyes are gray. 

“Like our flag.” I whisper. When my parents don’t hear, I repeat it.

“Yes,” Mom says. “Like our flag.” We continue dinner in silence. After I get up and wash the plates, I sit down on the couch and watch TV. I smile suddenly. It’s like I’m in the olden days. Everything on TV was black and white then. That’s what everyone in my class says, at least. I hear Mom and Dad talking in the kitchen. Quietly, I sneak up to the doorway and listen.

“I was promoted today,” Mom says. “But it’s still not enough. We still need to pay the bills, and our rent. Sophie’s scholarship ends next year. We can’t afford any other schools. This is the cheapest one in the area, and yet it’s still expensive when you pay. And the color glasses – they’re a lot of money-” I stop listening and go back into the TV room. Color glasses? I think. What does that mean? For the rest of the evening up until my bedtime, I think about it.

I start saving up money. I search up the glasses on Mom’s computer and they’re supposed to make you see color. Color! Imagine what that would be like. Definitely a lot brighter than what I see now.I walk to the bus again this morning. I’m in a better mood than ever now. I stop by a nest and peer into it. There are three robin eggs, all perfectly round and egg-like(I know they’re from a robin because they’re pale and speckled). When I get to school, I notice that our desks are changed. I’m sitting next to Addie on one side, and Thomas on the other. Addie is a lot like me. She’s pretty quiet in class, but really smart, although her passion is writing, not drawing. She loves to quote things, too. Thomas is like a lot of boys I know; loud, boisterous, and a ‘true american’. I quickly get to know Addie pretty well. She’s nice to me, and she’s new this year, so she doesn’t know my secret. I guess I can’t really say it’s a secret. Everyone knows. As soon as we sit down together, I ask her, “Do you know that I can’t see color?” She looks surprised.

“Really? So you’re that girl?” I look down, a little annoyed. 

“Yes. I’m ‘that girl’.” Addie flinches a little, but gives me a weak smile. It looks real, so I smile back. Then I see she has her notebook out and is writing something. It looks like a story.

“What are you writing?” I ask. Addie looks up. 

“..Nothing.”

“I’ll let you see my sketchbook if I can see your stories.” She shakes her head, and I sigh. 

“Okay, then. What colors are you wearing?” It sounds like a weird question, but she would understand. 

“I have dark ginger hair, green eyes, a purple shirt, and a denim skirt.” I ask what color denim is, and she says it’s blue, sometimes with a little bit of gray. She says it’s not bright or anything, more of a subtle  color. I believe Addie. She sounded like she was telling the truth. And, plus, denim seem like a word that fits with the word blue. I hear some other kids snickering at us and glare at them.

I remember. I remember when I was a baby. I opened my eyes, and there was a flash of color, everything was bright, then it died down to the dull grays I’m used to seeing, leaving me reaching for that moment. Every year, I remember less and less of that moment, and I know one day I will completely forget what colors look like. I can barely remember what they look like. Mom says I have a photographic memory. That means I can remember things very well, especially pictures, even if I’ve only seen them once. That’s why I still remember the colors. The beautiful colors.

When Mom and Dad first found out I could only see certain shades, they were teaching me my colors.

“This one is red.” Dad said. We would sing the rainbow. When my parents taught me gray, black and white, I was confused. 

“But… those are the same ones as these!” Standing back from it all as a toddler, I realized something. 

“These are all the same color!”

The next day, Mom took me to the eye doctor. Dr. Watson did many tests. 

“Sophie… cannot see color.” She said. I remember her exact words. Mom and Dad didn’t make a huge deal of it, although they were a little worried. But me, I was upset. 

“W-What’s color?” I asked, my lip wobbling. “Why can’t I see it?”

Halloween is right around the corner, and I’m preparing my costume. I’m going to be a half zombie, with ragged clothes, and a scar across my face. Dad helps me with the colors, while Mom says she’ll help put on my facepaint and fake blood. She’s good with paints, like me. For my clothes, I’m going to take an old and dark shirt and pants, and cut up the edges. Now, my costume is ready. I leave it on my desk, along with all the supplies I need for it. I invite Addie to my birthday sleepover for November 1st. She says yes. It’ll be just her and I, but I don’t really mind. I guess I have found a friend after all.

It is October 30th, and everyone is excited to go trick-or-treating. Addie is dressing up as a skeleton, and Alex and Emily are going as matching warrior princesses. I think it’s sort of silly. We all dressed up cute when we were little, but now that we’re bigger, it makes more sense to have scarier costumes. Of course, everyone else simply loves their idea. Well, except for the boys, who don’t like princesses anyway. I haven’t officially ‘broken up’ with my old friends yet, but I don’t really hang out with them anymore. On my way to science, I bump into them. 

“Oh, sorry!”

“Watch out, I don’t want my new yellow sweater to get dirty.” Alex sneers. Emily laughs behind her. I get mad. I’m not one to raise my voice. Normally, I’d let it go, even, but not today. Today, they took it too far.

“I’ve had enough of you guys teasing me! Why won’t you just stop? It was funny at first, but now, it’s just mean!” I shout. My throat starts to hurt. Alex and Emily look a little caught off guard at first, but then they start to snicker it off, as usual. Alex starts to say  something, but then I cut her off. 

“No. I’m done.” I  can hear ‘oooo’s rising up around us, but I don’t really care. I take my seat just as  class starts. 

Mr. Powell, our teacher, is the best. He likes to wear patterned, and, as I’m told, bright clothes. He always gives us cool hands-on activities to do. Today we’re dissecting a frog. I’m partnered up with Matt. He’s pretty nice. We opened up it’s stomach and named the organs inside. It was pretty gross, but also kind of cool. We walk out to go to lunch. 

“Happy, Halloween, Mr. Powell!” I say. He smiles at me.

“The same to you, Sophie.”

I sit at my usual table with Addie. Today there is chicken and waffles, your typical pre-Halloween lunch at this school. Luckily, dessert was a monster cupcake. At least there’s something Halloween-y around here. Me and Addie talk about tomorrow night. I’m really excited to go trick-or-treating with her. Halloween is a lot more fun with a friend. A real friend.

Tonight is Halloween night. I put on my costume and head over to Addie’s house. Tomorrow is Saturday, the sleepover, and Sunday is my birthday. I still haven’t saved up enough for my color glasses. They’re around ninety dollars and I’ve only got thirty. My mind is taken completely off of them for the night when I get to Addie’s. Her house is completely covered in decorations. Addie’s front yard has fake graves with rotting hands reaching out of them. In the darkness, I see glowing eyes in each bush. They have fog machines and are playing spooky music. It’s starting to give me real creepy vibes. Suddenly I spin around. Is there something watching me? I turn around again and screech. Addie is right there, watching me. We both crack up.

“You almost gave me a heart attack!” I laugh. We go inside her house, each sneaking a piece of candy into our sacks. I get a Tootsie Roll, and she takes a mini Twix. I stand back and take a good look at her. Addie looks great. There is what I’m assuming is fake blood across her face, and she’s got a ripped skeleton shirt, with a cute black skirt and tights to go with it. It’s pretty cold tonight. We hang out in her room for a while, and then it’s time to trick or treat. We need to get back early, so we don’t get egged by the teenagers on this street. 

Addie and I go from house to house collecting candy and treats. Some of them are a lot like Addie’s, completely decked up in Halloween stuff, but others are more like mine, with a few decorations in the front yard but nothing else. When we get back, we count our candies. I got 62, and Addie got 65. I know we get back just in time. As we start closing Addie’s door, shapes emerge from around the corner and run straight towards our house, hurling white eggs that glow like stars in the night. We start laughing. 

“Too quick for them, I guess.” Addie grins. 

Today is Sunday, November 2nd. My birthday. Addie and I stayed up all night playing games and feasting on Halloween candy. We slept from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. Someone shakes me awake, and I look up groggily. Black and white everywhere. I sigh. At least it’s my birthday. I turn to see Addie smiling at me and smile back. We get dressed, brush our teeth, and come downstairs. Mom and Dad are waiting for us with big grins on their faces. 

“What?” I ask. Mom and Dad exchange a knowing look. 

“We got a present for you,” Mom says. “Open the box.” With trembling hands, I lift the lid. It says EnChroma. I take out the case inside, afraid to look. Is this what I think it is? I open the case, and inside are glasses. I put them on, and… look around. Everything is bright, and full of.. Color! I can see color! I look at the counter. Color! My clothes. Color! My hair. Color! There is color everywhere, and now I can see it for myself. I run up to my parents and hug them. I think this gift of color is the best one yet. Addie grins at me, and I hug her too. Then she ducks her head and hands me her notebook.

“Y-You can read my book, if you like.” She smiles again. “I don’t mind.” I open it to the first page and read a quote.

‘Remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.’ ~  Christopher Robin

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