Indigo

by Joyce Yarrow

On a cliff high above the sea there lived a weaver. A woman with the patience to grow the plants, to make the dyes that colored the wool of her woven skies. The stories in her tapestries poured into your eyes before you had a chance to think. Some came from years living above smoldering streets with the smell of rotten oranges and sweet tobacco. Others were the children of lost innocence, steeped in anger long spent.

Lately, staying up nights with kerosene lamps and candles for company, she felt a strange tugging as she ran her shuttle through the strands of deep green and pale yellow. It was as if some invisible hand was loosening what she would tighten, intercepting her designs so they could not reach her fingers.

One day in late summer she covered her loom with an old bedspread, walked to the station, and boarded a train that pulled out and picked up speed, blending the familiar landscape into a flow of light she visualized moving into her chest.


Among the three destinations the conductor gave her she chose Indigo. "I like the sound of that," she said, and the speeding darkness passed outside, full of promise.

In the morning she stepped from the train to a wooden platform painted just the shade of blue-green-black she had expected. She loved the sound of her boot heels tapping on the old planks in the shade of the mountains overlooking Indigo.

It was a town as blue as fresh chalk on a gritty sidewalk. Blue as her first silk dress painted with horses. Blue as a bruise turning slowly to lavender, a color with a scent captured in a brown bottle. Soft lavender billowing below a belt of cracked patent leather running like a road through burnt orange fields near Main Street, where green money passed from fist to pocket and unsuspecting girls played basketball, their fingernails coated silver and red, bright as brake lights sneaking down the highway to the place where Indigo ended. Where houses gave way to cacti and sky and asphalt turned to dirt. Where the colors she celebrated were burned and purified in miles of hot sun, and then pulled one by one from her senses, from her blood, to cover the trail with a soft blanket of ebony, shining black as African skin in the desert twilight.

And then the moon rose, scouring the pigments from her eyes, replacing them with banner headlines. Cries for help were scratched in unlistening rock, the force of their gravity turning her inside out. Her body responded in answer to all she saw like a sun gone nova. She felt in her marrow the dust of long dead stars, and running through her fingers, waves of color streaming back in time to recreate themselves in a shaft of white light. She was a weaver, born to rejoin the pieces of a world, broken even as it was formed.

That night in the hotel, kept awake by footsteps on the rickety porch, she lit a candle and watched the flame flicker to a knock on the door. "Come in," she said to her neighbor from back home, the one with the sheep that roamed the hillside near her house. She asked him, "how did you find me?" and he said "the conductor will never forget how you danced on the platform at Indigo." She took the soft tangled wool he carried and pressed it to her face. Already thinking about how she would gather the plants and mix the dyes.

2002 by Joyce Yarrow. All rights reserved.

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