Never; a little of the time; some of the time; most of the time; always—
Beth’s favourite colour is Torrit Grey. Torrit Grey is a paint colour made by Gamblin, a paint manufacturer. It is a combination of all their other pigments. Every spring, according to Gamblin’s website, the air filtration system is cleaned and pigment dust harvested. The resulting colour is released in celebration of Earth Day.
On Earth Day we all make garlands for our hair and decorate the house with flowers and spring produce. Here is a basket of broccoli! Here is a bunch of kale, once fit only for peasants but now worth its weight in avocados, mortgages and smart watches! Here is a sourdough loaf, made from a starter whose origins trace back to the Great Lockdown Sourdough Boom! Here is a tub of grey pigment, sifted and purified, all debris and spiders removed! Genuine question: how do they know what’s pigment dust and what’s just regular dust? Is there a difference? Is dust just made of earth? On Earth Day we give thanks for the dust.
Torrit Grey is not a colour, it is a concept. The shade differs every year: according to the website it ranges from ‘medium dove grey to dark earthy grey’, often with a greenish tinge due to the prevalence of Phthalo Green in the mix. You can’t buy Torrit Grey. It is available only as a bonus gift, while stocks last, to those who spend over $100 on art supplies. A reward. An offering.
I dreamed last night that I got Beth a tube of Torrit Grey. In order to receive it I was required to fill out the K-10 form in lieu of spending $100. The K-10 is a ques- tionnaire designed to establish whether a person suffers from anxiety and/or depression. In the past four weeks, about how often did you feel tired out for no good reason? (Never; a little of the time; some of the time; most of the time; always.) About how often did you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down? About how often did you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up? About how often did you feel worthless? About how often did you have $100 to spend on art supplies?
The K-10 checklist was devised by, and derives its initial from, Professor Ronald C. Kessler. About how often does the name Ronald remind you of a fast food outlet with a creepy promotional orange clown?
When I heard Trump got Covid I was gleeful, jubilant. I was a bit ashamed of this. Mostly I just hoped he would have a terrible time with it and repent all his evil ways and give a press conference to apologise and announce that he was dramatically altering his position on universal healthcare. But then I read that he was on oxygen and I could only see my father in his hospital bed waiting for a lung, his face a lump of yellow dough, eyes glassy, breaths coming in sucking gasps like water circling a drain. And I couldn’t wish that on anyone, even a monster, even for the greater good. About how often did you think about politics? About how often were you paralysed by rage?
When I recently filled out the K-10, most of my answers were right in the middle. I remember that when I was sixteen most of my answers were right in the middle, too, although my teens were mostly a dull sludge of depression and I almost certainly should have scored higher. But when I rated my mood back then, that’s all I had to compare it to: greater or lesser despair, like the varying shades of Torrit Grey. When I fill out the questionnaire now I’m basing my answers on a wider range of emotions, the full range of pigments, anxiety that wavers blue-green to mustard yellow, grief a deep black-purple softening to lilac, joy an orange that can deepen in intensity until it’s an unbearable throbbing red like blood behind the eyes, sadness a heavy steel grey. I cannot immediately identify any emotion that manifests as Phthalo Green. But even though this spectrum of feeling is now available to me, still when I scrape out the air vents of memory the pigment is much the same, blended together in a range of greys. Like all the pavements in a five-kilometre radius, or my Twitter feed through the glass of my phone, moving beneath my thumb. About how often did you fall asleep refreshing your feed?
This is the year all the shops are shut, so we learn to weave clothes out of grass. We are very resourceful. We craft hats from hedge-trimmings. We dry passionfruit vines and knit them into wraps. We take clippers to our cats and dogs and we felt their fur into warm layers; we swaddle ourselves in poodle wool, in the fur of tabbies. Our animals are naked and they are not ashamed of their nakedness. We walk daily in the garden. We learn to iden- tify edible weeds. We bake bread and give thanks. Take, eat, we say. We are one body. For Earth Day we hold the traditional festivities, but separately, in our homes. Everyone in the world dials in to the same Zoom call. It looks like one of those pictures that’s made up of thou- sands of other pictures, or a Magic Eye: you can only tell what the picture is if you look in the exactly right spot and let your eyes go out of focus. Our flower garlands are just as bright as ever. Our bread is elaborately braided.
Doves and earth are appropriate shades for spring. I’ve got really into gardening this year, like everyone, and in the morning as I make coffee I watch the doves wandering around under the olive tree, pecking pecking pecking at seeds, at worms, at tiny insects I can’t see. The dove with an olive branch in its mouth is a promise of hope; at least until it’s killed by a cat, its insides opened up like a cluster of red jewels. Torrit Grey is a promise that pigments will enter neither the lungs of manufacturing employees, nor the air, water or earth of their surrounds. This is the company’s pledge.
When I handed my K-10 form back to the doctor she said, Well, you’re right in the middle. I scored 28/50, which is barely a pass but only just warranting intervention. A grey area, ho ho. I am immediately seized with self-doubt: did I play down my inner turmoil? Did I in fact spend more time feeling worthless than I cared to admit? Or am I exaggerating my level of angst and taking 61 valuable resources from someone who needs it more? The doctor scribbles on my therapy referral: “No current risks, but pandemic a real bugger.” I consider tweeting this.
I wonder if Gamblin is manufacturing at its usual capacity this year or whether lockdowns required the company to lower their production rate. Will this year’s batch of Torrit Grey be smaller, a rare collectors’ item? When I see the therapist, I don’t really know what to talk about; I’m right in the middle, after all. Our session happens over Zoom. I introduce the therapist to my cat. The cat spends her days sitting in the window, glaring out at the doves. I know she can smell their insides, even through glass. She can’t get to them. It makes her furious.
The dove brought an olive branch as evidence of the floodwaters receding, the promise of land emerging, of earth, of a future. The other sign, which seems cheesy as hell now but it’s there in black and white, was a rainbow. A spectrum of colour. I mean, you can’t make it up.