Magenta

Prose

Once lived a woman wrapped in a magenta skin so brilliant she glowed, but the story doesn’t start like that. It starts with another woman, a woman singular and hungry. People called her E for a number of reasons, least of which was Evelyn, her legal name. Her eyes were closed to the nowhere outside. She breathed to the tempo of heels clipping on the pavement.

“Do you have a light?” the nowhere asked E. Its voice was low and lovely, and female. E opened her eyes and found someone standing over her.

“I don’t smoke,” E said.

The woman pressed her back to the wall and slid down it, and when she was seated next to E, she turned and studied her. E then saw what was remarkable about the woman.

“You’re pink,” E said.

“I am,” the woman said. And she was—the woman was a decadent magenta.

“Like raspberries.”

E wasn’t sure if she was rude to have spoken so bluntly. But the woman didn’t seem to mind. She lifted an eyebrow and reached a hand into a blouse so thin she might have tied a scarf around her neck and worn it as a shirt. She emerged with a small flask, which she unscrewed.

“Gin,” she said, and offered the flask to E.

“No thanks,” she said. “I’m E.”

“Like ecstasy?”

“Sometimes.”

“All right.” The woman took a sip and tucked it back in her blouse. She wiped the corner of her mouth with her thumb, her nail the same dark and glowing pink as the rest of her. What a movement, that thumb to the edge of her lips, such a smooth, confident motion. E didn’t think she could copy it if she tried. The woman stuck out a pink hand for E.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“I could eat.”

“We’re robbing a bakery.” This wasn’t as surprising to E as it ought to have been.

“Which bakery?”

“Whichever one shows up first,” she said, pulling E from the ground. She squinted and plucked a hair from E’s jacket.

You might wonder how the story can exist at all when nobody would follow a stranger to a bakery robbery—which sounds very like but is very unlike a bank robbery—and you’d be right to wonder. Would you believe me if I told you E had been waiting for exactly this all her life, that in childhood she drew pictures of women leading her by the hand through poorly lit streets, and when she ran out of peach crayons she chose pink ones? That once, when she owned a fake I.D. and had been living with a carpenter, she left their apartment one night in her thin, pink pajamas with a bloody nose and never went back again? That a diner waitress handed her a slice of rhubarb pie, and the color of it was so beautiful she cried right there at the counter? Inevitably, she would wind through four more streets following a magenta woman, to stop in front of a great window stenciled with its name in white paint: The Sorry Raspberry.

The woman pulled a pick from her trousers and opened the lock. Her fingers looked like rhubarb around the doorknob. When she pulled it a bell tinkled: a day sound, out of place.

Chairs perched upside down on matching tables, and as E walked between them, a light flipped on behind the counter. The woman had found the switch. E found the woman casting soft pink glow onto the cakes under the glass display. Her skin looked bright as raw tuna.

The woman shoved the register open and wasted no time counting its contents. “Ninety-six dollars,” she said, and while $48 for each of them wasn’t much, it was more than E had in her wallet.

“Are you hungry?” E asked the woman.

“I am,” she said.

The woman picked the lock of the display cabinet and pulled out a small pastry for each of them. Her long fingers glowed, too, and in the magenta light E could see that even her eyes looked like perfect fruits. She had never heard a more profound silence than when the woman broke the pastry in half and tilted her head back to eat, her neck an inhuman arc.

This is the moment E had known would come, she realized. The magenta woman had to see it, too. She was pink like the skin of a dragonfruit, pink like strawberry jam. E took the woman by the shoulder and kissed her, and her lips tasted like strawberries and jazz music and blood, there was so much blood in her mouth, and when she took a bite the woman’s mouth tore away like appleflesh.

But even the blood wasn’t red; instead, it was bubbling and magenta and sweet, like the swell of her breasts under her shirt. She fished out the woman’s flask and tucked it in her own pocket. All she wanted was magenta, the soft curve of her magenta thighs and the bite in the center of her magenta palm and each delicious magenta finger.

E blushed, and maybe, for a minute, she might have glowed.

Later came a body, police, a distraught baker with a tarnished reputation, and a woman wandering back streets with $96 and a flask in her pocket, wiping her mouth with her thumb the way an old friend used to do it. In the end she was both full and hungry.