Thursday, June 30, 2016

Colour Me Bad

They say it’s a sure sign you’re getting older when you begin to rediscover the very things that gave you pleasure as a child. Now, they probably don’t mean things like sticking your foot into your mouth.
            “Because I never stopped liking that bit,” Barney Chen said to me once, a comment Saffy said both disturbed and intrigued her.
            “Why intrigued?” Amanda asked. She later told me that she really should know better than to engage in this kind of conversation with Saffy. “It never ends well,” she reflected.
            Saffy said it’s not the kind of thing anyone, let alone a functioning, law-abiding, tax-paying adult would think to do. “It’s not, is it?” she asked. “And besides, have you tried it? Sticking your foot into your mouth, I mean. You can’t!”
            Amanda blinked. “You mean you’ve tried it?”
            Saffy shrugged. “Oh sure. You know me, I’m up for anything.”
            “It’s such a shame that Saffy is a girl,” Barney texted me.
            Which is why I was so surprised when, a few weeks ago, he called me from his local bookstore to ask if I’d heard of ‘Secret Garden’.
            “Isn’t that a children’s book?” I asked.
            “You’re thinking of ‘The Secret Garden’. This one doesn’t have the definite article,” Barney growled down the line.
            “The definite what?”
            I could feel my best friend’s sharply manicured eyebrows lift. “Seriously, how are you even a writer? It’s this gorgeous book by this person…let me see…Johanna Basford! It’s just full of amazingly detailed drawings of gardens and flowers and stuff and you’re meant to colour them in.”
            “I have no idea. All the women in my community drama class are doing it. They sit around this table with a big box of coloured pens and spend all afternoon colouring in when they should be rehearsing. I think this is the new Candy Crush! I’m curious to find out more even though it’s so…I don’t know…girly. Even for me,” he added.
            I paused and stared off into space and tried to imagine the activity. Finally, I said, “Uhm…why?”
            “Well, that’s the thing. I asked one of the girls, and she said it’s very therapeutic and seeing as you’re into all this new-agey stuff, I thought maybe you would know.”
            “Oh my God, for the last time, TED Talks is not new-agey!”
            “Every speech I’ve ever watched on YouTube is so mystical and feel-good!” Barney insisted.
            “Seriously, can you please call the girls to continue this conversation?”
            Imagine my surprise when that evening, Amanda came home with several copies of ‘Secret Garden’ and a tray of colouring pens.
            “What is this?” Saffy asked. She picked up a copy and flipped the pages. “There are no words. What are you supposed to do?”
            “You’re meant to colour in the pictures,” Amanda explained. “I got us each one!”
            Saffy’s bosom shifted like an oil leak. “Why?”
            “This lawyer in my office was doing it at lunch and her colouring looked absolutely amazing! She said it calmed her before going into court.”
            Saffy looked at me and I shrugged. “Well,” she said, “you know me, I’m up to try anything at least once. They should write that on my tombstone. Here, give me those pens.”
            With that, she sat down at the dining table, opened ‘Secret Garden’ to the first page, picked out a yellow pen and started colouring in a flower.
            That was a week ago. Since then, Saffy has nearly finished the first picture of a garden in full bloom. Even as someone who is colour-blind, I can tell it’s simply stunning – the pages are drenched in the bright hues of spring. Saffy spends every available second on it. Sharyn rang to complain she has no one to have lunch with because Saffy spends the whole lunch hour shading in leaves and petals.
            “Got squirrel, some more!” Sharyn reported. “Very cute, lah, but now I got no makan kaki. Very chiam, leh!”
            Meanwhile, Amanda’s version of the same picture is a soothing image of deep greens and reds with splashes of sunny yellow. “I am completely obsessed by this!” she told me this morning as she packed book and pens into her briefcase. “It really is so relaxing! I wonder if this is how Leonardo da Vinci felt!”
            Me, I’ve already completed a quarter of the picture, except I have a feeling my garden couldn’t really exist in real life as my birds are purple and my flowers are green and blue. Saffy has already asked why my leaves are red.
            But the point is, just like that, I’m five again, colouring in, fully concentrating on that very moment, and feeling…well…happy.
            It’s really the oddest thing.


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