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What are the many meanings of the festive colour RED? It is the colour of fire, blood, violence, love.
For the whole day my eyes had been drawn to the colour red, picking it out from the details of the city, an unconscious coercion; on cars and the panels of bus-sides; telephone boxes; a cyclist’s helmet; tall lettering on shop fronts and Chinese lanterns; all shades, avid, etched out from the other colours and following me through rooms, parks, walkways. Into the library where the red spines announce themselves like a bloodied tally and crimson dots adorn the hallway carpets. It hooks my vision, drags my attention outside its normal parameters. A mesh of scaffold I pass every day is suddenly lined with it, networks of plastic tubing and a debris chute jutting loudly from nowhere. It is a colour that is all-seeing, announcing itself with all its lewd connotations in tow like bawdy family members. Fire, blood, violence, love. Power, swollen anger, it puffs its chest and beats and hollers. It vents an overblown sense of certainty. The watery blue sky pales. The green leaves shiver. Velveteen blacks – empty windows and the glassy surfaces of puddles – envy red’s volition, its uncaged cravings, the possibilities in its far-reaching force. It is the colour that pulses through us, keeps us conscious, squeezes from cuts and hums beneath skin. The rebel of the spectrum. Harlot’s lighting. Satan’s suit. Adulterous, hungry, always pleasure-driven. Paper decorations in windows, the suburbs now, tinsel and dotted lights: the colour of the season. Berries jostle on holly and mistletoe. Ribbon smoothed around the cake’s crisp icing, papered presents, glittering baubles. I stumble through the day’s final sludge of snow, packed greyly against the street kerb and under car tyres. No room for neutral hues, red elbows, the Poinsettias sit on the window-ledges. I pass a girl in a thick woollen scarf, cheeks flushed from cold, and she gazes into the near-distance, the ends of the afternoon’s dirty-pink light sketching her out of the gloom. There’s stillness in her expression, a casual succumbing to red’s regime, a harmony in her dappled pallor. She is my height so that our shoulders brush in the brief passage, momentary convergence, and in the periphery of my vision I catch the flash of an earring moving beneath the fall of her hair; a tiny Santa Claus glimmering on a gold hook, hand waving, shining cheeks and nose and hat carefully painted in an unmistakable lustre.