Grey Area

by Sarah Wilkinson
I don’t have many memories of the color grey. As a child, grey were the faceless, shifting bodies of coyotes that ran through the cornfields at night. Grey was the static on the TV, the space beneath the blankets where my step-father held my clenching hand through my first Stephen King movie. Grey was the storm clouds that moved, breaking across wide open skies. The tornado sirens that howled through the night. Cigarette ash overflowing the cut glass bowl, the silver streak across the Marlboro box.

Now, grey is the color of the rain drops that fall beside but never on me, the color of the pre-cancer that dots my father’s tar-coated lungs. Grey is dreamless sleep, unspoken words, a failure to connect. I move between cracks in the sidewalk, the grey that pulls at my heels, demanding, asking, accusing me of becoming someone new with every step. I can’t help it. I devour my world and try not to lose grip on my tenuous sense of self.

Grey has become, more urgently, the absence of a cure. When I was eighteen, I woke one morning with something large and impenetrable sitting in the soft curve of body where thighs meet belly. Chronic disease, blooming overnight, bringing with it pain that felt bright orange and searing hot at the time, but has faded, cooling into solid grey stone with distance. This, my illness, has become my grey area, the uncertainty I carry around with me always. It’s the threat of another flare-up. It’s the twenty foods I eat in rotation every single week without end. It’s another Halloween without chocolate and another birthday without cake. It’s wondering if and when I will lose the ability to function. To travel and write and interact with my world. It’s the weight I carry and the reason I bring my armor and warrior’s spirit everywhere I go.

Grey is the color of unknowns. What’s most certain is not that I will know anything for sure, but that I will know as much as I can bear to hold. The rest will be floating grey in that roped-off area of my heart where I keep not secrets or dreams or fears, but everything I could never name, good, bad, life-changing or life-halting. What will the future bring and why is the past always just out of reach?

The stories and poems the editors of Halfway Down the Stairs have collected for this issue all have a name, but what’s less clear is what’s left unsaid, what lies just off screen in the grey area. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we have in putting it together.
Sarah Wilkinson studies at Champlain College in the undergraduate Professional Writing program. She's been published in several literary magazines, including Halfway Down the Stairs before she became an editor. She voraciously reads memoirs, looks forward to writing more than anything in the world, and advocates for those, like herself, who suffer from Interstitial Cystitis. She thinks everybody should know someone like her beloved English teacher, whose continued love and support has opened more doors than Sarah can count. She resides in both Burlington, VT and Richmond, VA.

© 2015, Sarah Wilkinson