Oct/Nov 2019 Travel

An American Murder

by Sarah Myers

Image courtesy of The British Library photostream

Riomaggiore has many places to die. My travel partner exploded at me when I said this.

I had been carrying the diagnosed color for 12 years, which I explained was the cause for this desire, and which he denied was a possibility.

I am an American, and I went to Italy with an American immigrant. He originally came from near the Mediterranean, too. But while we resided in the north, he came from east of the sea from a Middle Eastern country. He reminded me of half of my family, who are immigrants from East Asia. I am their first generation to live on American soil. My partner said I did not appreciate the soil as much as I could. He might be right, as I was quick to leave the land the minute he presented the idea of Europe.

While he exploded, his words clashed into the salted air near my ears. I could see them bounce off the green shutters, and I worried they would join the eardrums of the neighbors. I realized I was used to these explosions, for I learned they eventually came to an end. I waited. One could end with night, in the creeping moontide tickling rowboats with percussive water. One could end with blue, of the indigo effect right after the daily explosion of color. One could end in no perception of shade at all, when time is taken out of context, to meet a young, suicidal millennial's needs.

During the daily Cinque Terre sunset, Italian businesses close for the night. The houses are painted in colors as if to begin the spectrum of setting. Though bright, they were muted, avoiding naïve shades. Both my partner and I would reside in one of these colored containers. One could see us from across the walkable strait over the cobbled land, three floors up a rectangular building. The roofs collapsed in wooded boxes covered by thin sheets of shingles, piling atop each other, so that I could see three feet of the shingles on the house to the right, four feet of deck space on the house on the left, two feet of shingles below, and one foot of shingles hanging over the rooftop above. One would not even understand the idea of "singling out" and what it meant, even though I carried that next to my internal color, blue. The house was lost among a sea of color, though the sea itself was lost under a color of sea—the collapse of doors and day signaled by setting and the rotation of revolving spheres.

"You know what is great about Italy?" said my doctor. "They do not care about what you think." It seems true. If you want to discuss your personal matters on the street, they would rather not waste their time. Say that to a server, however, and the waitress will give you a different prompt. "I go to jail," one waitress told me, "if I do not know about your health." They need you to be up front about your causes of death.

My partner did not like to know about death. I was using the First Amendment in Italy to speak of it. The First Amendment, which did not exist there, is significant to both of us. To me, significant to utter the thoughts preceding death. To him, significant post-death, in a matter like Charlie Hebdo, I think. But when I use the First Amendment to tell him I have these thoughts, he becomes upset. I am not even in the business of politics, the way Charlie Hebdo is, but it seems political, if I am to utter any speech of death. Even though he had immigrated just five years prior, he felt more genuinely American than I knew, for he reacted the same as the others—putting my death speech into a bin of his mind, and the rest into a bin of society, in the street, or in the historical bin. It is what they now misleadingly refer to as a "hospital."

The days before I left for Italy, my psychiatrist and I did not go over a plan. But it was a plan he insisted I needed when I came back. To mental health industry leaders, a plan in case of a panic attack or suicidal thoughts is so universal it is one of the first standard things they propose when you start to do something risky, like start a new job, or move different cities. But I did not have one for international travel.

So when I told my partner I would like to kill myself, he was confused. "How can someone want to kill themselves in one of the greatest places on Earth?" and to this I did not know, either.

At this time I was not on any medications. I was an un-medicated schizoaffective traumatized 23-year-old girl traveling with a 32-year-old Jordanian man whom I barely knew.

"Habibti, my love," he said. "I can help you."

But the rage before my episode had already taken over. I was curt to him and yelling at him before he could not take it anymore.

I saw he left the house, so I locked myself too out of the rental, wobbling in my precedence on the cobblestone, stumbling for four big-hand rotations, or one sixth of the day, or merely four sand-falls between the shape of a woman's bosom to hip in search of a place high above to watch an explosion if I could not ensue it on my own body. Most would not call the sunset an explosion. But I did, for it was a bursting effect, perhaps of different material than metal. It was of color, and color explodes just the same way material does. It is just mediated by a relative process of time. It was celebration of the death of day, and when you celebrate, you explode.

I went across the strait walkway onto a rock view mirrored in height by the house across. There was a pathway leading around the corner, so that I would not have to face the tourists in this blue state. I wanted the sun to face me. As I climbed, I was spotting which points where I could try to kill myself, the American, in Italy. I had to climb the rock, and on my way up I had to understand why the ridges were so confusing and abrupt. They were not even consistent, not even touched by constructionist hands or yellow machinery.

I passed some kind of Italian flower that I knew would make me bleed if I touched it. I did not want to bleed, but I did want to die. I thought bleeding would distract me from the permanence of death. It would remind me that pain existed and that if I lived I would have to deal with it, even though we have tools to combat against blood. I did not have tools to heal blue diagnoses, so I avoided it.

Instead I thought of how I could silence this with my shoe, so I could touch the thorns without being cut. It reminded me how they encouraged me to blossom in the psychiatric clinics and the hospitals, but to recognize that blossoming requires a fertile blue that has not been discovered yet by the nurse staff or headline salesmen. I thought back to the times when I was isolated in the fluorescent-lit hallways, with patients pacing up and down in their scrubs. Muttering to themselves how they need housing or their family didn't love them anymore. In this moment I had the power to use and express the color on something the rest of earth's land, to squash the living being with my shoe. I watched the land plants monitor their blue intake, and it seemed the ones who survived had just enough between water and light. I wanted to see the balance, but the goal of growth with species and people, it seems, is to plant as many seeds as one can, not to make sure they are balanced.

Cinque Terre blue is Mediterranean blue, and as I looked out, I wished I could create a new translation for its pamphlet tourism. It is more of a blue of the basic pH level, as innocent as a child in its crystal honesty. There was a transparency translated into musical opacity, by which you could see right through to the waters. I heard the ukulele from our rental's window skimming the surface of the ocean matter back over to my sedimentary spot.

As I looked out, I noticed the difference between my body's blue and the Earth's body of blue. My body had blue forced on me, by a person in my first decade on this Earth and for 17 more years by others until I decided to run away. I relayed to my partner of how the man that so often kept me up at night in flashes and panic would find his hands over my young body, and how it curbed my motivation for speech sometimes. And sometimes later I would explode violently with the insulting words, to which he would speak back at me in complaint. I had relayed this bit of history to my partner, and I knew he was getting tired of the outbursts, just as I. Upset that I knew no invention could protect me from the firing of my cells, I exploded onto the nearest living neuron. I could not escape the color that had somehow found its way on my inland home.

Crying, I sat on the kitchen tile. I don't remember why I was crying or why I let snot drip from my nose or why I could only function as a mute, but I knew I was in so much pain. Pain right at the center of my brain, with only the somatic senses of the imprint of trauma on my body that loosely associated with its presence. But other than that, there was no nerve ending to bring the pain to a body limb. It was just there, in my head. Quite literally, in my head.

People like me want to live in blue, and we crave it. The night is not a distraction, but the day is. We love the dark shades and often hate any color at all. There is fire and purity in explosive color on Independence Day and wedlock, but a day of blue is reserved for the aftermath of life. We do not see it because the Earth is made mostly of water, the sky its similar shade. Only in the setting or rising of the day do we experience the shape of the Earth by dimensional light. It is only for a few minutes that we experience the relativity of nonvital life. Just the demarcation of spatial relation, and I was at the place of elliptical observation.

I found pockets of death, though I attracted the places not even fitting for my own body. I could see there was death in every pocket—in the crab bugs sanded beneath people's toes, in the labor expounded in tourism fabric, and in the mouths of people's sea-meat plates. Each and every house and tourist of color participated in the movement of ending.

Off the shore of death, outward to sea, I followed the shape of light bending towards the demarcation of spherical switching. Sky spectrums settled towards the water, which was less blue now than it was house pigmentation and planetary rotation pigmentation. During the day the land is the theater, but in transition it is the revolving intermission that steals attention, even from the world's normal engagement with death. These rotation pigments are the marks of endings and beginnings. The vitality shades rose to rose and Egyptian yellow, retained nothing of dull waters, and it was then I realized where the gelato spectrum got its name and the housing got its pigmented frames. Tourists know they travel for the colors and tastes, but not the paced color and the metronome boats.

He called. I did not answer. I kept wandering my thoughts.

In my inland home in America I never understood the sunset over blue water. It was always green. Water is merely reflective, as is the sky, so it would make sense that I would not understand the concept of time and space before that day. While I was feeling blue I yearned to think of anyone who would understand the trauma of pain. Heroin-addicted girls in this moment lived in secret houses to the east of the river, in St. Louis. Deaths from authoritarian brutality were causing world outrage. Protesters marched through the streets but not through the courtrooms or public policy offices, and I wished they had, so that I would not have to go through these traumas alone. We all needed the pain to go away each day, not just in the moment of civil disruption. It seemed heroin did not touch the white cotton and linen of these tourist and native arms—how could they? They were trapped by an absence of life color. Tourist arms were, in fact, carved not from something of prodding but of creams and sunlight that bronzed the faces and bodies into unshrugged shoulders of weightless effort. The girls who were dancers could, too, spoil themselves if they wanted, but to choose that life one would need the knowledge to lead to it.

In public you cannot tell who is who, for the bodies are bodies. They may be at clubs or at penthouses, whether they jump into the rivers or clubs or not. They are bodies, and they are free to purchase the same product as a financial indication of their status.


My partner and I fought. He did not know how to reach me, just as I did not know how to reach him. Blue became my default color, and it was only in bursts that I revealed I was red and yellow and orange. It was not controlled like the sunset. It was not controlled by the process of time's allowance, but by my own restraints of itself.

Blue often makes the way in newspapers and headlines today, usually after the fact of explosion. Things about censoring free speech, about shootings in schools or theaters, or things about gun control and the death of the First Amendment traipse lineages in metal time and emotional bombs. I vocalize the experience of color. And when I do, they tell me the color is reserved for just a few industries of mind science, which are either still poor in science or poor in finance or poor in promotion and access to the ethnic groups afflicted by their very patented illnesses. They do not have Mediterraneans to escape to, just as I had not, either. We are coaxed inland in my hometown, St. Louis, with no waters but the fast rivers and violent streams. Because of my waters and of blue, I am up at all hours of the day. I find it in a way complementary to my own indigo spectrum. But I did not know how to cross the timezones as the evolution of color has learned. In people, they even segregate the time by a different name. Day is not night. Nor is goth the tourist jock. Black is the hole in space for a reason.

I sat on this sanded rock, with the colored tourists below. My partner was calling, and I did not pick up. I ignored him. I wanted to see color and witness how it cooperated with space and time. Colors were on the street. People not in Cinque Terre are always talking about explosions, and are also exploding while talking about explosions. Explosions were happening all over Europe as of late. We saw the military stand throughout the cities of Florence and Rome because of these uncontrolled happenings and unknown attempts. Explosions all happen at the clubs or the schools, unless they are locked away by intelligence agencies with government keys. I suspect terrorists know this. They would not explode in such a controlling way in the house, streets, or clubs if there was not a silencing effect to follow. Blue is known as the effect of silence and sadness, but science suggests we use the color all wrong. Empirical blue is the calmness of steady breath or the hallmark of peace. A color that resurfaces again and again in one-half the rate of total explosions we call days.

In America, blue is one of our colors. But I learned early on that it is best to hide that color in the culture if you truly have it—in your eyes or in your posture—even though the average lint color is of this very shade. Once something pricks you it becomes oxygenated and red, while in the body it remains ocean colored. With blue I can either have the power to drown, overpour, or dictate with hurricanes.

I brushed my hand on the browned rock. I was attempting to figure out what to do if I were to go back and face our explosion, together here in Cinque Terre. I knew they happened, and that they ended, but never was I prepared. Industry doctors say I must know how to speak calmly about explosions, for they happened onto me in the home. Now they happened out of me, too, in the diagnosed color of red. My partner is not the only one who is angry, just as I am not, either. Just as the world is, too. Our countries together, here, viewing control each day, while we each attempt to become the powers in our own right.


I went back to the house. I heard the door creak behind me as I called him to let me in. "I need help," I told him. An American to another American. "Please call the ambulance."

"What do you need an ambulance for?" he said, as a foreigner to my land. "I can help." I thought of how I knew nothing of care for my own except for the modernity of science and technology. I wondered if emergency lights in Italy were also red, white, and blue.

"You cannot help me," I said. I then became mute. I used technology to send him an article about psychiatric hospitals. From 12 to 23, I began to cry. I was a child in a ball, with crystal coming down my face and onto the tile. The water was not large enough to create evidence on the floor, but enough to give a hint that there was a body of it separated from the vessel of ocean. After 15 minutes I became less dissociated enough to speak.

"I need to call my father," I said. I pleaded the help of the wise man before me. But he and I in Italy were newcomers to new soils, in partnership of something unknown, together. I wanted help he did not know how to give. He wanted happiness I did not know how to sustain.

"Why do you need to call your father? I can help."

His bronzed skin had coaxed his eyes in an asymmetry of misguided care. He had a slant to the eyes only recognizable by fear and confusion. He did not know what blue meant. I did not introduce him to swimming in any of my colors, the spectrum's ending, before we came to the spectrum's first shade. He wore red and white. He did own the color blue, in the presence of some crumpled pants buried beneath the mirror. He smelled of oil and spiced chicken, a death lauded to create life in the stomach. The stomach was a place where I barely fed.

I called my father, the man who had lived for 40 years more than the life I carried who knew only of two countries' soil. But I was immune to soil, for I only lived in water and sky. I crawled on my side. I could not even use my knees; I thought it showed submission. I was not submitting. An American does not submit. They stand proud and free. I was neither submitting nor standing. Doing both requires something to submit or stand to. I did not know what to stand to anymore. And it was clear to the lack of my integration that I, the American, was too disorganized to have a direction to do so in unification. My arms sprawled left to get the metal of communication. My heart too weak to be raised off the floor. My legs dead without the knowledge of steady pigment.

When one is red, one may not necessarily know the direction of it—whether or not it goes south of the equator during nighttime hours or north. But there is always a directional prediction of the color's merge. People invent guns to insult the blue blood so much it is forced to become red by its puncture. In a similar way blue can elaborate a puddle or a dropped cup from a pair of hands in the body we call child.

I flew to Italy. Now I wanted to drown. It seemed as though I was unhappy on all land. I wanted to be in the blue and avoid the dirt and green... materials lush for diversity and growth.

When I reached vibrations across the sea to the inland home, I told my father, the only one who understood that I had pigments undiscovered, yet still pigments frozen in the monochromatic travel, of the tears in my heart even though I knew he could hear them sobbing down my face. My partner, once realizing that my father could bear it, came to see. He made something of a reverberation of new recognition of my pain and struggle.

He gave me tissues until the floor was clean. He started dinner. But I could only see confusion, muddled waters in his face, the way the newborn carries birth. He knew I was to struggle but did not know how to address its fluid strength. It is the barrier of the spectrum, uncertainty dressed in lack of transitions. I imagined he would be thinking the same as all others who could not understand the weight of my world: Where does all this blue come from? Will it cause too many problems? What is the neurology? Why will you not respond to my hugs and sweet messages? How to jar it, in a bottle, or make it gravitate around a sphere? Can I escape it?

Blue is a color that does not drown but merges. Somehow when it is spoken of, it either precedes or encourages an explosion. It is a resting station to continue each morning, when the next explosion comes.

One cannot really touch blue, for the color in the sky and water is only apparent by a reflective process. And when you cannot touch blue, you cannot touch the sea below it. Children use blue to color tears, when in reality tears are crystal and clear as diamonds, which the children say are strong. You can touch the house on the hill, that is color felt by the fingertips. You may touch peach in a California fruit tree, orange in a sundae sherbet, yellow in the product of a restaurant cup. But blue requires reflective coating. This is why I was in Cinque Terre. I am blue. And I could not contain it, so I needed to release. I wanted to kill myself. My partner wanted to contain. The ocean and sky to reuse and a painter to paint.

Out the window, the tourists and locals were hobbling on the cobblestone in flip flops and local sun dresses. There were no fireworks to end it, like in America, because Americans like to celebrate loud and strong; they do not care what you think, even when their country is attacked. They browse the nonchalant opinions every day, sputtering with the speed of butterfly wings and unfocused like the lack of its body. When one feels blue, one can use it to distract or empower, even though blue is neither a thought nor a sequence of events.

I listened to the moontide metronomes on the water as they indicated the reality of time. I told myself I cannot control violence and suffering. Art is the submission to it, to be washed away by the internal color and the gravitational color of blue, to give nest to new life.

As newborns we leave water, while as adults we emit it. Pain is the first feeling—a string of breath, a tear in legs—when coming out in numbed water. My partner realized comfort was complementary to its rebirth after blue, and to cradle it in arms to indicate the acceptance of fertile passage. I could not handle the colors when it presented itself to me, for I faltered slowly to the tile. I leaned against the man. He held me, put me together from a puddle on the floor to a lump in a bed, took care of my land, my sea. He fertilized me with local plants and grains. He gave me recipes to prolong my body. Sometimes we do not have to know why one suffers in order to aid the suffering and to bring about new invention. We are as our bodies were millennia ago, when the Earth built our blood out of blue of the sea.


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