I wrote this piece for a writers’ social group, from the prompt “Rainbow”.
The title is stolen from a from a song by Eluveitie. In my defence, they, in turn, took that inspiration from Apuleius’ Golden Ass / Metamorphoses.
A week has passed since you crossed over the rainbow bridge. How strange that we call it that; there doesn’t seem to be any colour in my world right now.
You were my one constant companion, since I was that awkward child of nine. Arriving into my life in the midst of the madness of the 1980s, I named you ‘Rainbow’. The first rainbow series of My Little Ponies had just been released. From that moment you were my whole world, everything I thought about. It must have been a heavy burden of expectation for a young horse to carry. You brought colour into my life.
The world itself wasn’t too colourful back then. I was in primary school, where everything was grey. We wore a grey uniform. Every item of regulation clothing was grey, apart from a green stripe on the mandatory tie. The corridors, classrooms and aged wooden desks: all grey too. Primary school is where you should learn about blending primary colours to produce every hue. Instead, the watercolour blocks invariably converged on a relentless taupe. Regardless, I painted you at every opportunity.
Rainbows appeared everywhere then, amidst the gloom, symbolising the future, signifying new hope for a world in colour. ‘Rainbow’ was seminal children’s television. We learned to ‘Sing a Rainbow’ as a dirge, where we failed to paint one. New home computers boasted a continuum of colours in their logos – not only the eponymous Spectrum, but also the Commodores and Apples of the time.
You were my stability in a changing world. This stable of yours also served as my retreat, where I could withdraw to our own company for a time. You would envelope me in the protective safety of your warm breath, dissolving my fears.
Perhaps the 1970s had set the rainbow theme in motion. Pink Floyd graphically showed how black and white could burst into a vivid spectrum in the shadow of the Dark Side on the Moon. Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow colourfully interpreted what it meant to be the Black Sheep of the Family. Within a decade, Compact Discs would hold their magic within mystic rainbows.
When I had brushed your raven mane to perfection, it too would gleam in the sunlight with the reflected and refracted light rendering fleeting apparitions of the whole array of colours. To me you were the most beautiful creature in the world; I was so proud to compete on you.
But what was the source of the rainbow? According to myth, it came to Noah, after what must have been the bleakest episode of his tale. Leaden skies and prolonged confinement gave way to every colour and the promise of a new future. The rainbow flag now symbolises hope of a fresh new world in colour for those oppressed by black and white for far too long. Do rainbows inevitably spring out of dark places?
We graduated from the 80s and for a while we did live in glorious technicolour, with the fall of Berlin Wall ushering in a new decade. Technology was starting to deliver on its promises. The world was full of possibility and seemingly things could only get better. My freedoms and confidence grew, largely thanks to you, and we enjoyed so many adventures together.
Inevitable heartbreaks and disappointments would always send me rushing back to your stall. You were the only one who really understood me, who would stand by me no matter what. Patiently you would accept my tears with empathy until they ran dry, comforting and grounding me. Now you are not here and I am left to weep alone.
Was the grey always looming, relentlessly waiting to force its way back in? In recent years the world has become more monochrome again. Forces we thought to be long banished once again conspire to strip the world of colour and shackle us in fear and darkness.
They said I should have given up on you years ago, when you became too old to bear me any longer upon your back. But the bond we had ran far deeper than your utility or ability to serve and give pleasure.
The things we enjoyed together, we could still share those, even if I wasn’t sitting on top of you. So I bought a trap, and we learned together how to enjoy our weekends in new ways. I didn’t care if people stared, I was always so proud of you. We could still spend our Saturdays by the shore, and pull up for a pub lunch on Sunday. You were well known, quite the celebrity in the places we frequented. I can’t picture what it would be like to go back without you. This weekend I stayed at home.
Now your stable lies empty, our chariot already gathering dust by the wall. And I’m left here, a supposed adult in the midst of the throes of middle age, apparently, yet unable to fathom how to live without you. I’ve never had to. More than you could possibly have known, you have borne me from the darkest depths of my childhood until this point.
I place the single red rose I carry in the niche in front of the carving of Epona, whispering a silent prayer that the Great Mare will receive you at the end of your long journey. That flower forms a single, crimson splash of colour on the canvas of bleak emptiness.
Must we endure the dreary grey, or even the inky black of despair, to truly see the rainbow?