Road runner slices through the warm desert air and red is the color of the dust he leaves behind.

Red is the color of absence. Absence of fulfillment, of skin, of tenderness. 

Red is the absence of species. IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species marks the searing red welts where populations once loomed, now reduced to individuals. Red are the marks we leave behind on each other and on our planet.

Red has always been a threatening color for me. Climbing thorny trees and slicing my feet on ragged-edged rocks, the sight of blood sent me spinning. Yet absence carries more weight than fear. The lack of something, spilt blood, can become a foundation to build upon.

The significance of red is not common to all absence. Grief, for example, is colorless. It swells and sways at the back of your irises and never quite takes shape enough to be seen or grasped. Grief obscures. It blankets the past and the future and swells until it pushes the present out of frame. Extinction is blank, endangered is red. 

I can’t place the day I lost you. Yet I tasted red when you left so I know I am not grieving. The threat was never in your absence, but in your presence.

Like the warm buzz that accompanies every sip of an icy cocktail, your absence, though felt, is tinged with calming significance. It is neither absolute as extinction nor obscure as loss. Soft, lazy red is what you left behind.

Bailey Nordin