the taste of red

The first symptom was a cold sweat. Then his heart started its panicked slam against his ribcage, and he could taste the sourness at the back of his throat.

A traffic light was enough to start it off; more than enough. Oh, he could cruise through the green, no problem, but at the first glare of red he had to turn his head as he hit the brakes. Best not get him started on the flash of brake lights either.

Christmas was hellish for him. How a jolly fat man could trigger such fear was amusing to his colleagues and concerning to his friends, who knew better than to laugh by now, but that furry scarlet costume made the pins and needles break out across his hands, every silly season.

His housemates had become accustomed to picking out all the red snakes from the party mix – they were the most delicious, after all – and stored the cans of tomatoes with the labels facing inwards. One girlfriend had insisted on wearing red lipstick to ‘cure’ him of his phobia, but each time she leaned in for a kiss his repulsion was so severe he actually gagged. She didn’t take it well, but now tells the tale at dinner parties with a good-natured chuckle and raised eyebrows.

His doctor had tried hypnosis, but the root of his disorder had burrowed deep into his psyche and refused to loosen its grip. Medication could help, it was suggested, but when he popped one out of the packet into his waiting palm, a yelp of panic sent the red pill hurtling towards the ceiling. They’d explored the source as a fear of danger the colour symbolised, then a rejection of sexuality, and even a repudiation of his own mortality in an aversion to his blood. But really, what use was theory when you found yourself hiding in the supermarket from Coke cans? And the experts in charge of phobias must be sick bastards anyway; who else would call a fear of long words hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia?

Imagine a life without shiraz or strawberries, flinching from fire trucks and hyperventilating at Santa. He was a gentle man, a man of rhyme and reason, who paid his bills on time and wasn’t at all disturbed by the Odd Sock In The Dryer Syndrome, but show him a child with a red ribbon tethering a wayward balloon and his fists began to clench.

Tonight though……tonight the balance had to shift. Had to. Deep breathing would help, as would the Valium, but mostly, there was Carmella.

Her user profile had caught his eye immediately, and they’d fallen into a month of indulgent emails and raucous phone calls until the witching hour. A woman with a passion for Tom Waits and the dirtiest laugh this side of Tulsa could not be ignored, and a meeting had finally been arranged. And as he readied himself with a whiskey, he gazed again at the photo he’d finally been granted the night before.

Trust him to fall in love with a redhead.

the taste of red

bellmusker

Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

Phodophobia – Fear of the colour red
Nomatophobia – Fear of names
Thaasophobia – Fear of sitting
Euphobia – Fear of hearing good news
Nostophobia – Fear of returning home
Clinophobia – Fear of going to bed
Heliophobia – Fear of the sun
Panophobia – Fear of everything
Luposlipaphobia — the fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly-waxed floor

Artwork Comments

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