The silence is deafening. I’ve never truly understood this phrase until now. But apparently, it is possible for silence to swell up in my head, seep out through my pores and wrap around me, squeezing me to the point where I can’t hear anything else. A few seconds-that-feel-like-hours later, Ms Pink still hasn’t spoken a word and the need to squirm is on the verge of overthrowing my instincts telling me to keep still. Just how intense can a situation get?
“Do you really want to find out?”
I almost sigh with relief. Ms Pink isn’t angry. At least, I don’t think so. But her eyes look so intense… “I’m sorry. The question totally slipped out. I don’t mean to pry. It’s just…so pink, you know? Everything. Here. It’s like you really, really love pink.”
“That I do not deny. But what’s there not to love? Pink is meant to be loved. It is everywhere—in flowers, rocks, the sky… it is a beautiful colour.”
I find myself nodding along to what she says and stop myself, lest I look even more like an idiot after my spectacular entrance. It then hits me that I haven’t set the voice recorder up. Thank goodness I remembered it before the end of the interview!
“Do you mind if I record this interview?”
“Go ahead.” Ms Pink waves her right hand with the air of a person who can’t care less but I am relieved to get her permission.
It takes a little rummage through my bag before I find the black case that contains the voice recorder. The sound of my heart thumping is growing louder and louder in my ears as I turn the gadget on but I manage to set it to recording mode.
“What are your plans for PINK in the future?” I ask, finally remembering the list of questions that Sunny had given to me after seeing it in my bag.
“World domination.” Ms Pink’s voice sounds sturdier than a six-foot-wide beam of wrought iron.
Ms Pink nods almost imperceptibly and says, “I want every wardrobe to be home to PINK. I want every human and creature to be in PINK. I want the whole world to be in PINK.”
“T-That’s very ambitious of you…”
“Oh no, you are mistaken, Taeyeon. This isn’t just ambition. It is a pursuit of excellence. To reach far and wide and take control.”
“You seem to like…” I falter in my question when Ms Pink’s eyes hold mine fast and a corner of her lips curl up just a tad.
“I seem to like…?”
“C-Control. You like being in control?”
“It is necessary. Being in control leads to success. I work hard for what I have and I work even harder to get what I don’t. All of this requires control. Both of myself and other people.”
You sure sound like the controlling type… I run my eyes down the list to the next question. “How did you get started on pink? When did pink become such an important part of your life?”
“From a very young age. I told myself that pink is mine, so it is.”
“Pink is yours?”
“Yes,” Ms Pink’s eyes gleam with a trace of dark intensity. “Everything pink is mine.”
A tremble worms its way up from the bottom of my stomach to my chest, making it hard for me to keep my voice steady. “R-Right. So, erm, next question…” My hand is trembling as I hold up the list of questions and I can’t stop it. Ms Pink’s stare is so intense! “A-Are you gay, Ms Pink?”
Right in that instant, I swear I can feel the air around us simmering, ready to combust. Why the hell is this question on the list? Thanks to Sunny, I am going to be kicked out of PINK now. Not that I wish to stay here any longer than necessary, no.
“Are you gay, Ms Kim?”
Woah. Ms Kim? What happened to calling me Taeyeon? It must be a sign that she’s angry, I figure and a cold, clammy string of dread slithers down my spine. But why am I intimidated by her? I’m only here to help Sunny get her interview done. She has nothing on me. I have nothing to be afraid of.
“Yes, I am, Ms Pink.” My words seem to have a profound effect on Ms Pink. Her chest rises, the movement sharp and sudden and her eyes bulge a little. What is that about?
“That’s very forthcoming of you.”
“I have nothing to hide.”
Ms Pink’s smile right then is downright disarming. How disturbing. “Since you gave me your truth, I will give you mine. But the recording stops. Now.”
I reach for the recording device and stop the recording without question. It is a reasonable request, given the rather personal question.
“Good.” Ms Pink smiles once again and crosses her right leg over her left, tilting to face me completely. Her eyes have got mine locked down and her smile widens a fraction just before she says, “Ask the question again.”
I don’t understand why I should, but I do it anyway. “Are you gay, Ms Pink?”
“Yes, I am, Taeyeon.”
I can’t help the smile that forms when I hear her answer. And now we’re back on first name basis. “Thank you for answering that, Ms Pink.”
The look in Ms Pink’s eyes is beginning to make some parts of my body burn but I can’t look away from her. There is something about her that grabs and holds on to me, locking me down. I just don’t know what it is.
“What are you majoring in, Taeyeon?”
A shiver hits me unawares. The way she says my name is doing strange things to my mind. But she asked a question and I have to answer it. “Design and applied art. More specifically, illustration and drawing.”
“When are you graduating?”
“This is my final year, Ms Pink.” Why do I feel like the tables have turned on me?
Ms Pink’s eyebrows lift ever so slightly. “You should be looking for internships around this time.” I think her lips twitch but I can’t sure. “PINK has internships to offer.”
“Me?” I shake my head in disbelief. “No, not me. I wouldn’t fit in here.” Those perfect eyebrows dip into a frown. Oh crap. I shouldn’t have said that.
“I-I’m not a fashion designer.” Damn it. Why am I stuttering? Why is she looking at me like that? “I specialize in creating images—” my breath catches in my throat “—for books, magazines…”
“PINK publishes a bi-monthly magazine. You can be an intern in that department.”
I shake my head. I am resolute in my rejection. I can’t do an internship in PINK.
“What’s stopping you. Tell me.”
Her eyes darken as her words leave her mouth and they fall on my ears, heavy and demanding. “I…”
“Tell me, Taeyeon.”
I take a deep breath and straighten my back. There’s nothing wrong with the way I feel. I’m telling her the truth. My truth. “I don’t like pink. I prefer blue.”
“What are you sorry about?”
“I’m sorry I don’t like pink.”
“You don’t have to apologize for that. It’s not your fault. But we have digressed.” Ms Pink flashes a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “Continue with the interview. You may start recording again.”
Sunny is reading on the couch when I get back. Her fair skin contrasts beautifully against the deep navy blue of the couch and anyone who sees her curled up like that would think she’s adorable. But not I. Not right now. She looks up at me as I walk past our dining table and sets the book down. “How did the interview go?” she asks.
I can see the anxiety running circles in her eyes but I’m not going to provide her with any relief until she answers the question that had been burning me up as I drove back. “Why the heck did you put in the ‘gay’ question? I can’t believe you put that kind of question in there.”
Sunny simply shrugs. “She’s never been seen out with any man. And I mean that in the romantic sense. I thought it’s a pertinent question to ask.”
“But it’s such a personal question,” I argue. “I think it’s quite rude to ask about her sexuality just like that.”
“A good interviewer doesn’t hold back. And the question is relevant. I would’ve gone on to ask about her muse, if any partners have ever been her inspiration.”
“Well, I’m not you. I was very embarrassed.”
“Was she offended by the question?”
I shake my head as I sit on the couch beside Sunny. “Not really.”
Sunny raises a brow and almost grins. “Interesting. So what did she say? Did she answer the question?”
“No. She asked me if I am gay instead.”
“You heard me.”
“And what did you say?”
“I said yes.”
“Oh. My. God.”
Pushing my butt out to the edge of the couch, I sink deeper and slouch, easing into my favourite position on the couch. “It’s not a big deal,” I say. And in truth, it isn’t a big deal to me. I’ve always been open about my sexuality, although I haven’t gotten much experience in exploring it…
“So in the end, she learnt more about you than you learnt about her.”
I purse my lips. I can still feel the warmth of Ms Pink’s hand on my shoulder when she squeezed it just before I left her office…
“Keep it to yourself.”
“Keep what to myself?”
“The knowledge that I’m gay. I am a private person despite how flamboyant all of this pink might be. The personal information I gave you is given off the record. You will not tell anyone about this. Do you understand?”
I do understand and something compels me to obey her even though she is nowhere in my vicinity and has no way of knowing if I tell Sunny or not. So, I remain silent. I won’t tell Sunny about this although I’m not sure why. We don’t have that many secrets between us, Sunny and I.
“Anyway, I recorded the interview as you asked,” I inform Sunny, passing the voice recorder to her before standing up. “I gotta hit the shower real quick.”
“Another shift tonight?”
“Alright. Thanks for helping me.”
“No problem. Are you feeling better?”
Sunny’s smile is warm like the sun shining through gloomy clouds after a storm. “Yes, I’m feeling much better.”
I smile and turn to head to the shower. I wouldn’t want to be late for my shift at the art supplies store. No, I don’t.
In the following days after the interview, Sunny did up an informative article about Ms Pink based on the interview. It portrays Ms Pink in more-than-good light, making her sound like the high achieving professional that she is. Not that Sunny has any choice in the matter, since Ms Pink is the sole donator of the funds that breathed new life into our design labs. It is also Ms Pink who will be giving the commencement speech for our class. I had no idea that Ms Pink is the reason why our design labs got their much needed upgrades at the beginning of this academic year. Computers, tablets, tables, chairs, a fresh coat of paint—it was a total overhaul. (Yeah, I know. I need to pay more attention to things happening around me but I’ll bet tons of other students don’t know this either.)
As for me, I’m just doing my thing. Drawing, designing, colouring and working at ArtsUpp, the local art supplies store. I chose to work in this store for an obvious reason—staff discounts. I get ten percent off the price of all the art supplies that I need for my course of study. Pencils, colour pencils, paint brushes, sketch books… they don’t come cheap when you’re going for the high quality stuff so the discounts help to ease the pain.
It’s another typical Saturday afternoon and I’m stacking boxes of pastel paints on a shelf when she shows up in the store. She meaning Ms Pink. It’s her shoes that catch my eye first. And when I say shoes, I mean four-inch (or five?) killer heel stilettos. Pink, of course. Hot, luminous pink. I know it’s her before my eyes even make it past her shin but I bring my eyes up to her face nonetheless. Yes, those deep brown eyes, framed by perfectly curled eyelashes and soft brown brows, are staring straight at me, exactly like they did on the day of our interview.
And just like that, my breath is taken away.