I never really noticed before that day just how red blood is. I’ve dealt with fire my whole life, so I should have been well accustomed to the color red. I guess it depends on the context. When I think of the color red, I think of fire and the clothing that Red Moon wears to respect fire. We do so much fighting that red has become the color of victory. But in the back of my mind, I also knew of it as the color of death. How does one learn this, firsthand, at the tender age of 10? Simple: you watch someone die.
It always comes back to something red.
My mother’s death is the one in question. Death from childbirth, life’s ultimate moment of irony, I suppose. Or would that be an oxymoron? It doesn’t really matter what you call it, all that matters is what happened. Even 14 years later I can still remember the sensory molestation I suffered but somehow endured from the screaming and the sight and smell of blood. The smell of blood…before that day I had no idea that blood even had a smell. It was quite alarming for me to discover that the one primary fluid that keeps us alive smells so much like molten metal. Yes, I am familiar with that smell too, after my father took me with him on a visit to the Samurai’s steel forge. They needed our fire.
It always comes back to something red or fire.
Indeed, if there was any fire in the room where my mother was drained of life to bring forth another, it would have been in her face and my father’s heart. I saw the blood spilled on the floor and looked up at my mother and could hardly tell the difference. I looked into my father’s eyes and saw fire there, desperation to keep his wife alive. They say that eyes are windows to the soul, and “heart” and “soul” are traditionally written the same. So, fire in the eyes must mean fire in the soul which must mean fire in the heart. The heart…isn’t that where blood comes from? Red fire, red blood, red heart, red soul…
It always comes back to something red or fire or blood.
The baby finally came out, covered in my mother’s blood. It didn’t look like new life, it looks like death. Murder. A massacre, even. My mother was already weak and now that baby had killed her more. I could almost see the reflection in my father’s face of the moment earlier that very day when my mother was stricken down by that woman from Blue Moon. Water. Blue. The exact opposites of fire and red. In this, my father noticeably hesitated to send the nursemaid for water. At the time, I had trouble grasping that my mother had truly fallen to water. I was blaming the baby. After all, I could see the blood and hear the screaming from the birth, but I had not seen that lethal strike of blue. My father had, so he understood that this fast-approaching death was not entirely the baby’s fault. The nursemaid returned with the water. No, I thought, not water. Water is water. Water is blue. There must be nothing blue in here. There must only be red. Even through the horror I felt and this strengthened association of the color red with death, I still wished it to be uninterrupted in that room. It was the only color that felt…right. Appropriate. It was red, the only color that I allowed myself to respect.
It always comes back to something red or fire or blood or death.
Amidst all the red and that accursed blue that wiped the red from the newborn, my mother died. The nursemaid began to cry silently. More water. More blue. Stop it, I thought, you’re insulting my mother’s spirit. Besides, wasn’t fire also the element of strength and nobility? Be strong! Fight! I’ve really never been more of a hypocrite in my life than I was at that moment, embracing red and fire and blood when my heart of hearts…hah, hearts again…was begging for my mother back. After all, she was the only woman I ever respected and ever would respect. And she was my mother. Regardless, I keep my red, hot, fiery emotions concealed behind a wall of grey. My father is doing the same, though I can still sense the presence of boiling grief within him, I being his son. He makes a lesser effort to control the chink in his voice as he tells the nursemaid to leave the two…three…four of us alone for a moment before turning slowly to me and saying:
“Akai, meet your new baby brother.”