By: Deja Ryland


Gray is an achromatic color, meaning that it lacks hue and saturation. It is known as the “color without color.”

The “color without color,” the perfect paradox.

If I had to describe life as a color, I’d say it was gray. Life is ultimately the biggest paradox known to mankind.

We live to die.

This is starting off a bit more depressing than I intended, but detach your connotations of gloom, cloudiness, and depression from the color gray—or keep them.


My world stopped twice.

The day you first stopped breathing and the day I’d come to grips with the fact that the U.S. was experiencing a pandemic.

I never imagined the day I’d witness either so soon in my lifetime.


March 15, 2019, I finished midterms and—after learning that you’d had a massive heart attack — started visiting the hospital every day. The hospital became hospice became the funeral home all while I still attended school. I have no recollection of completing any assignments, but somehow, I managed.

March 13, 2020, I began midterms and Kim Schatzel emailed students that classes for the remainder of the week would be cancelled—and for two additional weeks after spring break classes would be online rather than face-to-face. This was to ensure the safety of all students, faculty, and staff from contracting the coronavirus.

What scares me the most about both is this anxiety about the way life changes after it all. Finding that new “normal.”


My Favorite Paradox

“The mind is beautiful because of the paradox. It uses itself to understand itself.”

-Adam Elenbass


My Least Favorite Paradox: The News On How To Safely Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus

Just wash your hands.”

“You don’t need a mask.”


“Gov. Hogan mandates masks in stores, on transit.”

“The coronavirus can be transmitted through your eyes.”




I’m pretty sure that if it was something you could keep at bay by simply washing your hands then explain why:

  • Malls closed.
  • Libraries closed.
  • School campus closed and switched to online classes for the rest of the semester.
  • My job is closed. (This is the first time I’ve been unemployed since I was 16.)
  • Gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited.
  • Grocery stores and most fast food restaurants close at 8 p.m.
  • Emission Testing Areas are converted into COVID-19 testing drive-thrus.
  • Hospitals do NOT have enough masks to protect their staff.
  • Companies are sending masks to hospitals because apparently our government is

UNABLE to provide them fast enough.

  • The stock market is crashing.
  • The economy is crashing.



I hate watching the news but it’s now all my mother watches as we wait for updates on progress about getting COVID-19 under control. I prefer to not hear Trump speak and I turned it off completely as the President of America went on national television and referred to the coronavirus as


“Did he really just say the CHINESE virus?”

 “The Chinese virus.”


Gray area.

an ill-defined situation or field not readily conforming to a category or to an existing set of rules.


It was my last day of midterms and I had a three-hour break after class before it was time for me to go to work. So, I went to Noodles & Company and it was nice out, so I sat outside to eat. The wind was blowing, and my hair wouldn’t stay out of my face, but I didn’t mind. I remember thinking to myself that the day felt a bit too perfect. It felt like I finally had a chance to really breathe, that I could really just sit and take in the world, only hours later to lose the world I had known.

Sometimes I imagine what his drive home from work would have looked like. Maybe he had his window rolled down completely and the breeze felt a little too perfect, that he was thumping his fingers against the steering wheel without a care in the world as to whether there would be traffic or not. That the sun was bouncing against his skin as his left arm was perched outside the window. He would have embodied warmth.

Today I am in the house, weary to go outside since I know I must wear a mask just to be precautious, even just to take a walk, or go to the store. I imagine everyone is thinking the same thing, that we can’t wait for things to go back to normal.

But that’s why this pandemic brings back so many memories—because now everyone will soon walk out into a world that will never fully look the same to them again.


A paradox, also known as an antinomy, is a logically self-contradictory statement or a statement that runs contrary to one’s expectation. It is a statement that, despite apparently valid reasoning from true premises, leads to a seemingly self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion. — Wikipedia


Everything they told us they contradicted the next week.

First, they said all he would need was surgery on his heart.

Then, he was flown from Carroll County Hospital to Shock Trauma at the University of Baltimore.

They had to force him into hypothermia to preserve his brain and organs.

They said that once he was reheated, he had to show us what he could do, that he should start to show signs, and the longer he didn’t then the more trauma to the brain it would show.

Weeks passed and he did not respond to being pinched. He did not respond to any pain.

They continued to tell us that we needed time.

He began to have uncontrollable seizures due to synapses in the brain not connecting. He was given medicine which sedated him even further.

They detected that he had no sleep-wake cycle.

The doctors arranged a family meeting and told us they did everything they could for him, so we had to choose between assisted living or hospice, which doctors swayed us toward due to detrimental brain injury shown.

They told us we needed time when we didn’t have it.


The ruins of Pompeii were buried by ash and lava after the volcano Vesuvius erupted. What’s fascinating is that not only were the town and people preserved, but by taking a plaster cast archaeologists were able to discover that bad teeth were a common problem. In addition, skeletal remains of slaves were found still chained.

Our ruins have already been exposed. America is built on colonization, genocide, capitalism, slavery, war, and is so used to being the conqueror, a “winner,” that it takes a pandemic to realize that viruses don’t recognize borders and geographic lines. That capitalism is a volcano waiting to erupt.

Toilet paper aisles were empty as people ran amok buying items in bulk, forgetting that they were not the only people in the world who needed to wipe their ass. People do not acknowledge their neighbors, do not recognize community or unity because we are following after a leader, after a nation, that fails to acknowledge it is not the only country in the world.

The coronavirus has shown that when money loses its value, America loses its mind.


Grey area is when you’re stuck in between


stuck in the middle

One choice away from being

stuck here


Or here.


I remember when I was a kid, we’d flip through channels on our box tv and you’d try to switch from VCR to cable and you’d switch to a channel that you didn’t get, and the screen would go static. The screen would be filled with grey dots bouncing, twirling and moving in all directions, giving you a clear picture of the sound of chaos. You and your siblings usually would keep the TV up, jumping up and covering your ears as the box in front of you struggled to find a signal. Beneath the scribble scrabble, if only you had a bit more connection, you’d see the screen clearly.

The coronavirus crept up a lot like that static, like everyone lost signal all at once but now we can’t change the channel. So, you can either let it consume you, struggling to find some answer, some picture within the optical illusion, or you can turn the TV off.

I think we’re always one click away from the static. We just distance ourselves from it more now because there are so many more distractions, so many more channels.



The family decided to conduct a meeting so that the neurologist could tell us what exactly the MRI of your brain was showing.

The room was white, and I could feel the tension in the room.

Me and my siblings (your kids) against your side of the family.

Faith vs. Science

Hospice vs. Assisted Living as a Vegetable.


We go around the table introducing ourselves, and the doctors and nurses taking care of you introduce themselves next. They said you had significant damage to your gray matter.

That the hippocampus suffered severe trauma.


Science was telling us that you’d lost your mind, machines were keeping your kidneys from failing. Your heart was weak—and with your body no longer able to sustain surgery, we decided that hospice was best for you.


Your heart would beat for two more weeks. An involuntary body function.

An involuntary rhythm.


Without the mind, memory and emotion, the body—ultimately the heart—still dictates life or death.


Machines can keep the body alive, but brain cells—literally dead memories—can’t be brought back to life.


I will never forget you, but how will you remember me?


It’s ironic that there is this twoness: that our lives consist of life and death, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful, villain and hero, good and bad, right or wrong, negative and positive.

We are defined by polarity, by oppositions, by contradictions.

A world scale that is balanced by imbalance.

When I said the world was grey right now, it’s a good thing. The world paused in a sense and this greyness allows the opportunity to look at both sides, a chance to be in the middle for a while, a chance to not have to choose.

To just be neutral, to just be.



Why Clouds are Gray

The cloud appears gray due to its thickness and height. As the cloud obtains more water droplets and ice crystals, the less light can pass through.

Nimbostratus clouds, they lack any type of uniform shape, typically resulting in rain or snow.

Altostratus clouds are thin, gray clouds that stretch out “in sheets” across the sky.

Cumulonimbus are thunderstorm clouds, they are indicators of heavy rain, tornadoes, hail and lightning.

I am currently sitting on the floor with my back hunched against my bed, and a plate that has lemon breadcrumbs on it is next to me. I have ten tabs open on my computer and decide to research clouds simply because my window is open, and I do not see any outside. The sky looks like a huge endless blank sheet.

My dad had taken us on vacation. It was my brother’s first time flying to Florida, so I remember forcing him to sit by the window. We were speeding down the lane and gradually we just started to tilt upwards. During take-off you can’t wait to reach the clouds. The plane levels and no matter how old I am, it always brings back memories of Peter Pan, like we reached Neverland, a space so disconnected from everything. You’re flying, soaring through space unmarked by civilization.

I’ve never flown through a thunderstorm before, but I imagine it’s terrifying, watching clear skies transform, dark clouds swarming, thunder ripping through the sky, lightning tearing that sky in half.

The sky draws pictures for us, as people lie out on blankets in grass with their loved ones or friends pointing at clouds that look like rabbits, or dragons, or birds.

Gray clouds show us that we all run, or try to shield ourselves from rainy days, from storms within ourselves because we don’t know whether it will be a harmless storm or if cumulonimbus clouds are swarming, that natural disasters occur internally too.


Pompeii’s ruins are terrifying, too, when you really think about it. People frozen in terror, their last moments before death forever preserved.

One thing that still continues to strike me is that the slaves continued to be preserved and chained even after such a catastrophic disaster.

That their bodies were still confined to their circumstances.

That bondage is a trauma, no matter how deeply buried, that encompasses individuals far beyond death.

That enslavement is a terror forever preserved, ruins that will always resurface.


Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down.

Ring a Ring O’ Roses was a childhood game and rhyme that I’d always sing, interlocking hands with my friends or siblings as we ran or skipped in a circle, eventually collapsing to the ground.

I honestly had no idea what it meant until searching the only words I remember clearly. “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” I had not the slightest clue that my eight-year-old self was singing about the plague, specifically a deadly rash. Why did parents let kids jokingly sing about kids literally dying?

My mom knew what she was doing. We forgot to do the dishes or take out the trash and she probably was thinking “yeah, sing that song.” All jokes, all jokes. That would be funny though. Anyways, it’s ironic that we turned a rhyme about death into some fun song to sing while we were playing, that we sang songs knowing absolutely nothing about its meaning.

I guess that was all just preparation and reification for a lifetime of reciting words knowing absolutely nothing about its meaning—only to discover that we chant about war and death as if those are things to build a nation to take pride in.

But hey, God Bless America, right?


All That I Have Left Of You

Your remains fill a purple heart-shaped urn, engraved with your initials.

The only residue left of your previous form.

Fire transformed you to ash.



There is no correct way to spell gray, they can be used interchangeably. You can choose which you use.

Although, there is no “correct” way to spell it, naturally you will choose.

Ultimately, this quarantine has made me think about whether neutrality can exist.

You cannot live life without making choices and even the decision to not make a choice is a choice.

So who would really choose to live in a gray world when we’ve been exposed
to colors?