Maja Ułasik

Greenish Tint of Pink


It’s difficult to see what you can’t see. You have reason to suspect it’s there, as if outlined in the distance or rippling in a mirage, but your mind’s eye is too weak. You could squint to sharpen the blurry image, but you wouldn’t stand it for more than a few seconds. It’s too much hassle for too little effect. Perception restricted to clear-cut outlines is said to guarantee a sane mind and a harmonious life. Anything vague or remote is immediately swept under a carpet of blissful ignorance. It’s like taking a black and white picture of a rainbow to avoid nuance. Certainty is built on infertile soil.

But I didn’t mind my worldview collapsing. From the moment I was born till the moment I left my family home, the everlasting (re)construction of my mind brought me only pleasures and adventures, inconspicuous for those who surrounded me. I questioned linear time, the existence of the past and the future, and later, I even dared to claim that progress was a human illusion. I doubted the space that is neither finite nor infinite, and I was convinced that there was no such thing as scale, for the smallest body tissues look just like the greatest cosmic dust.

My primary passion was colours: not only was I always busy seeing them, I also invented new ones. Such an unimaginable and uncomfortable ability deserved only laughter or disbelief. ‘What a fantastic child!’, they used to say.


‘Imagine, for example,’ I’d propose,

‘a greenish tint of pink.’


They’d fall silent for a brief moment and I’d wait patiently, convinced that they were obediently following my instructions, taking time to stretch their imagination, to reach the unimaginable. To my disappointment, after a minute or so, I’d already hear murmurs and laughter and realise that they all were about to take the first firm step on the path back to clear-cut reality, unless I did something.

‘It’s not the colour of ripening mangoes or a sunset in a swamp!’ I’d exclaim. ‘Their colour is not one, it’s a composition of two on one surface. But imagine the greenish fully blending into pink, both becoming one uniform, unique colour.’

By that time, they would already be busy talking about gas prices and credit rates so I, resigned, would turn back and whisper to myself:


‘And when you don’t find words to name it —

it means you touched the unimaginable.’


My childhood was a happy one. I wasn’t given love, but I wasn’t given hatred either, or interest, and so I was free. I used to imagine myself, for example, in the middle of the night, as the only being in the entire world — and I relished it. My eyelids raised to pitch darkness, light as two butterflies, fluttering in a want for gleam. Why would I open my eyes at night? For it is only in darkness that you can give shapes to things and imagine colours.

I took a long look and squinted to distinguish some shapes and faint colours. I imagined they were not my furniture and toys, but rather sharp rocks and wild plants, mythological creatures and witches. I didn’t feel lonely. Under the intimate veil of imagination, I painted their surfaces with new, unestablished blends, only to see them later, in the sharp daylight, obediently red, green, blue, and all the other noble colours.

One day, my father came to me to announce it was time for me to go out into the world. Or was it my mother? I don’t remember anymore. I stood still for a long while, none of my muscles moved and my mind seemed unable to produce any reaction. ‘What is the world?’ I was about to ask, when he or she, or both of them, couldn’t stand the silence any longer and broke it first: ‘Are you okay?’ I blinked. Under my eyelids a colourful brilliance flashed and when I looked at my parents again, I said I was ready.

They told me that I couldn’t take everything with me, for some things now belonged to the past. They also told me that I would accumulate new things and those would shape my future. I didn’t know much about the past and the future; all I knew was the all-encompassing present, where only colours changed according to time, weather and, above all, my imagination.

I filled my suitcase with a carefully composed collection of objects, most of them completely useless from an adult’s point of view. I formed a trustworthy layer of essential and practical ones on top, expecting to see a satisfied smile on my parents’ faces.


‘The world is cruel and unjust,’ my father said to my mother’s terror. ‘You need to be strong to survive.’

‘Remember you can al—’ my mother’s attempt to add a word was immediately interrupted:

‘Yes, you can, and you will find your way.’


I wanted to ask why they were sending me to a place that was cruel and unjust, but before I managed to take a breath, the door shut in front of my confused face. They thought I didn’t know that they had always perceived me as a stranger. At first, they hoped that I was a genius, but when I did poorly at school, they concluded I must be a dreamer. I never found the words to express myself, names of things didn’t interest me, I was contemptuous of numbers. All I cared about was colours and shapes, those real and those imagined, continuously performing a spectacle in front of my eyes, whether open or closed. I put on my fine appearance and well-trained manners and went out into the world with my suitcase full of paint.


Maja Ulasik studied languages and literature in Poland and Belgium. In 2022, her MA thesis on Native American literature was recognized with the MUMA Award. Her poetry has been published, among others, in “Popshot Magazine,” “Tint Journal” and “Panel Magazine.” Recently, she has begun writing her debut novel. She works as a bookseller in a multilingual bookshop and volunteers in a refugee help centre. She lives in Brussels.