Excerpt from

Imaginary Colors I Saw That Summer

Antara Gangwal

Antara Gangwal is a teen writer from California. She loves purple prose and sunsets, and she can often be found listening to music or reading a book.

I knocked on your door, just like I had every day that summer. We’d made it our routine: I would pick you up when it was still dark, and you would fold into my car, sticky heat already weighing down our backs. As sunrise smattered the sky, we’d reach our destination: the field of blackberry bushes in the middle of nowhere that never seemed to run out of blackberries, large, juicy ones the size of our fingertips. We spent every morning picking them, but by afternoon, our hands grew empty and our stomachs full.


You always gorged on the berries, shoving fistful after fistful into your mouth, your teeth little violet-stained neon signs. My eyes still hurt remembering the shine. I, habitually, ate them one by one, savoring the pop of each individual sphere against my tongue, swirling the flavor in my mouth.


“Look, magenta,” I said today, like I had every day that summer, cracking my mouth open to show you my purple-coated gums.


“Imaginary,” you replied like you had every day that summer, not even looking up from your favorite bush, the one with leaves speckled brown and yellow. I didn’t know how you always found the ripest berries there; the only ones I could grab from its leaves softened to mush in my hands. I swatted a fly and moved over to another bush, my steps languid against the dirt. Silence fell, but it was a comforting one, the same soundless expanse that made it feel like we were either at the end of the world or the very beginning.


The day stretched on, like always, until the tip of afternoon when the heat grew unbearable and we gathered in my car, talking about nothing and everything all at once. The sun dripped down the sky too quickly, as it had so many days before, and too soon sunset came. We stared at the kaleidoscope of colors through my dirty windshield. Sunsets and sunrises, those fingerprints of the universe that streaked the sky morning and night, were the only newness we looked forward to each day.


To read Imaginary Colors I Saw That Summer" in its entirety, please order Reed Magazine Issue 155.

MattY Heimgartner's Commentary

Antara Gangwal’s emotionally-driven narrative about the uncertainty of a relationship’s standing captivates the reader from many different angles. “Imaginary Colors I Saw That Summer” uses painterly vocabulary to create vivid imagery in the reader’s mind. While the protagonist and supporting character share the same physical space and have a recent history of togetherness, we experience the fallout in slow motion through the protagonist’s emphasis on repetition and loss of confidence. From the immaculately descriptive language, to the poetic one-liners, to the very last heart-crushing sentence, Gangwal takes her readers on two adventures—a physical journey through a field of blackberry bushes, and a psychological one in the protagonist’s mind. This story leaves me with the satisfactory yearning that I typically reserve for artwork found on a gallery wall.