A guy walked into a bar and proclaimed, “Lilac is gone.” What he meant, he went on to say, was that there had just been a solar flare, the quality of whose radiation was perfectly calibrated to tear apart any molecule that reflected light in the lilac spectrum. In an instant, all lilac things on Earth had either been discolored or destroyed.
Everyone in the bar laughed. The guy was clearly unhinged. How does “lilac” vanish? “Oh yeah,” the guy said, “show me one lilac thing that’s left!” One patron half-heartedly pointed at his sweater, which was a deep purple, bordering on blue.
“Lilacs,” someone from the end of the bar piped up. “The flower.”
“Gone,” the guy replied. “Solar flare.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake: there was no solar flare.”
“Fine then, describe a lilac flower to me.”
“Well it’s a flower that’s…lilac-colored.”
“All dead. Fix it in your mind what the color lilac used to mean because it lives on now only in your memories!”
Everyone laughed, but awkwardly because the guy was clearly not just winding them up. He really believed that a solar flare had wiped out the color lilac. Which was preposterous, but you could feel a thought sweep through the bar: what was lilac, anyway? There was this palpable moment in which you sensed six or so independent brains simultaneously think, “Well: like purple, except, you know, different. Lighter maybe.”
Just after this thought passed through the room, six or so hands reached into pockets for phones. Everyone searched for “lilac”. The bartender finally delivered the guy the beer he had ordered. The guy was beaming. No one’s phone worked. The bit about the color lilac being obliterated still sounded fishy, but maybe the part about the solar flare was true.
People in the bar shrugged and ordered another round. So their phones weren’t working: big deal. Just last month a huge windstorm had knocked out the electricity for two days. Things come and things go. When their phones came back, they’d look up lilac, and lilac would come back. And if their phones didn’t come back, well weren’t there still books with pictures of lilacs in them? The sun began to set, tinging the sky orange, a color everyone felt they knew what it looked like. In a few minutes the street lamps would switch on, or they wouldn’t, and they’d deal with that when it came.