After my parents separated, my father tried to appease a furious, preadolescent me by letting me decorate my room in his house however I wanted. My ill-considered revenge for the dissolution of our family took the form of monochromatic obliteration: I picked only items—paint, comforter, tchotchkes—in lurid apple green, my avowed “favorite color.”

Though it felt like living inside an enormous lime, my time in this cocoon became precious to me. I blared Britney’s earliest and greatest; I read; I wrote.

Each night after everyone else went to bed, I’d tiptoe downstairs and spend hours on my dad’s computer instant messaging the boy responsible for much of my early sexual awakening. Those chat windows were novel in the same ways as my new room: self-inhabited, self-contained, filled only with matter of my choosing, closed off to prying outsiders. I ran a fever of text. I remade the world in my own image.

Eventually, one of us was brave enough to suggest a telephone call. I crept back upstairs, pressed the big white buttons of my plastic Vtech. In his voice I found something I’d been reaching for. Something potent. I lied back in bed and gave myself over to the green—whorling, rushing, pulsing like an artery, like my quickening heartbeat.

Jennifer R. Bernstein is a Seattle-based writer and co-founder of The New Inquiry.