For as long as he can remember, Bryan Alvarez has thought his mother resembled a Mark Rothko painting. The likeness is not just a metaphor he conjured up one day. Whenever he conceives of her name, Marla, he literally sees, in his mind's eye, blocks of colors, each one blending into the next—grainy, brick red for the M, bright, blood red for the A, eggplant purple for the R, plum purple for the L and red again for the final A.