May Prompt: An Unexpected Colour Palette
upper in the suburbs was mom’s idea. She always hoped for a house. I could decipher enough from my parents' arguments that money was an issue. This home was the best we could do.
Mom got to work right away, scraping the walls bare, and applying coat after coat of royal blue with accents of white for the trim. She said she wanted it to feel like Greece. She said she wanted it to be perfect. Amy and I tried to help, but mom slapped the rollers out of her hands and told us we were messing it up. Dad just sat there drinking beer and watching hockey.
Mom worked slow and methodical. It took three months to finish the house. Amy and I told mom how perfect it looked. No, no, no, she said, it’s all wrong, the colours are wrong. She sounded anxious and far away. She took out the primer and started over. Dad grumbled and said he had to ‘go out’. Amy and I went upstairs to play Lego's.
The painting never ceased. The walls changed like a chameleon from French mauve to twilight yellow to pastel orange to chocolate brown. Sometimes I would sit and watch mom work through her process. Two layers of primer. Two layers of paint (to conceal the primer). A third coat, which for mom was really the first coat. Two more coats, in mom’s words, for volume and texture. Then one final coat to conceal all the other layers.
The smell of paint penetrated our clothes, our food, even our skin. Dad left after I turned fifteen. Mom didn’t bat an eye when he said he was cheating on her. She kept on painting. Amy moved out with a friend when she turned seventeen. She tried to get me to come with her, but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving mom alone, mumbling and painting.
By the time I finished high school, the walls were six inches thicker. Everything was shrinking. One day I came home from my job at Starbucks to find mom with a roller, painting over her arms and legs in acid green. She said she wanted to be enveloped by colour. I threw away the roller and rocked with her on the floor, our tears mixing with paint, coating us in shame.