yellow

Tiki’s eyes are yellow, and she watches me from halfway up the stairs. Who can blame her, when I keep swooping down on her and squirting yellow medicine into her mouth? Or worse: stuffing her in a box and driving her to the big echoey place with the dogs and the needles.

She likes it when I lie on the floor. Then she comes down from her stair-perch and lies on the floor with me in the living room.

In our house, gold is the new beige. The walls in the living room are yellow. York Harbor Yellow. I’ve never been to York Harbor. I can only hope it’s not the same color as these walls.

Once upon a time, my mother turned yellow. “Hepatitis,” she said. It happened in the spring, when the daffodils and dandelions were blooming. She went to bed and stayed there all summer, and if you sat on the bed next to her she’d ask you to leave because it made her feel nauseous.

I thought it was my fault because I didn’t love her enough.

Nobody ever talks about that time. It’s swept under the rug, to the point where my father looked right at me and said “What? Your mother had hepatitis?” But I remember him taking me and my sister to the doctor for gamma globulin shots before he went away.

I tried to go away too, in the fall when the leaves turned yellow. And I met a man with golden eyelashes, and he did things to me that I don’t like to talk about. That was my fault too. I went home, and I didn’t run away again until I was old enough to get a job.

At the birthday party, Sunny points to my yellow gold wedding ring and asks if I am married. I say that I am, but that my husband spends his summers in Alaska being a pilot. I show her a picture of a small yellow airplane.

This party, I tell myself, is the last thing I have to do before I let myself fall apart in the safety of the summer-empty house. At home, in the shower, I close my eyes and lean my head against the wall. Sometimes when I do that, I see yellow shapes moving on the insides of my eyelids. Tonight the shapes are magenta.

I wake up with a burning pain in my shoulder. Before I get dressed, I lie for a while with a yellow tennis ball under the sore spot. It helps, but not in the way I’d hoped. Instead of easing the ache, it focuses the pain and brings me into full presence with it.

“I’m here,” says something in me, quietly, to something else in me. The something-else stops howling, but it’s still lonely.