Hue of the Day
We all have these rainbows cascading inside us, but what do they mean?
There's a little farmhouse you can see far from this packed dirt road. You're just passing through, a straggler, but you wonder about the family in the wind-battered old place. You can imagine a surly father, an unhappy mother, a little girl in oversized clothes. But then you blink, and the vision's gone—back to the outer reaches of your memory.
It's sunset outside the beach house, and you're gulping down the salty air as you try not to cry. There are only so many times you can beat yourself up for the clumsy words that fall out of your mouth. You're sure you insulted someone, did something, made your place in the house obsolete too soon. But you'll wipe away the tears, and you'll go back inside, just like the good girl you were taught to be.
The daisies on your dress make you happy; the look on your mother's face does not. No matter how you cuddle up to her, she does not smile your way. In the years to come, you'll remember more her look of distaste or anger far more than her smiles or laughter. But still you cling close, wrapping your arms around her, because you so want to believe just your presence can make all the difference.
Your knees are stained from the grass, and your dad does not help you to your feet even though you just fell off a bicycle. He rights the bike and tells you to try again. But other kids are watching, jeering behind closed-lipped mouths, and you just shake your head again and again. His sigh tells you more about his disappointment in you than anything else. It will be a sound you memorize as the years go on.
You thought you were drowning in the pool, and no one was there to help you as you panicked. You bobbed up once, twice, trying to suction air for your lungs. And you, only ten, only just starting out, thought you might die right then. But you should have been more afraid of yourself because, really, you weren't as scared of dying as you should have been.
The only light in the darkness is the cherry-orange tip of your mother's cigarette in the dark. Even when the fireworks begin to erupt in the far distance of the murky sky, your eyes are still on your mother—the one you orbit worriedly, every minute you're awake, because you're so afraid she'll fall without you there. But her eyes are all for the sky, as if she's already waiting to leave, and you know you can't do a thing to change her mind.
Summer skies always remind you of her, especially right when the sun dips beyond eyesight. You never liked the sun, so you're not unhappy to see it go. But your mother—she fell beyond the clouds, far beyond your grasp, through means no one could control. And you see pieces of her each time you look in the mirror. Familiar eyes, the only real thing you inherited, stare back. But it's only you just judging yourself this time—a bead of something in yourself that's not beautiful, but real, true, raw, you.
She told you to look for a rainbow when she was gone, but you haven't found one yet despite the years. Once, you thought you might see one as sun filtered through a film of raindrops. The truth is less extraordinary, though still remarkable: you have all the colors within you, each and every shade, so maybe she didn't realize she was leaving the rainbow behind in you, just waiting for the right moment to be discovered. Some days you can't fathom it—I'm not special, you insist—but you're still here in the flesh, still trying and maybe failing but always getting back up to start again. The colors coalesce and sing, the sweet litany of what you are—and what you will become.