Gray

By
Humidity draped the streets like dreary curtains on a loose rod, sun shining through in broken intervals. The rain from the previous night had dislodged palm fronds and scattered them unmercifully about the town. The town had become a storage unit, with fronds stashed in satellite dishes and open car windows, dog doors and secret hiding places. Cars rushed past with their brutal engines and exhaust, tearing eyes and tearing eardrums. A tiresome heat rose from the roadway, but the sun beat it back down and directed its beams on the backs of already burdened people. Two in particular, a mother and daughter, endured the most glaring of many beams that morning.

The slippery golden hand grasped hers at the edge of the gray path, and its voice abruptly asked her to stop. She counted the painted stripes ahead of them, five in all.

“Grae it’s time to cross now. Pick up your feet.” Grae winced at her mother’s bleakness, and kindly urged her feet to keep up. Inside the soft-shell of her glittery pink jellies, her toes slid around in a small pond of sweat, squeaking along side her mother as they quickly crossed the painted crossing. The stripes moved fast beneath her; her arm tethered reluctantly to a firm hold. Seven black, five white. Her shoes squeaked in unison with her proud and accurate counting. At the end of the zebra crossing, another gray path appeared. Grae giggled, humoring the idea that the world had just flipped on them, and now surely they were headed home.

She lifted her chin and put her mother’s head into her eyeshow, a show her mother called vision.

“Diane, my feet are wet. Where are you going?” Though her back was turned, Grae felt the disgust the question evoked from her mother, and began a quiet sulk as her mother muttered “Diane,” in curt voice. What Grae did not see was her mother’s face twist in repulsion upon hearing her faux American name, the only thing she was given to find a suitable man and a successful future. Not turning to meet her anxious daughter’s gaze, Grae heard her shout over the deafening herd of traffic.

“To the bus Grae. You are coming too, are you not?” Grae’s hope of returning to her light lavender room with play things had been sucked away by the sun, along with little droplets of the previous nights’ storm. Grae reluctantly tilted her head up to the grimy sky, and then down to the grimy sidewalk several times. Yes, she wanted very badly to come, but not to stay. She disliked the loud gray path with its blurred fast-moving passengers.

Her mother did not hear her silent response. Diane held onto her daughter’s hand while she navigated through herds of steaming people, but the combined smells of stagnant coffee and sticky dirt clung to her clothes and skin before she could slip through unscathed. Sweat beaded her brow and her eyes blinked off the salty stream that clouded her vision. India’s fifth pleased her foul mood, and she continued to dwell on worse thoughts.

The night had been long, painful, and reminiscent of months past in which she had delicately sampled a content marriage. But those pleasant days and invigorating nights were gone. In her eyes rested emptiness, they had nothing to open for, and so much to blink away. It was a legal matter. Not in her daughter’s best interest, and certainly not her own. The man who had once filled her eyes with light was now demanding the only light that remained in her own dark gray path of life. She thought of the phone on the table, the fervent voice panting from it muffled by her coffee’s steam, and how her ears eventually sealed themselves from the intruding stream of accusations and assaults. She would not be accepted in America, her passport was expired and there was nothing to bring her across country lines; nothing to make her leave the small town of Yanam that had incased her with her own regret. He had won Grae’s possession, she had no means to stop him. Her feeble attempt to escape her ex-husband’s demands had failed, and now sifting through people with their own problems, she lead Grae to a place that wasn’t home.


The silver-lined bus rounded the curve, blinding those who watched its sleek elongated body drift in closer. The golden hand was now clammy, and grasped Grae’s tiny hand even harder. The curb was littered with a collection of forgotten debris; crinkled plastic bags, bent straws, lost shoes. Large going-away bags were removed from steel carts, and brown arms enclosed bare brown chests while dark brown eyes shimmered. Their dark bodies intrigued Grae momentarily, and she turned to check her own. Very light, she thought, and her eyes, she remembered, princess blue. Grae did not have a going-away bag, and realized how out of place she and her very contained mother looked; two people, one short one tall, skin covered but both illuminated by the sun’s pressing beams. Her interest in the other people at the bus stop had expired, and she turned to her mother to occupy her next interest. What Grae realized frighten her. Her mother did not look out of place. Her brown eyes shimmered too.





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