Mary Kay Lewis

December 21, 2009
By , East Lansing, MI
The room was a warm, peach color, the exact color of a crayon that Mary Kay had used to draw the skin of herself and her family in a portrait to display atop her fridge. The representation had been ruined however; when Mary Kay’s mother tore the image down to shove in her father’s face during an argument. The image of the “******* happy family” (as Mary Kay’s mother called the three smiling faces that Mary Kay had drawn) was then burned over the lit flame on the stovetop.
Seeing the peach color brought tears to Mary Kay’s eyes as she struggled under the iron grip of the nurses.
No, no, no. The women said; their voices all the same. You’re in a better place now. You’ll see this is a fun place. You won’t miss home at all. Look, here’s your room!
The room Mary Kay was looking at now was a box, furnished with a small chair for visitors, and a bed for her. An armoire sat in a corner, although Mary Kay’s clothes had been taken away. Beside the bed stood a small table; on top of the table, three books were laid out, along with two glasses, and a bible. Other than the sparse fittings, the room was bare, except for a door where Mary Kay soon learned lead to her own bathroom, fixed with soap, shampoo, conditioner, a toothbrush, and toothpaste, just like in the motel her mother had taken her to once. The room was painted the same shade of peach as the outside hallway.
She turned to the nurses to tell them she had no idea how to bathe herself, as either her father or mother had bathed her before, but the women had gone. The only people in the area where the rooms were situated around were other children, and adults dressed in normal clothes. Mary Kay hugged herself, feeling her thin body through her diaphanous gown. Where were her clothes? Where was her dolly that she had packed in the small suitcase her mother had brought her?
Overcome with isolation, Mary Kay opened her small mouth, and began to wail, a high shriek that got the attention of everyone in the area. A nurse ran into the hellish room. What’s wrong? Stop crying! She would not stop wailing until one of the supervisors assured her the “approved” contents of her luggage would be sent to her room sometime later that day. She felt strong arms engulf her as she was carried to the bed, and gently laid down upon it. The door closed with a small “thump” as the attendant left, leaving Mary Kay in the diminutive space colored the exact color of her nightmares.
She sat up, feeling the mattress underneath her little bottom sag a bit, used by countless other children who had stayed in the very chamber she was now in. Investigating the room from her perch on the bed, Mary Kay determined the walls were too bare. She fixed that by getting off her bed and raking her nails across the paint, leaving wavering lines that revealed the white drywall underneath the torturous paint. Stretching her arms up high above her head, Mary Kay scratched out more and more lines across the wall. She did this until the attendants came to check on her, and when they screeched in horror at the sight of thousands of little rows and columns of white stripes on the walls.
What are you DOING? They yelled, staring at the scratches as if they were some sort of newfound deadly disease. One attendant picked her up and sat her firmly on the bed.
You are NOT to do that AGAIN, missy. He said, gripping her forearms like he was drowning and she was his life preserver.
The walls were too empty. Mary Kay offered up as a reason for her senseless act. And I hate that color.
The color is PROVEN to be calming to children, Muttered one employee to another.
This must not be true, The companion replied.
Should we get the room repainted?
NO, Said the male. It will NOT be repainted. She will LEARN to cope.
But sir.... Protested one sympathetic staff member. She has dealt with enough already. Obviously this color is bringing out terrible memories for the child and—
NO, The male repeated. That being his final answer, he stalked out of the room, leaving red welts on Mary Kay’s arms. The remaining workers stood awkwardly in the room with the child. Mary Kay looked at them helplessly.
When am I getting my clothes?
This innocent question caused one of the female workers to burst into tears and rush from the room, saying something about “getting the clothes for this godforsaken soul”. The other woman glanced towards the door leading to the bathroom.
Do you know how to wash yourself? She asked. Mary Kay shook her head, replying that her mother or father usually washed her.
But most of the time it’s my father. Mary Kay said, which made the woman look uneasy and relieved when the other attendant rushed in with a paper bag full of Mary Kay’s clothes.
I’ll show you. The woman said, leading Mary Kay into the bathroom.
During the day, at school, Mary Kay’s classmates would call her father names like drunkard. Her mother was referred to as *****. Mary Kay came home one day and asked her mother what those words meant.
Her mother had grabbed her and shook her as hard as she could. Who said that? She’d demand, tightening her hold on her daughter. Who said that? She’d repeat, her voice getting higher and shriller.
The kids at school, Mary Kay would finally squeak, squeezing her eyes shut as her mother rushed to the phone to call the teachers. Yelling would ensue, mostly on the part of her mother, as Mary Kay would rush to her room. Maybe her previous experiences were why Mary Kay had ended up in this peach room.

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