Bright with Yellow
Elizabeth Ellen

The girl showed the woman an image on the screen: blue sweatshirt, ruffed hair. The girl was visibly excited. She pointed, though she had been brought up not to. It was one of the things the woman overlooked.
"See what I mean?" the girl said.
"Yes," the woman answered; she did see.
Later they went for a drive and then they were in front of a house. The woman and girl turned in their seats, peered inside. It was nighttime and the windows were bright. The ruffed hair was mussed; the sweatshirt a shade they later agreed was royal, a variant indistinguishable on the screen.
"Do you see now?" the girl said, again pointing.
"Yes," the woman answered, royal blue filtering through loosely held fingertips.
"I see," she said. It was impossible not to.

During the day the girl was absent from the house and the woman stared at the screen. The woman broke up the staring by sponging a dish or opening a door. Periodically the girl typed messages into the woman's phone: LMAO! OMFG! SFR! Sometimes the woman knew what the messages meant. The woman paid attention to messages concerning the blue sweatshirt, found them disconcerting. Now she was staring at the blue sweatshirt, but so was the girl. It was a dizzying suggestion. Often, before the girl returned, she had to lie down.
In the evenings the woman feigned unfamiliarity with the varying facial expressions that hovered above the blue sweatshirt, though she had assigned each of them a name: Holden Caulfield, James Dean, Elmer Fudd, James Franco. (All but one was essentially the same.)
It was difficult not to name them aloud.
"See here?" the girl would say, pointing at James Dean or James Franco, it was hard to tell which. "Here is what I'm talking about."
And the woman would bite her tongue and answer, "Yes, I do see." And then leave the room to rinse her mouth with saltwater.

Soon the drives became nightly occurrences, squeezed in between hair-washing and teeth-brushing. At first it was hard for the woman to tell which of them more looked forward to the drives. They each leaned forward in their seats when the blue sweatshirt appeared inside the yellowed windows. Likewise each seemed equally malcontented when the windows offered nothing but a blank yellowness, the blue sweatshirt absent from view. On these nights -- the blueless nights -- they staggered back into their own darkened house in a unified fog and sat side by side in front of the screen until the blue sweatshirt again appeared; then they could go to bed.

There came a time, however, in which the woman was able to discern a difference. This was the time she had been dreading. The girl stopped pointing and only looked lazily at the screen. She sat still in the car, her posture and mood unchanging in the face of blue or yellow, and the woman was forced to mirror the girl's stillness, until finally they stopped driving that way altogether and kept, instead, to the other side of town.
During the day the woman still stared in long stretches at the blue sweatshirt but in the evenings the girl pointed to other, unfamiliar images on the screen, in hues the woman did not recognize and could not name, and there was nothing for the woman to do but stand and nod and bite down on her tongue until the saltwater was no longer an effective means of sanitization and the insides of her mouth and cheek became infected and little white, pus-filled postulates formed on the top and underside of her tongue.
The woman began making excuses to take the car out by herself: to the drugstore for salt or to the office supply store for screen cleaners. She had begun to feel a maternal attachment to the color blue and in its presence her breasts engorged and tightened as they had when the girl was small and needful of her. Now the girl barely noticed when she left or came back and the woman took to sitting outside the yellowed windows for longer and longer stretches at a time, aware of the fullness of her chest, chastising the girl's fickleness and lack of loyalty.
"You see?" she said, pointing as royal blue overtook yellow.
And because the girl was not there to answer, she answered for her: "Yes," she said. "I do see."
And the woman felt again as she had holding the girl in her arms, though her arms now were empty, and her eyes reflected only blue.