Yellow Couch

Light streams into my pale blue living room from the sunroom to the south. I am reading on a faded yellow couch with flower designs woven in, barely perceptible in its old age. The couch sits diagonal to the corner behind it; in the triangular gap, sits a wooden plant stand with a phone, books, and a vase of silken flowers. The telephone rings from its stool behind the couch. After a few jangles, Mama appears and picks up the call. I am almost ready to learn the proper incantation: "Sherman residence, with whom would you like to speak?" Mama grabs one of her plastic flowers from her vase. Each has a pen taped to the bottom; she made them so people would stop stealing her pens. Her arrival distracts me from my book, so I start climbing on her and talking to her. I don't understand why Mama and Papa so hate being bothered when they are on the phone.


At 7 o'clock, I begin preparing for bed (which occurs at 8) with a ride up the stairs on my father's back. "How often do I take a bath?" "What do you think?" "Once a month?" "Once every few days." Life moves so much slower than adults seem to think. I like baths; warm water and skin and spraying Papa's foamy shaving cream onto the soft tiles that surround the tub. It smells at once cool and sweet and aloof and adult and familiar. I like making waves with my body in the tub, playing with the momentum of the water and how the slosh sounds with my ears underwater. Smooth tub, warm bathwater, yellow walls, twin sinks with stepstools for Sofia and me. A parental hand mashing a toothbrush around in my mouth. Mama's pink bathrobe hanging on the door, rough and faded with age. Beyond the doorway, the hint of mothballs and attic hot-wood-must tinge the hallway air. Past the wire hung with Mama's clothes that Sofia and I pulled down once. Past the creaky blue stairs and the heavy white wooden gate at their top. Into bed and lullabies about moon shadows and sweet dreams on the range.