I never used to imagine the days like colors. The days were just days, and they would pass, bleak and unadorned. They would consist of many tears, lying on the cold linens of bunk beds, and the cliche comfort from foster parents. But now, I do think of days like colors. For example, it’s been 74 grays, 69 teals, and 7 golds since I turned 18 and had to live on my own. I’ve had more time to consider all the factors, and I believe that colors are the best way to represent the passing 24 hours.
On teal days, the sky is crisp and clear with almost no clouds. The air feels like water, pouring in and out through your lungs, fresh and clean. On the teal days, I walk to the small lake in the park, and the water seems purer somehow. It doesn’t look blue or black or mucky green, instead, it’s a fresh teal color, straight from a fairytale.
Gray days are full of clouds and humidity, the smallest bit of sun peeking out from behind the clouds, acting as a quick relief from thick gray air.
And then there are gold days. Usually, there are two factors that go into a gold day.
One: a miracle. When I say miracle, I don’t mean that cancer gets cured. I mean finding spare change on the ground or finding a box of clothes on the street.
Two: the glass building. When the sun sets on golden days, the big glass office building next to my apartment reflects orange and yellow and gold, as if the sun was right there, engraved in the glass. For a moment, everything would seem alright as the golden light shines into my small bland home, and I can feel at peace.
Today has shone no sign of being gold. Right now, it seems that I might need to add another color. A purple day. From inside the car, the tinted window makes the sky look violet. I have been in the car for maybe two hours and the smell of greasy burgers and rotting candy bars has settled. I press my hands into the seat of the car, a habit I have developed over the length of time I have been sitting here. It’s scratchy against my palm, loose crumbs sticking onto my skin.
“Oh my gosh, finally. Shera, are you ready?” the lady in the front seat of the car asks. She has cropped grayish hair and a thick unibrow. I never had time to ask for her name, because, after a while, these people became blurs and my mind labeled them as “social-workers-who-are- moving-me-to-a-new-foster-home” I haven’t been with one of these in a long time.
I sneer at the sound of my name. “Call me Violet, please. Nobody calls me Shera.”
“Ok, Violet it is. Violet, your mother is ready. Are you ready to go?”
I take a deep breath. Ever since I was 7, I’ve been moved to foster home after foster home, until it was “you’re 18, so nobody wants you anymore”
And now, after so many years, my mom contacted somebody who contacted a social worker. And to answer the Unibrow-lady’s question, well, I don’t know. I haven’t the slightest idea what to think of this. I can’t tell if I’m mad because my mother abandoned me, and when I’m 19 she wants to see me again. I can’t tell if I’m sad because I could have had a mother all this time. I can’t tell if I’m happy because I’m going to be reunited. I’m completely numb. I don’t have a certain emotion or feeling, besides the hunch I have about a big invisible hole in my stomach. With the number of stomach aches and throwing up, it seems reasonable.
“Why,” I whisper, so quietly that I’m not even sure if the unibrow-lady can hear me. My voice cracks, and I take a slow breath. “Why does she suddenly care now?”
Unibrow-lady gives me a pity-full look, as if she gets this question 10 times a day.
“I’m not sure, honey. Maybe she just wasn’t ready until now. In her papers, it read that she had an abortion at 18, and then after that, she started to use drugs. She got addicted, and when she had you, she realized she wasn’t ready, either.”
“She left me on the street,” I whisper. The tears sting like fire. It’s the worst type of fire you can feel because it runs down your cheeks and won’t stop until you feel better. But how can you feel better when your face is melting?
“I’m sorry sweetie. I really am. I think she’s here today to make amends. I think that she wants to see her daughter after all these years and that she wants to reconnect.”
“How can I be her daughter if she didn’t raise me? If I was her daughter, why did she let me move from house to house with different mothers each time?”
Unibrow-lady sighs. “You should ask her that, not me,” she responds, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“I know this is hard, but trust me. It’s better to do this than having it un-done, sitting in the back of your mind. It’s an itch that won’t go away unless you scratch it.”
I cringe at the weird metaphor, but it makes me feel better in some sense. I take a breath.
“Let’s go,” I whisper. I hope that Unibrow-lady can’t hear me and that maybe we can just sit in the car forever and never have to scratch the itch.
But I guess she hears me, because, with a heavy sigh, she grabs some papers and opens the car door.
I open the car door too.
It’s cold, the smallest bit of snow falling from the clouds. The sky isn’t purple anymore. It’s gray, like the color of Unibrow-lady’s jacket. It’s like the color of the sky in a romance movie when one lover leaves the other, and then it starts raining and the one who was left behind regrets not bringing an umbrella.
“She’s meeting us near the lake,” Unibrow-lady mumbles, leading me through a dirt path. We pass a little girl and a mom walking a dog, and I suddenly feel like maybe I wasn’t good enough to be a daughter. I shake the thought out of my head before I give it a chance to take over.
Unibrow-lady leads me near the lake. I’ve been to this park once or twice, and there’s a bridge that leads to the middle of the lake, where there’s a gazebo type structure. There are chairs and a table, and a foster mom took me there once for a picnic. The small bit of recognition comforts me.
I can see a small figure staring out at the frozen lake. A mix of anger and happiness washes over me.
“Mariah!” Unibrow-lady exclaims, and the head of the figure on the gazebo turns. “Mariah! We’re here!”
My mother’s name is Mariah.
I walk down the unsteady wooden planks.
My mother - I can’t believe I can call somebody my mother - looks up.
Immediately, guilt washes over me.
I had imagined her with dark brown hair like me, and to have tan skin. It looks like the memories I thought I had with her were from my imagination.
My mom has long, wavy blonde hair that falls to the length of her elbows. Her eyes are green and sunken, dark circles permanently under them. Her features are sharp and defined, but strangely, she has no wrinkles and is fairly skinny.
And the strangest part is that I can see myself in somebody who isn’t me. I can see myself in this woman, this woman who hasn’t been with me for my entire life up until now.
The tears are uncontrollable. Even if I wiped my face, the fire would continue to spread.
My mother hugs me.
Her hug is warm. Her arms fit like a puzzle piece around me.
The drug-filled, broken back-storied, shattered woman is hugging me like I’ve never been hugged before. We are both shattered, and this hug is glue.
The shattered woman has fire on her face, too.
The fire continues to burn, but it feels good. Exhilarating.
And so the shattered woman and I hug, because though we are in pieces, and though there has to be paperwork and re-building and lots of time, she is my mother.
I never thought I’d be able to say that.
Today is a golden day, and there wasn’t a miracle or a glass building.
There was a mom.
The shattered woman and the shattered daughter hug because they want to, and because it’s their first hug with each other in years.
It’s not 74 grays, 69 blues, and 7 golds since I turned 18 anymore.
It’s all the days counting up until the real golden day, the day that I met my mother.