April 1, 2017 orangeq2017

Primary Wishes

Melissa Pilakowski


Sprawled out on the cracked linoleum floor, my boys scribble in coloring books, a spilled box of 24 crayons between them. Alex sits on his knees, the calves of his legs lying outside his thighs. My ex-husband doesn’t like the boys to sit like that, says that it will ruin their hips, but I don’t care because it’s a moment of quiet where Alex and his older brother aren’t fighting over the same crayon.

I tell them to try different colors, to mix them up. “When Mama was little,” I say, “she used to mix colors together, like goldenrod with indigo or periwinkle with lime green, just to see what color it would make.”

“That’s kind of dumb,” my older son informs me, his crayon smearing blue wax across the length of a page. My boys are monochromatic: one page they smear with blue, and the next page they choose black, my younger son watching and mimicking his older brother’s color choices. Soon their father will be here, and they will spend the weekend with him in his house of white walls.

Using my big toe, I glide the magenta crayon close to my younger son’s knee. He looks at it, steals a glance at his brother, and then pushes the crayon away. Rolling his shoulders back, a quirk inherited not from me, he returns to blackening the spaces between the black lines on the page.

I lean back against the refrigerator, and its fingers of coldness stretch through the steel door and spread into the tender, sunburned skin of my back.

“Alex, don’t sit with your legs like that,” I say. I retrieve the discarded magenta and drop it into the empty box.


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