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so much white
The blankness shudders under a rapid staccato noise.
A paint roller, dripping red, glides across in diagonal.
wait, wrong. you’re supposed to go up and down.
supposed to be yellow.
A gash appears in the wall. She is pushed through it, up to the heavy surface. More shots and then a shout: Yeah!
She may have said his name out loud, or just thought it.
She struggles out of sheets snaked around her body, while a thick white ocean still swirls around her. Her bare feet touch cool hardwood. Her legs falter under shifting weight, body not yet under control, as she stumbles into the dark hallway. Their house is new and empty, no carpets: sound ricochets like a child’s ball. They’d moved into the new subdivision just two weeks ago, the first and only ones on the crescent. So new that sidewalks haven’t even yet gone in. Everything still mud.
he always plays that stupid game so loud.
She rouses her voice, hoarse.
Another spray of gunfire, the gun reloads, and a triumphant laugh. The soles of her feet squeak along the glossy wooden floor. She passes the spare room. In her head, the thought blooms: We’re painting the baby’s room yellow. Yellow: bright, happy, and gender neutral. Who knows if they’ll have a boy or girl. Who knows if she’ll even get pregnant. But they are painting the room anyway—a signal to the universe that they’re finally ready.
Jamie! she calls at the top of the stairs. Turn it down! But her voice is covered by other ones, digital ones that speak a stiff drama between plays.
The dream’s wall of white still presses down on her. All she’s been doing since they’ve moved in is painting walls: now she’s even dreaming of them. When they’d arrived, the house’s walls were a cold blue-white, like the snow outside, and on a sunny day the inside of the house was blinding. She’d found a gentler shade, pearly with a bit of pink and gray called White Collar. Every day has been painting, painting. Her arms and shoulders ache.
She reaches the main floor and switches on the light. The microwave clock reads 3:30 a.m.
Maybe Jamie couldn’t sleep. The game sounds carry on from the basement. She probably won’t get back to sleep now either. They might as well finish painting the baby’s room. She is relieved to be painting with a whole other colour. An escape from white.
have i been painting with yellow?
Her padding steps echo throughout the empty main floor. The living room has no furniture yet, only an array of boxes and a lamp with no shade set down on the floor. She reaches the top of the basement steps, blinks at the darkness there.
Reload, reload, a voice urges.
Something is wrong. But her hand reaches out for the switch, her legs move anyway. Her skin recoils as she descends into icy basement air.
As the room comes into view, the last shreds of white blow away. She remembers. The phone call. The hospital. His red car. Crumpled, like a piece of tinfoil. And the baby’s room, not yellow, but wide blank white.
Julia Chan lives in Toronto. Her work has appeared in The Rusty Toque, subTerrain, The Danforth Review, and on café napkins in Toronto, Leeds, and Brisbane, made by Brisbane publisher Tiny Owl Workshop. Her short film In Shadow (directed by Shirley Cheechoo) screened at the Sundance Film Festival, among others.