A little girl sits at a table. She looks to be five or six years old. There are several crayons lined up in front of her and she colors in a coloring book. There is a large easel to her left on the stage and a stack of paper right next to her on the table. She focuses on her coloring, not saying a word or responding the entire time. A woman in her early twenties stands above the little girl, watching her color. The lighting on the stage is faded. The woman speaks.
All done? Wow, that looks great. (The young girl pushes the coloring book to the side. Picking it up, the woman shows the picture to the crowd. The picture is colored accurately and within the lines. She closes the book and puts it down. The young girl opens the book again and starts coloring.)
Mom always said our coloring was the prettiest, didn’t she? Everybody at school was so jealous of our drawings. Our teacher couldn’t believe we colored in the lines so well! It’s because Mom taught us.
I still remember when Mom took us to school. She said we had to take a test so they would know where we belonged. She left us in the room with an old lady who asked us a lot of questions about colors and stuff. We didn’t tell her the answers though, did we? We thought she just didn’t know the answers and if she didn’t know, we weren’t going to tell her. Mom laughed so hard when we told her that.
We knew our colors. (The woman motions to the crayons lined up in front of the little girl.) That one’s blue. It’s just like the sky, jeans, or the ocean! And there, that’s yellow. Like sunflowers or Cooper, our dog! Green is the next one. That’s my favorite! It’s like the grass or Christmas trees! We don’t like Christmas anymore though, do we? All that green is okay, but not the red. That last crayon is red. Mommy didn’t like red very much, did she? We don’t like it anymore really, either. (The little girl stops coloring and looks up at the woman. The woman reaches out to grasp the little girl’s hands, but the little girl scoots away and looks down. The little girl opens the book and starts to color again.)
That’s okay. We don’t have to talk about red.
Mom was good at coloring, just like us. She showed us how to do it. She showed us how to color in the lines and make the pictures really pretty. We liked coloring in the lines. Those were our favorite drawings… the ones out of the coloring books. All of the lines were right there for us to use.
We didn’t understand why we had to go to school. Mom taught us everything we needed to know. She taught us how to color and she was teaching us our numbers. School wasn’t as fun. Mommy left us there. Every day, we asked the teacher why Mom had to leave. She told us that we had to learn and that coloring wasn’t okay all the time. We learned about letters and numbers and colors and shapes. The teacher taught us some reading and math. It was okay, but it wasn’t coloring.
We wanted to color.
We wanted Mommy.
School wasn’t okay for a while. Everybody looked at us like we were different. They looked sad. We wanted them to stop being sad. It made us sad.
Mr. Longer didn’t make us sad. He was our favorite teacher. We were older then. It was the 8th grade. He understood that we didn’t like red. He used a pencil to grade our assignments, not a red pen. That made us happy. He even took down his Red Sox banner. Who from Boston doesn’t like the Red Sox? Us.
(The little girl picks up the red crayon and starts coloring all over the page with it.)
What are you doing? Stop using that! (The woman grabs the red crayon and slams it back down on the table. The woman moves to place a hand on the little girl’s shoulder but the little girl moves away.) I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. (The little girl starts to color again.)
You know we don’t like red. We don’t want to use the red like Mommy did, do we?
We don’t think Mommy liked red. She never told us so, but we saw it make her sad. Mommy was sad a lot. Daddy told us that Mommy was sick, but she never looked sick. She just looked sad. We thought Mommy didn’t like us. Daddy told us we were wrong. He told us Mommy did love us. He told us that she was sick. Being sick made Mommy sad.
She didn’t look sick.
Mommy taught us our numbers, not school. And it was with Mommy that we used our numbers. We didn’t understand though, did we? Mommy told us only to use those numbers in an emergency. 9-1-1 is only for emergencies. The police would get mad if it wasn’t an emergency. She taught us other numbers too. 1-3-7-2. That’s the number of where we live. 1-3-7-2 Cooper Lane. We remembered because it’s like Cooper, our dog! He was a good dog.
(The older girl’s voice gets quiet.) Mommy told us she loved us. She said she was sorry. We didn’t listen to Mommy, though. She told us to stay downstairs and color. She told us that Daddy would be home at 6 o’clock. We learned how to read the clock at school and at home. Mommy taught us, but so did our teacher. So we knew 6 o’clock meant the little hand on the 6 and the big hand on the 12.
Mommy gave us a coloring book and crayons and told us to color. She told us that she needed quiet time. She made Cooper stay downstairs with us.
(The woman sits down at the table with the little girl. The little girl gives her the coloring book and the woman rips several pages out. They both start to color.)
We gave Mommy a big hug and kiss. She told us that she loved us and went upstairs. Cooper tried to follow her but we called him back. He sat next to us while we colored. He always tried to steal my crayons. Cooper would take them and run away. We got mad at him. This time he was good, though. He just sat watching us color. We were having a lot of fun!
We got hungry so we went to the kitchen. Mommy had left a juice box on a chair for us. She left us animal cookies too! They were so yummy! We gave some to Cooper even though we weren’t supposed to. He liked them. We went back to our little table in the living room and colored again. Cooper went upstairs. We wanted to go upstairs too. We wanted to show Mommy what we did! We wanted to show her our pretty picture.
It wasn’t 6 o’clock yet, though. We didn’t listen. The little hand was close to the 6, but the big hand was on the 9. We wanted to show Mommy though, so we went upstairs. The bathroom door was closed. Cooper was sitting there barking. There was white smoke coming out at the bottom of the door. Smoke isn’t good. Smoke is bad. We knocked on the door but Mommy didn’t answer. We were supposed to wait for Daddy to come home. We weren’t supposed to go in. We were afraid Mommy was hurt. We thought there was a fire.
Water started coming out the bottom of the door. Cooper started whimpering. He sounded sad. He started barking again. That’s when we went in. We reached up and turned the knob. It was a pretty knob. It was gold and shiny. We thought it was a pretty color. Then, we pushed the door open.
(The little girl picks up the red crayon again and starts scribbling all over her drawing. The woman snatches the crayon away again.)
Stop! Red is bad! We don’t like red! (The woman stares at the red crayon and quietly speaks again. Meanwhile, the little girl gets up from the table and starts coloring on the easel.)
Mommy’s arms were red. That’s the first thing we saw when we opened the door. Mommy was in the tub. She was wearing her clothes though. You’re not supposed to wear your clothes in the tub. Cooper ran over to her. He started licking her arms. He was whimpering.
The water was still running. We didn’t see a fire. The smoke was coming from the water. The water was everywhere. Our feet got really wet. The water wasn’t blue, though. It was red. The red was coming out of Mommy’s arms. It made the water red. The red water was all over the bathroom.
Mommy looked like she was sleeping.
We remembered what Mommy taught us. She taught us our numbers, so we used them. We got the phone and pressed 9-1-1. Just like that. A person’s voice started talking to us. We told them that Mommy wouldn’t wake up. We told them that she was covered in red. They asked where we lived. Mommy taught us that too. Cooper helped us remember. 1-3-7-2 Cooper Lane. They said that people were on their way.
We weren’t supposed to find Mommy, were we?
(The woman puts the red crayon back on the table. The woman stands up and walks behind the little girl. She reaches out to put her hand on the little girl’s shoulder. The little girl moves away and walks off the stage. The woman stands with her hand still outstretched to the little girl as the lights come on full. The woman goes back to the table and picks up the red crayon. She moves back to the easel and slowly starts to color. Her movements are hesitant.)
Cooper sat with me in the bathroom. It was like he was trying to comfort me. I dropped the phone in the water and started to cry. I think I realized Mom wouldn’t wake up. All I really remember is the red though. I kept staring at it, even though I was crying.
Dad came home and found me there. He used a bad word and grabbed me quick. I told him that Mom wasn’t waking up. I told him how I called 9-1-1. He just kept holding me close and told me everything would be alright. He kept repeating it, like it would make it true. I haven’t been alright though. I think Cooper was the only one who understood. After that, only my red crayons went missing.
The doctors didn’t save Mom. I never saw her again. Dad brought me to say goodbye to her. We left flowers for her and I traced her name in red. I couldn’t stand red. I still can’t. That’s the last time I used red. (She drops the red crayon abruptly. The next two words are spoken quietly.) Until today.
Dad never wants to talk about Mom. He doesn’t really talk to me. It took me a while to realize it’s because I look like her. I talk about that with Dr. Copper. She makes me feel comfortable. I know my Dad chose her because of her name. It’s so close to Cooper that I liked her immediately as a child. She even let me bring him sometimes.
It was hard for me when Cooper died. There was no red with him, though. He went peacefully.
(The little girl walks back on-stage and the light fades.)
You’re back. You always come back.
(The little girl walks over to the woman and takes her hand.)
Mommy left us. She didn’t color in the lines. We won’t make the same mistake though, will we? We’ll always color in the lines.
We’ll never use red again.
(The woman turns the easel to face the audience. She walks off-stage, hand-in-hand with the little girl. The drawing on the easel is of a woman. There is red colored sporadically all over the picture.)