Once, in a yellow room.
In my memory, there is a room. It’s quaint, small in size, and smells distinctly of my mother’s perfume. Not the obnoxiously sweet scent she spritzes on nowadays, it’s the musky, faintly peppermint-scented one that seemed to infect every room she entered. This particular one was no different. I can imagine the wool throw that covered the desk chair, gaudily gay in colour, the once natural sheep-y smell long since replaced with her unmistakable fragrance. The hand-me-down duvet, patched with various fabric cut-offs and steeped in my mother’s scent, is tucked neatly into the mattress of the obscurely small single bed. If I think hard enough, I can recollect how each lump and bump of that god awful mattress felt like a rock lodged beneath my back, mirroring the headache that my pale yellow walls induced for weeks after I first painted them, the pungent paint smell penetrating my mother’s odour.
The sherbet lemon walls had holes dotted across them, reminiscent of the posters I used to tack to them. Everyone from Paul McCartney to Joan Baez used to dance across my walls, singing their warbled tunes, humming everyone’s favourite songs. After a few months, the tattered paper would bend and bubble as the sun stamped her mark. The faces of my idols would warp and become the monsters of my nightmares. A quick glance at any poster at any given time past midnight could send me into a sleep-deprived hallucination. Imagine, where Joan once smiled in approval of my life, a monster hung, her white teeth now yellowed and snarled, ready to ravish on my tender flesh.
I think of the stories which used to sit in a messy pile beside my bed. Each one dumped after I turned the last page. Their words floating around my head, performing their scary, heart-wrenching, humorous, disturbing tales. I lived vicariously through the characters as they lived their storybook reality and I lived my actual reality. Pretending that I too could have the happiest of endings, dusted with confetti and sprinkled with champagne. The bleakness that stood outside that room was cut off each time I flipped the paperbacks open, and momentarily I could step inside a world that wasn’t my own.
I feel now as if that room, those walls have seen their fair share of my life. Each scene played out according to the script, perfectly mirroring what was planned for me. They watched as my blood dripped from my ear to the threadbare carpet to create a permanent mark, signifying the time when I took to my lobes with a sewing needle to pierce the very flesh I feared would be consumed by the terrors of the night. They observed solemnly as I nursed my first broken heart, as I tried to pick up the pieces of myself left after I realised Mr Right wasn’t so right anymore. I would like to think that perhaps they wept as I boxed up the last of my belongings that I considered important enough to cart off to university, leaving those soft yellow walls behind in a room I would soon regard as a relic of my past.
In the small railway house of my childhood, in the back of my memory, is the room that I grew up in. If I catch a whiff of my mother’s old perfume which sits untouched, still in its crystal bottle, a gift from my father for her twenty-first, as I clean up her dresser, something which she can no longer do herself, I am plunged back into my yellow-walled slice of heaven. I can graze my feet over the worn-out carpet, thread my finger’s through my throw and my duvet. I hear the melodies of the past and read the stories I’ve forgotten. If I see a news article about The Beatles, a snapshot of Paul’s shagginess pins itself to the lemony walls of my mind. I rarely visit that room optionally, but sometimes the door cracks open, and there it is in my memory, a time capsule of what I left behind long ago.