The Yellow Side
The most complicated question about me is my name. My name is Parting. Technically it has a “the” in front of it. I am the Parting. But my colleagues only say “the Parting” when they’re not talking to me, like “Amanda, this is the Parting. Parting, this is Amanda Miller.” Dad calls me Art, because he thinks I’m great art, which I am far from that. Mom calls me Artie. And there’s an old man lives behind the theatre who always shorten my name. Arthur calls me Thely, which is pronounced thee-lee, and I think Thely is the best name I can have in my life because it ends with a “y”, just like Lily or Jimmy, like those ordinary names. It seems that “The” is my first name, and “Parting” is my surname, but no, it’s not. Like what I’ve said, it’s quite complicated.
The origin of my name is not complicated at all. I got the name because what I do is to part. It’s my job. I part a lot of things: yellow and blue, good and bad, myself and the audiences. It will be very easy if you get it right in the beginning.
I’m the one who can never keep my self-introduction simple. I have so many names. All of the names have something to do with the original one — the Parting. Art and Artie come from Parting, and Thely comes from The. I know sometimes they call Lila Lil, but she can still keep it simple, especially when she has a popular name.
I work in a theatre. I am the youngest girl there, and I do the most controversial job. Claire always tells me not to do it. Lila says nothing, but I know she agrees with Claire. I can’t stop. It’s the only thing I can do.
“You’ll hurt their feelings,” said Claire.
I don’t know how I affect those kids’ lives. To some degree of course, but I don’t know how much. The parents thank me — well, only parents of the yellow side. I don’t care much about that, actually.
I still live with Mom and Dad. They said I have to move out and start my brand-new life next year. “So just enjoy this year, Artie,” said Mom as she came to hug me.
I’m not worried because I make enough money. I’m just thinking, what will be different? I’ll take the underground, go to the theatre, then part. Still the same. Start from a different apartment, but basically the same.
I can’t say I love my job. I’m not good at loving things. I don’t hate it, either. However, if your job even becomes your name, it will be a bit difficult to “part”.
Monday was typical. I woke up early — Mom and Dad were still sleeping. I got dressed and went to the underground station on foot.
“Hi, ‘Arting!” said the old guy loudly as I went out of the station. I smiled at him.
I saw Arthur when I arrived at the theatre.
“Morning, Arthur,” I said.
“Morning, Thely,” said the old gentleman, “your performance is put off for thirty minutes, by the way.”
I nodded, then we went into the theatre.
At about nine thirty Arthur called me, so I stepped onto the stage. The kids were already on the stage. And the audiences, who were their parents, had taken seats.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen,” I said, “thank you for coming. I’m the Parting. It’s my pleasure to present the parting of children!”
Everyone applauded. Now it was the easiest part.
I knew that the kids were mostly babies, so there would be a little crawling race.
I opened the door of the blue side, said, “Ready, get set, go,” and most of the babies started crawling toward the yellow side. A few babies didn’t move, but it was okay, at least there were babies crawling.
When about half of the babies had gotten to the yellow side, I said, “Okay, stop,” and close the the doors of both sides.
Now it would be a bit more difficult. I got into the yellow side, and sat down between the babies.
“Good job! You really tried hard, didn’t you, Audrey?” I chirped, reading their name tags, “and you, Vincent … well done, everyone, your parents will be proud of you!”
They laughed. I placed a microphone in the yellow side, then left.
I went into the blue side, observing quickly. “Pity,” I sighed. Some of the babies started crying immediately. I went to a girl who didn’t cry. “Well, Jane,” I said, “why didn’t you crawl? You should try harder. It’s an honor to get to the yellow side!”
She burst into tears. As always.
What I said was not actually important, it was my tone that mattered. I had to convince them it was pitiful not to move, but I couldn’t let them feel that I was blaming them.
I repeated the process a few times. Now there were wailing babies everywhere.
I placed a microphone and walked to the center of the stage. The microphone was turned on, amplifying the wails and the laughter.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, the parting of children is done.” I bowed.
I was standing at the exit while the audience and the children were leaving. “Thank you, Parting,” said Audrey’s mother. Jane’s parents just hurried away.
As what I’d said before, Monday was typical.
We celebrated Claire’s birthday backstage that day.
“I can’t believe that I’m nearly thirty,” said Claire as she blew out twenty-eight candles.
“You’ve got two years,” said Lila.
“Stop it, Lila, you’re much younger.”
“Not as young as Parting,” Lila smiled.
“Yeah, Parting, how old really are you?” asked Claire.
“Nineteen,” I said.
Claire sighed, “I envy you.”
We had some cake and tea, chatting about everything.
“What do you think about the audition?” asked Claire.
“I don’t know,” Lila replied, “but I don’t think that I controlled my tone very well. I’m not Parting.” She added, looking at me.
“Parting, why don’t you join us?” said Claire.
I smiled timidly, “I’m not a good actress.”
“You’ll be, after practicing,” said Lila.
“Seriously, you don’t want to do your job forever, do you?” Claire frowned, “it’s really not … moral.”
I was silent. Lila sipped her tea. Claire was still staring at me.
“Claire,” I said finally, “it’s the only thing I can do. I’m not as capable as you and Lila.”
“You’re talented,” Claire insisted. “Have you tried acting before?”
“No,” I lied.
Claire raised her eyebrows. Lila changed the topic to something about an art festival.
“So, the art festival consists of exhibitions, concerts, performances, et cetera. Our theatre has to provide all kinds of shows, including the parting of children,” said Arthur.
“But the amount of children may double,” Arthur went on, “so do their parents. And the children’s ages might vary. Can you handle that, Thely?”
“I think I can.”
Arthur smiled. “You’ll do fine.”
I had only one performance during the art festival. On that day, I was wearing a plain white dress, which is the same I wore in the school play. I usually wore T-shirts and jeans while I was performing, so my dress made the day look special – it really was.
After I got dressed, I found a note on the table.
“Dear Artie, we’re out of milk. Please buy some after work. Love, mom.”
I stepped on the stage. Arthur was right: There were so many children of all ages, from babies to ten-year-olds.
I started to part them by asking them questions about their school, friends, family members, or daily routine. As usual, the questions did not matter, it was my tone that kept telling them “it’s a test, it’s a test”. I was holding their hands, taking them to different sides.
When all of the children had gone to the yellow or the blue side, I went into the yellow side. I praised them, and told a few jokes. Like what I expected, they laughed. Making children of the blue side weep would be more difficult, but I was sure I could do it. I closed the door and started walking towards the blue side.
That was when someone grabbed my sleeve. I turned, finding myself looking at a familiar face.
“Parting, you must stop,” said Lila.
“What happened?” I breathed.
“This show’s cancelled,” whispered Lila, “by Arthur.”
I froze. It had never happened before.
“Tell them,” said Lila, pointing at the audience.
“Refund?” I asked shakily.
Lila was silent for a second, then she said, “Yeah, sure. They’ll get refund.”
I turned on the microphone that I was going to put in the blue side. “The show is cancelled,” I declared, “everybody will get a full refund.”
“Arthur’s waiting for you,” said Lila, pulling me.
I kept looking backwards. Children came out from both sides, and they left with their confused parents.
Then the door was closed.
I knocked. “Come in,” said Arthur.
I opened the door. “Thely,” Arthur pointed at a chair. “Have a seat, please.”
I closed the door and sat down. “Is this planned?”
Arthur sighed, “No.”
I didn’t say a word. “Claire talked to me,” said Arthur, “she said that the parting of children is not good for those kids, and letting it become a part of the art festival isn’t appropriate. I’m afraid she is right.”
There was a long pause, then I said, “So I guess that I’m fired.”
“No, Thely. I want you to join Lila and Claire. We’ll have a new play very soon.”
“I can’t act.”
“You just need to practice.”
“I can’t act,” I repeated.
“I’ve never seen anyone that can control his or her voice like you,” said Arthur, “you’re talented. You’ll do fine.”
“I won’t,” I said, “Arthur, I have told you that parting is the only thing I’m able to do. What else can I do, then?”
“Be a sophomore.”
Surprisingly I was calm – well, calm enough to know what to do. I could beg him, I could scream, I could tell him what happened in my freshman year with real tears running down my cheeks. Although Arthur might be one hundred times harder than babies to persuade, I could still make him hesitate.
But I didn’t. I remained silent.
“Okay. I apologize,” said Arthur, “but the parting of children cannot be performed anymore.”
“Fine,” I said flatly.
“I’m sorry, Thely.”
“Where’s the teapot, Lila?” I called.
“On the shelf – wait, I’ll get it for you.”
This was my farewell party, but the cake and tea was the same as the food of Claire’s little birthday party, which was held yesterday. Yesterday. Things were happening too fast today.
Lila ran towards me. While she was trying to reach the teapot, she whispered, “Did you quit?”
“Listen,” said Lila, busy making tea. “I don’t know Claire was going to do that, but I’m sure she didn’t want to … get rid of you.”
“I know,” I said emotionlessly.
“She didn’t know you’d quit, and she’s looking forward to acting with you.”
She won’t if she has experienced that, I thought. But I smiled and said, “Thanks, Lila.”
“I’ll miss you,” she said.
To me, acting was a nightmare. I joined a school play last year, and I decided to keep my voice soft and sweet while rehearsing. In the public performance, I showed my ability to control my tone. It all seemed perfect to me, until I saw the boy whom I played opposite was staring at me with large, terrified eyes. When I went backstage, the boy was there.
“Do you know what the audience feel about the play?” he asked.
“Sickening,” he hissed, “they feel that they’re tricked, deceived even. And you made all actors and actresses’ moods a total mess. What’s wrong with your voice?”
I just shook my head.
I left the theatre. I couldn’t remember the rest of the party clearly, it just consisted of eating, drinking, and saying goodbye.
“Bye, ‘Arting!” the old guy shouted again, “see you tomorrow!”
I was thinking about coming back a million times to hear someone calling me Parting.
I went into a grocery store with my eyes full of tears. This was weird – I hadn’t cried for about ten years.
“You okay?” asked the clerk.
“Artie! So early today!”
“Simply put,” I said, “here’s your milk. And I got partly fired.”
My parents fell silent.
“So I cannot be called Parting,” I bid farewell to the nineteen-year-old name. “Who should I be?”
“You’re sweet sorrow, Artie,” said Mom, stroking my hair. “You’re sweet sorrow.”