Blue Means Blueberries

Blue means blueberries and the ceiling at Grand Central and the color of the fat-leafed plants with candy-wafer petals on the Cape, but last week it also meant calm and a little bottle for forty-nine dollars at Macy’s. It’s been a hectic winter, a hectic fall, a time of anger and movement and a militant feeling of having to be on edge or prepared for combat, a feeling which was simultaneously a solidarity and a burden.

But the winter, the fall, was also a time of chaos, the way a war zone is, a place for combat and debate, for fighting and shouting, where one is expected to stand straight and at order and where pleasure comes in little cardboard and twine-tied rations. It was a time in which you felt guilty to put on mascara or use a Chapstick besides the plain honeycomb Burt’s Bees tube you kept in your backpack pocket and which you’d deemed relatively Spartan.

The overpriced cologne was the perfect resistance against that combativeness, that state of unrest, and there was an invigorating feeling in inserting my card in the chip-reader which seemed robbed of a more dangerous exchange—the parking lot trade of cash for airplane sized liquor bottles my classmates transported in Nike Elite socks, or the twenties doled out for ID’s with grainy images and the word CONNECTICUT in green letters a shade too light to be credible.  

I thought as I made the purchase that it was the kind of invigoration people lived off of, endured average stretches of life to jump between; it was the feeling I remembered having when I’d sat the chocolate and mocha and umber sewn flippers of a sea-lion stuffed animal on the counter of a tourist trap at Fisherman’s Wharf though my mother had condemned, the feeling of purchasing a black bra with an intricacy of oil-black lace for which I had no use.

Those forty-nine dollars, I understood, for the 50 mL of liquid they bought me, also represented the things I could have but hadn’t spent them on: a donation to Planned Parenthood, a shirt from the ACLU, and in that they also accomplished what I’d been waiting for throughout the course of the winter and fall: permission for release. However selfish and indelible a purchase it was, it carried that permission with it, as might first jean jackets or second place ribbons or keychains with the names of cities to which we’ve been, as do objects which wear their value in their attached meaning instead of their fabric.

Later we ate chocolate chip cookies for cheap and complained to each other. Outside at the table in the dark is struck me how beautiful she was, how beautiful she had always been, since the day I’d met her on the plane and had hated that her face was composed of the kind of features with which to monopolize attention. Her eyes are the color of truffles and her stomach the kind of slant people pay triple square footage to have their houses set above. She picks nervously at soft spot of her hair, a gesture I recognize as one of my own.

I thought of the day I’d cried in her arms at Kenyon camp, how thin her torso had felt, and how life had felt so fragile then, coming into focus, and how it hadn’t stopped feeling that way the whole next fall and winter, until just then.

I thought how she was a new old friend, because I hadn’t known her six months, but that sometimes you could attribute common years to people, the way you could shave off matching college sweatshirts or boyhood apple sauce lakes or the way you had had your picture taken, Catholic school slacks and cobblestone smiles, in front of the red gloss of a hometown firetruck with Swiss Army knife statements or barroom blows to the nose.

The next week blue meant an SAT prepbook and the tiling on the lobster tank at a market on Shattuck and the fleece jackets of men walking the opposite direction up College, but it also meant quiet and the smell, reassuring like the silver knit of a family watch, on my wrists.

When I went to a coffee shop to see my friend again there was visible a string of Buddhist prayer flags through the window of a Mission house and a dead-ringer for Margot Robbie tending to the water bowl of a honey colored golden retriever and a pair of grad school-age friends who conceded that the station-houses in Russia are beautiful—“They were built in the thirties, you know, and that’s what you can do with all that money, give the finger to democracy”—even if you can’t get off the trains and watched my laptop while I went inside to order.

The fights of the winter and fall seemed far away and I was glad to have derived the image of the watchband knit from the plastic knit of the chairs. I was glad that I had actually slept the night before, that I had listened to the sounds of the February wind and cars on the road through the windows instead of poured over articles or statistics or read political graphs as I had in that state of combat.

The fights of the winter and fall seemed far away, and though to the sales-lady the bottle was a kid’s recklessness, though to my friend it was a handsome waste, I was grateful for its masculine cologne scent, deep and musky, which that week had manifested itself over the ridge of my collarbone and along the plateaus of my wrists as relief.