In elementary school, it swam in the mandarin cups I always had to open with fear of a fructose geyser; in middle school, it waited in the row of essie cubes at the nail salon where it was a privilege to count the rings on bamboo plants as strangers used soaped pumice to disturb my feet. Tart deco. Clambake. Playing koi. Mark on Miami. Canyon Coral. Braziliant. Peach side babe.
I did not understand the essie names then, but now, as I peruse similar titles contained lip-gloss cylinders at Target, I type the sad little witticisms into my iPhone notes, thinking of writing a short story about a graduate of Princeton or some school of equal caliber following up trips to a beautiful Tiffany-glassed pub emailing such phrases to his manager at Lancôme or Cover Girl; I shudder inwardly in the fluorescent-lit aisle at the all-too-real prospect of my having to resort to such a job myself.
Orange, I think, is the color of Goldfish, which I was only allowed to have on the gym floor on Fridays, the color of the New England I left behind except in pressed leaves and foliage-abundant postcards of the Red Lion Inn, Cohasset, MA, the color in the ponytail of my sister’s same-name friend with thinner legs and a spattering of freckles. Orange is pumpkins I carved sloppily but with good intent and the box belonging to the Nike free-runs I bought in 7th grade, the monarch butterflies we printed from the Internet and taped up in our classroom back when the hour spent in recording and analyzing the natural world still required no designation beyond ‘science.’
The creamsicle color of my youth, however, has run off into warped, postmodern poolings I would not have recognized from the porch where I licked the dessert from eight-year-old knuckles. Now orange is the traffic cone I tripped over on my auto-course to Starbucks Monday afternoon. Now orange is the the skin of the citrus orbs my sister, in white peasant blouse and cut-off jean shorts, drove two hours in our slate colored Honda pilot to pick in bags on a trip for which I hadn’t the required voucher of spare time.
Now the color reminds me of the concepts we learned out of photocopied philosophy packets in honors English, in the routines my father, in his plaid J-Crew pajama pants and life-worn slippers seeks each day anew from the oatmeal colored carpet of his office and our basement floor. I think of reincarnation, because that’s what the color has done: returned to me in a new and solidified form.
Orange is now a dream incarnate: the lettering in the Princeton sweatshirts I own, three black Champion crewnecks bought in yearly secession, identical except for severity of wear, in two short-sleeved and one long-sleeved gray Champion t-shirts, on one hat, one pair of Nike dryfit shorts and a knit pullover.
It is contained also the mascot, a plush, catfish-whiskered tiger I rescued from a thrift store shelf and a $2 price-sticker in fluorescent green and revalued for much more; it is the information packet staring back at me from the metal bin on my desk, the cheap plastic pen--our small reimbursement for the mid-July tour on which the cookie we’d carried in a sleeve from the cafeteria had sweat semisweet chocolate--which cohabits with utensils of more reliable ink in my backpack’s front pocket.
Some might call my constant proximity to the color obsessive. My phone screensaver--an image of me, alongside a friend and a stack of pumpkins, smiling hugely in junior year’s of the three black Champion crewnecks with a cup of coffee in hand--supports such a theory. But as much as the expansive wall of white teeth might look supportive of the arched chest lettering matching the gourds piled beyond my right arm, beneath the grin the careful observer can discern in the cheekbones a longing for creamsicles dripping rorshawk onto porch wood, in the distance of the eyes a want for appreciation for the black and purple which is no more and no less than that given to the orange glitter-glue-edged bats which spin at Halloween in the dentist’s office doorways.
Orange is a dream incarnate, but it it is also the underbelly of that dream, which is an anxiety, a feeling those bats--whipped by opening doors and arbitrary air conditioning--were they animate would know and suffer, which is a vulnerability to and fear of external forces over which you have no control.
Orange is that I forgot revitalization when I drink Tropicana. It is that last Thursday as my sister pulled Hermes-hued Himalayas from the citrus shell, I lamented the pulp and picked at the pilling in the sleeve of my Champion crewneck at the place where the Pokemon-invocative logo met my wrist. It is that while Wikipedia’s definition of the word “reincarnation” states that this derivation of Latin which means “entering the flesh again,” I think how it will be eight to nine months before I’ll be able to re-insert my teeth into citrus, self-picked or otherwise.