I’m in an orange stage of life.
What it means, I’m not exactly sure, but I find myself accidentally or half-consciously or intentionally under the influence of orange. It fringes my days, creeping into my mind and coloring my mood with a burnished self-consciousness.
It started last year when my company gave me a laptop case that was grey – grey with a bright orange fringe. Everyone else’s case was all grey, neutral grey. Well that’s a little loud, I thought, might look a little weird with my conservatively toned briefcase and suits. I used it anyway.
Then came my buddy’s wedding. He got us black watches for groomsman gifts – sleek black Stuhrling watches that each came in a bright orange rectangular box. I liked the watch. I was taken with the box. I set it squarely on the dark wood of my desk. It was interesting, a flamboyantly arresting rectangle that overshadowed its conservative centerpiece.
Next it was the Japanese koi fish curtains. They were floor to ceiling fabric, 8 feet long, like $59 from CafePress or something – I don’t really remember. The timing of their purchase loosely aligned with my hitting my quota last year – it’s your reward for all that sales funnel nonsense, I told myself. Actually I just had this ugly open closet bulging with unsightly plastic totes and twisted coat hangers that pained my eyes every time I reached for a collared shirt. The curtains were artsy, tattooish with tentacles of stylized coral and ornate sea flowers that caressed a curve of fish scales that partitioned into tail, head, and dorsal fin every time I opened and closed the drapes. They were orange – rust colored really, but with the watch box sitting on my desk and my laptop case flung loose somewhere on the floor, they extended the copper aura – now the faded bare brick of my bedroom wall too seemed to emit an embered radiance, a glowing sunsetty hue.
The thing with Mireille Darc’s face was just weird.
When she died in 2017 a picture of her from some 1960s photo shoot popped up in my news feed. I was transfixed. Blame multiple glasses of late-night wine, but it had me – that ridiculous blond bob, the perfection of her nose and teeth in an unsmiling split of expression. Mostly it was her eyes – the profundity with which they pulled sharply to the left of my life through a heavy soot of mascara. I had to have it.
All the prints and posters were of her and Alain Delon and that famously low bare-backed, velvet dress from her signature movie – none of this particular image, the one that I wanted.
I think it was 2am when I succumbed, printing it out on a piece of 8.5 x 11 paper. Maybe it was because the ink cartridge was low, or I hit the wrong printer setting, but the black and white picture came out psychedelic, her whole visage flooded peachy, air-brushed mysteriously tangerine. Even Mireille. Orange.
It didn’t stop. About every third time I shop at Trader Joe’s I pick up some sweet snack, a dessert – usually something with ice cream but occasionally straight candy. I got something different the other day as I was shuffling toward the check out line. Opened them when I got home after dinner sitting down at my desk. I didn’t think about it at all until then – dark chocolate orange sticks. The bag’s brown blended with the dark cherry of my desk. The orange slices picked up a strip of bronze sapwood and every other faintly dusky nuance of what has come to be my ensemble. What the hell.
My life is orange.
Over the weekend I gave in to it – being under the influence I mean. I bought an office chair, a garishly orange Alston leather office chair. It was expensive, a classic model that would look sleek and stylish – except that it’s bright orange. They had options – black, grey, a tasteful oaky brown that complemented the teak tones of my desk legs and dark bookshelves. No – screw it. I bought the orange one.
Now I sit in a leather nest of napalm. I recline against a toxic tiger with wheels. I feel one with the carrot and sympathize with the orangutan. I think I’ll fall fantastically in love with a red-head before spring (because they’re really orange-heads).
Orange is chemical. It’s other. It sits somewhere between fresh blood and a dandelion. It’s the poison dart frog of the color wheel and the heart of the artificial and absurd.
It’s the California poppy’s troubled perfection and South Beach’s kitschy creamsicle, Espanola Way. Orange is a disturbing kind of weird, like a Jack-O-Lantern’s toothy smile and the shrieking howls of bombs landing in Vietnam rice paddies. It’s the punk rocker’s spiky hair and the papaya’s sickly fruit. Orange is the fiery death of daylight over the sea and the curious color scheme of my life.
I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in birthstones or black cats, zodiac signs or Friday the 13th – none of that stuff, but the Empire State Building’s spire was lit up orange the last time I went for a freezing run through the East River park. And LP’s Heart to Mouth album that I’ve been listening to on loop all month? – the cover art is her in a full orange suit against a bright orange background. Hell, even these frozen mango chunks in a bowl by my keyboard…
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.” – Oh but I do, John Lennon, I really do.