I like orange so I started with orange. There was no plan, no vision of a completed work — just a fondness for orange. I muscled my way through the paint tubes in my father-in-law’s paint case and grappled out a wrinkled tube of orange. The label read “Hansa Orange”, which confused me for a moment. Perhaps it wasn’t orange. I unscrewed the top of the tube and looked down. Yep, orange. Why in the hell did they have to confuse me with “Hansa”?
I squeezed the bright paint into the bottom of an old Cool Whip container and reflected on it. It glistened there like some small alien turd and I decided if I were to ever encounter an animal that could shit like that, I would worship it as a god. Until then, I would add water.
My painting experience is minimal. However, I have at least learned water should be added to the paint if you want it to drip. How much water to add is not in my brain yet. So I needed to experiment. This day I think I added too much water. The paint dripped well and dried fast. That was nice. But it didn’t dry with the opaqueness I was hoping. It dried with a tissue translucence I feared would allow too much of the subsequent layers to show through. I dripped another layer of “Hansa” orange and vowed to use less water next time.
Arms on my hips, I gazed out over the property that had become my life for the last few months. A home foreclosure last fall and a bankruptcy filing the following spring had left my wife and I on the edge of an abyss. My in-laws invited us to move in with them on their five-acre property because they were too old to keep it up and were in danger of losing it if they didn’t get some help. My wife and I would have done it even if we had more attractive options than homelessness. The property is in a rural area, nestled between vast acres of blueberry farms. The house sits on high ground surrounded by a manicured lawn which eventually gives way to rows of grape vines and a small orchard of various fruit-bearing trees, including peach, nectarine, pear, and apple. It was the nectarine tree that caught my eye as I waited for my orange to dry. It was heavy with gold and red globes.
I remembered how embarrassed I was to lose my home and file for bankruptcy. I remembered just a few short days ago I was told that I would soon be let go from the only job I’ve had the entirety of this millennium. I remembered the hundreds of thousands of dollars of school loans I needed to repay from law school and that I had failed the bar exam twice in the past year by only two points each time. I remembered that I was growing old.
And then I remembered the nectarines.
I strolled over to the tree and picked off a nice, ripe one that hung in front of my face. I bit into it. Whatever sweetness I missed trickling down my throat, I enjoyed dripping over my chin. And then I remembered that all those other things people usually count as bad luck or bad choices didn’t matter. Too much debt and too much water didn’t matter.
What mattered was this moment, this nectarine in my mouth, and my Hansa Orange drying in the sun.