I Dream in Orange
My mother told me I should never wear orange. Orange was the colour of navvies’ jackets, plastic traffic cones and cheap sugary drinks, the tint of tinned fruit and kiss-me-quick hats. Not a colour for the respectable classes.
‘Orange doesn’t suit your skin tone,’ my mother said. ‘It’s too bold.’
I longed to be bold. I wanted to be like Auntie Margaret who ran a stall in Deptford market and went to Bingo, with a beehive hairdo, wrapped in tangerine chiffon and matching fake tan. Or like my friend, Kerry Keegan who lived in a tower block with nine barefoot brothers and sisters, all with ginger hair. They kept an Alsatian dog and bikes on the landing. Kerry had a pair of papaya hot-pants she’d nicked from Miss Selfridge.
I began to rebel, to let orange seep into my life. At night I dreamed I was swimming in Kia-Ora, eating Jaffa cakes with Buddhist monks. I bought a straw hat with marigolds in Margate and a clementine crocheted top which I wore to a party in Chatham where I met Gary. Gary worked on a river-boat. He was as bold as brass.
When he kissed me, an amber flame spread through my limbs, pulsing into each molecule. My skin blazed like the furnace in the engine room of Gary’s paddle steamer, the fire in the belly that drives the boat.
Gary bought me a lipstick called Last Tango which I used to draw hearts around my nipples. He tasted of honey and mandarins. I forgot my mother’s words. Orange is the colour of the sacral chakra, the colour of desire. I developed a rash from Gary’s ginger beard.
I was six-months pregnant on my wedding day. I wore an apricot, satin gown and hennaed my hair like Coco the Clown. We moved into Gary’s council flat in Southend and bought a sofa in Saharan Sunset with scatter cushions in saffron silk. I made marmalade, and pumpkin pie. Our son’s first shoes were orange Converse All Stars. We were blissful on our tenth floor balcony, peeling satsumas and looking out across the Thames estuary at the street lights shimmering like tiger lilies in the rain.
© Judi Sissons