Sometimes the snow makes the whole city orange. The streetlights shine against the white and grey slush and the cloudy sky. The air seems orange itself, and the cars and buildings and parking meters all have halos from a distance. I remember one night when the city was orange. I remember biting my glove off to light a cigarette. Snow burnt through the taste of alcohol in my mouth. I felt the crunch of ice beneath my impractical high heeled boots.
I was too dizzy to determine whether the city was looking down on me, or I was looking up at it. I just remember everything feeling impossibly tall.
He was there. He looked at me without any real understanding; I wasn’t invested enough to object. Something about the way his beard was shaped just right stopped me from caring. He reminded me nothing would come of our casual outings when I finally got my cigarette lit and he cringed, and when he sucked in air every time I yelled “fuck” or “shit” in public.
That was all right. I needed to be part of something in a very insignificant way. I didn’t need to feel vital. I wanted to fade into the background and sleep until I was old enough to understand. In theory, I should have been old enough for five or six years by then. But I wasn’t. I kept waiting for completeness to wrap itself around me like a warm blanket in the blistering cold. It was always so cold…
But not cold enough to freeze that moment. I couldn’t save time to thaw it out later, when I wanted to experience loneliness in company again. He told me a girl left his bed after he failed to correctly state the color of her eyes without looking. I asked him what color mine were. Blue he said. I buried my face between his neck and pillow. I shut my brown eyes and didn’t bother to correct him. In truth, I didn’t know the color of his either. But he didn’t ask.
The orange city had grown silent. I looked out of the foggy window in his bedroom and wondered what the people in those other South Philly row-homes knew. Did they know how to live right? To act human? Did they enjoy the reality of romance or just the idea? Did they dream of fantastic things or the profane? Did they use the internet to find lovers and the best Indian food in town?
He stirred in bed. I felt lucky to be next to someone who looked so nice without their shirt on. Even if he scarcely had a clue who I was. I wasn’t the type he thought was his.