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  • Writer's pictureLL Kessner

Orange Soap

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

I don’t hate orange any more.  If nothing else, this is evidence that deep change is possible.  Dr. Z asked me once what a temper tantrum looked like.  She meant this quite literally, and so after a time I answered, “I don’t know, but it’s orange.”  Thus we explored my myriad associations with the despised color, and I made a series of paintings called Temper Tantrums are Orange.

Temper Tantrums are Orange 2011

There was the orange shag carpeting in the living room of the house I grew up in (I remember its smell), and the thin painted detail on my bedroom furniture set, the fact that I often say, ‘purple,’ when I mean to say orange, and the cultural signification of road construction.  Then one day I opened the food processor I was using to shred carrots and I thought, “That is a pretty color.”  It was.  The shade was super vibrant and saturated, and the minute the thought passed through my mind, I also thought, “Who thought that?!”

I was nearly incredulous when I read that story I wrote as a teenager and noticed that “orange” is the singular visual adjective in the entire thing.  Even the discription of my bedroom is essentially diagrammatic.  Then there are the words, in blue pen on loose leaf paper from 1994, “an orange bar of half-used scented, glycerine soap”.  The bar of soap my father got from the bathroom that day really was orange.  I remember it clearly, but the soap did not make it into my inventory of bad orange things until I re-remembered it with the story.  It is certainly not my primary connection with the color.  I am fascinated though, by the symbolic strength of the color for me, the significance I had already given it at the point of writing the story, without realizing it.  I did not, in contrast, note the color of my father’s sweater (I could not tell you in a million years), or the taste of the soap (tangerine? honeysuckle? autumn spice?).

Most of the time, orange is a color to me now.  The bond between those specific wavelengths of light and the caged rage of my middle childhood has weakened.  “Road Work Ahead” signs only bother me relevant to traffic.

My father called me today, as he does on wildly varying occasion.  I did not answer, and I have no real intention of listening to the message; and while some subterranean disturbance echoed after I saw his number on my phone, my innards do not seem to be hitched to his interjections in the way they once were.

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