I Am Wearing That Green Shirt That Shows My Nipples
[wpaudio url=”/audio/september11/lamb.mp3″ text=”listen to this story” dl=”0″]
She spends the whole day stripping off the wallpaper. The curls of pink form into sticky wet mounds on the floor. The pale strips are stuck with bits of glue. They look like fading flesh pieces that peel off on band-aids.
Some strands come off easily, ripping, still dry, shredding into long loose ribbons. Some bits must be chipped at by digging away with the nubs of her nails. This used to be a room for someone else’s little girl. One wall of the room has been plastered up twice, a new pattern put over the old. The pink wallpaper droops down to reveal its inner layer, which is powder blue, the shade for little boys.
She tries to choose the paint. She tapes all her color cards up to the wall. She holds her laptop at an angle. She says, which one do you like?
He says, I like those shades of yellow, both the dark one and the light.
She says, that isn’t yellow, though. That card is white.
She sees him for the first time later that night. She sees him for the first time in a bar somewhere. There’s nowhere else she wants to go. There’s nowhere else she’d think to see a man who looks like that. It doesn’t matter what he looks like though.
She doesn’t approach him. She peels the label off her bottle. She peels the label off one letter at a time.
You doing all right there? The bartender asks. She nods, not looking at him.
All the many colored lights bleed into one, gray and throbbing, convulsing, dumb music, dumb people, and dumb dimly colored lights.
What are you wearing? He says.
She says, I am wearing that green shirt that shows my nipples.
Oh, he says, that sounds hot. Which green shirt?
The one that shows my nipples. It’s a tank top with a deep V.
Have you worn it around me? He says.
She says, I wear it all the time.
What color green? He says.
Deep green, she tells him. Vivid.
Kelly Green? He asks.
She tells him, no. Not Kelly. It is more like Sea Green, sort of, she explains.
Like Ocean Green, she adds, like this will help him.
I thought the ocean wasn’t green, he says. The ocean’s blue.
Like River Green, she says.
But you can see the nipples? He says, picturing her nipples.
Yeah, she says, the shirt is see-through if I’m not wearing a bra.
Are you wearing a bra now? He says as he pictures a bra, but not her nipples.
She takes her bra off. No, I’m not, she says.
She goes back to the bar. It is throbbing again and the man is still looking the same. She stares, and he sees her there staring, and smiles because she looks okay.
He tells her, hi.
She tells him, hi.
He tells her, I’ll buy you a drink.
She says, no, I’m not thirsty right now.
I could buy you some food, if you want some, he says.
I’m not hungry, she tells him.
Not even some chips? He asks.
No thanks. No, thank you, she says.
They have BBQ chips. Have you had them? He says.
No, she says.
Oh. Well, they are like BBQ sauce.
In a crisp form, he adds, and she nods.
He says, oh.
She says, yeah. I’m not hungry. I’m sorry.
He says, look, and she looks at him, at last. The lights pulse through the colored circles of her eyes.
He says, do you believe in signs?
She shakes her head.
Well, he says, that green shirt is telling me we are going to fuck.
She lies on her back on the floor and looks up at the ceiling. She tries to imagine the walls of the room in pale yellow, pale blue, and pale green. She just sees white. She can’t imagine anything but white. She closes her eyes and thinks harder and harder, imagines she’s painting the room. She stands back to evaluate her work. The room is still white. She feels stupid. She feels like that dumb joke about God or something, God and the painter who paints a blank God, a blank canvas.
She picks up her pencil and thinks she will write something funny on the wall. She draws a stick man. Then she runs out of ideas.
The normal looking guy is still there at the dumb bar where he is always supposed to be. He approaches her there. He is friendly this time, having failed already.
You’re wearing that green shirt again, he says.
She nods. He says, what’s with that shirt? It shows your nipples.
She says, yes, I know. That is the point.
He says, why show your nipples if you don’t want to fuck anyone?
It is a green shirt, she says. I just like the color.
He nods. Yeah, the color’s good.
I like the color, she says. It just happens to be a shirt that shows my nipples.
Oh, come on, he says.
It’s true, she says. The color is important.
He says, I think I get it now. The color is important. Your nipples are pink, and the shirt is green, making your nipples a color and less of an object.
She squints at him. She has just noticed that he has a face.
Complimentary colors, he says. She just glares at his pores.
His face is bobbing at her from behind the laptop screen. The ceiling fan cuts through the background in slower than real live time. I want to see the room, he says. She walks the laptop to the room.
The walls are white, he says. She shakes her head.
I can’t decide, she says. I just can’t see it in my mind.
It doesn’t matter, he says. Pick a color. You will see.
She says, but what if I don’t like the color when I pick it?
Just make yourself commit, he says. Then you will probably make yourself like it.
She puts the green shirt on to paint in. She paints messily on purpose. She gets paint spots on her nipples where the pink was showing through.
The room is done, voila. She stands back to admire her work. She stands back in the way she tried to stand in her imagination. She feels light and airy. Her space in the room was not really thought out. The color, of course, and herself, and her shirt, and the time and the place is all totally wrong.