‘Only Orange’ by Camille Bordas

Only Orange by Camille Bordas, 2019

The magic trick:

The bravery required to write a story centered around a narrator whose character flaws are the main point

Our narrator in “Only Orange” isn’t working very hard to make you like her. Which makes me like this story. Very much.

She’s got tunnel vision. She’s negative. She’s petty. She spends most of her time during the first few pages complaining about her brother’s new girlfriend. When we find out more than halfway through the story that she is the mother to an elementary-aged child, it’s almost a punch line. Probably should be thinking and speaking a bit more of that situation, rather than be so locked in on judging your brother.

But of course, that’s the whole point.

And that’s quite a trick on Bordas’s part.

The selection:

All I said was that she must like beige a lot. I was trying to put my finger on why I disliked her so much. Audrey. My brother’s new girlfriend. I thought maybe it was the different shades of beige she’d been wearing all week.

“You must really like beige,” I said, and she said: “What do you mean?”

“Your pants,” I said, “your shirts—all beige. Or . . . oatmeal, maybe.” “Oatmeal” sounded less aggressive. I’d been told I was a little mean at times, in my choice of words.

“My pants are green,” Audrey said.

“Jeanne is right,” my brother said, and it was the first time he’d agreed with me all year. “Your pants aren’t green, babe.”

Just like that, Audrey found out that she was color-blind.

She spent the rest of our family vacation (a ten-day biennial endeavor in the south of Spain) pointing at different things. “And what color is that?” she’d ask.

My parents thought it was so interesting. Especially because they could give Audrey clear answers, present themselves as experts on something they’d never really thought twice about.

“Why, Audrey, this is orange,” my father would say, and he’d describe orange, trapped between yellow and red—he’d talk about sunsets, the fruit, quote Henri Bergson, tell her that maybe orange was the only color there was, in the end: “There’s just so much to say about orange. I’d never really thought about it.”

“The things you take for granted,” my mother added.

I thought Audrey was faking it. How could you make it to twenty-six and not notice that you were color-blind? She needed to be the center of attention, is what I thought. My brother was a painter. Had they never talked about color?

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