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WORDS

ERIK NEISH

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Chris/Lauren.

Chelsea hardly ever crosses Christopher’s mind these days. On the off chance though, he thinks it polite to send her a quick note.

He recalls their last afternoon together, nearly a decade ago. Chelsea had planned to stay behind in London while the young Christopher was set to fly across the Atlantic. He had asked for her hand, a proposal to make him the happiest man on earth. Her eyes had been brimming with tears.

Then, a whimper. “Chris,” her eyes, still streaming, “no.”

It was a searing pain across his heart. But, she wasn’t finished.

“…You are too ugly for me.”

“No I am not.”

“But you are, Chris,” Chelsea examined his face. “Your eyes desperately want to dive off your face. Your nostrils constantly glare at me,” she squinted at his nose, “and they’re shaped like cashews.”

“You lie. I am very handsome.”

“Your lower lip lingers too close to your chin.”

“Have you met Steve? He’s very ugly.”

“Your cheeks look as though they want to suffocate your nose.”

“Or Andrew? Oh he is repulsive!”

“Goodbye Chris,” she said, kissing him lightly before walking away.

Older and wiser today, Christopher scours the web. It is due time he sent Chelsea a greeting, and he settles on a suitable image. This evening, the chosen face exhibits a paltry moustache set against spotted cheeks that dropped down, melting into its own neck.

This email went like most other email greetings. Blank, except for the picture of an ugly man – uglier than he, Christopher Latimer.

Lauren Grouch is obsessed with orange. She loves the way the mouth is forced to form, just to say the word. She adores the surprise, Oh! Only to have it soothed by the deeper and elongated raaange. She is intrigued by the way it is said in different countries: anaranjado, sinaasappel or オレンジ. But she prefers languages that spell similar to their English counterpart: orange in French, or Orange in German. Every skirt, blouse, jacket, jumper found inside her wardrobe is orange. Each pair of trousers, socks, and pants, neatly folded, are coloured orange. She eats them too. No, not her clothes. Oranges. She declares orange to be attention’s careful lover. It tells a cautionary tale. It guides a traveller, and beams from afar. To be engulfed in it is to be warm. Ohraaaange. Meanwhile she hates the rival shade: Yellow. While equally loud in tint, Lauren reads a more sickening statement from yellow: Jaundice. Bile. Pus. The vulgarity doesn’t end there. She is perplexed by the colour’s attachment to a shamefully shaped fruit. Lauren acknowledges being physically possessed by a colour is perceived as bizarre, so she lies to her family, friends, and co-workers. She informs them that what they see is a natural tan; She had just returned from a beach holiday beneath the glorious Spanish sun and its orange (!) skies.

But the tall tale oft becomes a problematic trail when Lauren doesn’t allow enough time for the orange paint to dry…