I Hate the Color Orange


The primary pigments of red and yellow unite to create the color orange. Orange is a common and beautiful color. Sunny days are book ended by a huge orb of orange that can make one feel awe at the sun’s consistent majesty. Marigolds and Monarch butterflies are eye-catching shades of orange. And of course, most people appreciate the bright, sweet, tangy fruit of orange trees. But I hate the color orange.

I do not own orange-colored clothes, and I do not plant orange marigolds in my garden. The sight of orange juice makes me nauseous. I am writing in a fine hotel room, full of every creature comfort imaginable. However, I tore the duvet off of my king-size bed, and tossed it in the closet because it was a deep shade of orange. The room’s curtains have vertical stripes matching the duvet, but I loathe the idea of being watched by strangers more than the offending color scheme, so I have no choice but to endure the awful drapes. To me, orange represents pain. I am not writing about the use of orange on traffic cones to signal caution or danger, or the myriads of other ways humans have adopted this glaring beacon of color to capture the attention of motorists, pedestrians, or even consumers. Orange affects me on a raw, visceral level.

My history with orange is one of tragedy. It is not easy for me to explain how my hatred of this harmless hue came about. However, I am compelled to share my story; and I hope you are able to bear my tale.

I am a thirty-five-year old man. Like most ambitious men, I waged many battles in my twenties to achieve success in a career that was ultimately joyless. I abandoned my job. It is more correct to say that I was forced to leave that part of my life behind. Nearly four years ago, my son was born, and my life took an unexpected, unfortunate trajectory. While I was engaged in the daily fight to establish the life I assumed I wanted, I buried a childhood episode deep within the recesses of my mind. Memories can be like scars. Wounds heal to form scars.  Scars leave an indelible reminder of the injury. Usually, the most severe wounds leave the worst scars. I wrongly assumed the wounds of my memories, including the worst one, had healed decades ago. No, I never forgot. The scar was always there.  I just thought that old memories, even ugly ones, would remain buried, especially as years of new experiences covered them like the prehistoric ill-fated dinosaurs buried by millions of years of sedimentary rock. I was woefully wrong. The birth of my son was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was also the moment that I became seized with terror. The stress of being his protector was a responsibility that scared me to my core. The dead dinosaurs of my subconscious were resurrected.

When I was seven, maybe eight-years-old, I was sexually molested. I detest that word. Molested. It can mean different things to different people. True, I am sure no sane person would claim that molestation has a positive connotation, but the word does not have the same gravity as the word “rape.” To be totally accurate, that is exactly what happened to me. I was raped. I was violated in a most horrific way. My abuser was a young, cruel man, who probably is heterosexual. But I will probably never know, and it does not matter. He was never punished for his brutal attack on me. He may have other victims, or a family of his own now. I do not know, and as far as my life is concerned at this point, it does not matter.

My mind plays the film of that incident as clearly as if it occurred yesterday. I was a small, skinny boy, with a gap-toothed smile. Like most children, I wanted to be liked, especially by those older than me. I will call my abuser “Tony.” Tony and his family were members of our church, and our families socialized often.  I wanted to be Tony’s equal. I envied his cockiness and masculinity. He was in his late teens, his voice had changed, he had hair on his face, and he used Brut deodorant. He was the epitome of what a “real boy” should be in my pre-teen mind. I guess I idolized him, and he knew it. While our parents were visiting with one another in the living room one evening, Tony invited me to his bedroom. “He likes me! He thinks I’m cool,” I thought. He closed the door behind us. Tony’s room reeked of dirty sneakers, the odor of a guy who was only vaguely familiar with soap and water, and the faint smell of urine. I close my eyes and I can see vividly the dingy striped blue and white mattress of his bed, uncovered by sheets; and dirty jeans, socks, and dress clothes clinging to the closet door knob, and strewn across the bare wooden floor. He talked about sports and girls, and I pretended I knew what his life was like. The local radio station played on his boom box. We talked about Madonna, Michael Jackson, and who the best on-air DJ’s were. And then, he wanted to play a game, and the nightmare began.

Tony convinced me that the game would be fun, our own secret game that he did not play with his friends. But all games have rules; it was his game, and he made the rules. There was a skinny, wrinkled, polyester orange tie on the floor. He decided he would use it as a prop. I allowed him to blindfold me with the stained, stinky orange tie; and he made sure it was bound tight. What followed was him pressing me on his sheet-less, twin bed, and forcing me to blindly stroke his penis. The moment was revolting; I did not know how to react.  Tony guided me in silence punctuated by his heavy breathing.  Then, he suddenly pulled away. There was an instant of stillness, the echoes of adult conversation and laughter beyond his room, and then I felt the air forced out of my lungs as my ribcage was crushed. Tony sat on my chest, grasped my head, and forced himself into my mouth. For all that I can remember there are some words I cannot recall. I am sure he used every expletive in his vocabulary because he cursed the entire time he was inside my mouth. Until this moment, I still have no idea what possessed him to do what he did. The worst was to come.

After a few minutes, he decided that it was time for the next phase of the game. He unknotted the tie from my head and straddled me, allowing me to gasp for breath. I saw that he was naked from the waist down. I was afraid as only a young child can feel fear. I could not move. I could not scream. I lay still, hoping it was over, and that my parents would never learn what just happened. Mom always told me that God saw everything, and I was convinced at this point that God would punish me eternally for what He just witnessed. I immediately decided it was my fault. I did, or said, something very wrong, and I had set us on this awful course. I began to cry because I felt alone, abandoned, filthy.

Tony called me a punk for crying. He said that I was acting like a girl. He was a diabolical psychological genius. His words stung like the prick of a needle on my eyeball. They had the effect he was hoping for because I stopped sobbing. He then wound the tie around his hand into a coiled cylinder. While I was still on my back, he stuffed the rolled-up tie into my mouth until my gag reflex stopped functioning involuntarily. Tony managed to pull my Spiderman underwear and blue corduroys off without taking off my socks and sneakers. He spat on his fingers, and stuck them inside of me. He pinned my legs behind my head to the bed, and pressed himself against me until he was inside me.

I believe in God. I believe that He allows us to leave our bodies during times of extreme physical, mental, and emotional trauma. That is what happened to me. The pain was blinding, yet I saw pinpoints of light in the blackness.  And then there was a miracle.  I was floating, almost flying above what was happening to my body. I was not trapped beneath a hateful man-child anymore. I observed what was happening as if I were a helpless spectator of an awful crime. I have no sense of time of the length of the assault. When it was over, Tony pulled the soaked, orange tie from my mouth. I found my clothes on the floor and dressed. I was crying again, shaking as if I walked barefoot through icy woods. He then did something that hurt more than anything he had done to my body or spirit up to that point: He laughed at me as if it had all been a gut-busting joke I was too stupid to understand.

Those are the things I remember in my night terrors over the past few years. I hear his laugh, smell his funk, and see that shiny, stained, smelly orange tie every night I manage to get to sleep. There is more to the story. I could detail the terrible way my parents learned what happened, and the embarrassing confrontation that followed so many years ago. Or I could tell of my breakdown and suicide attempt a few years ago, and how I became unable to function on the most basic level. There are the pills I have to take to force my body to relax that seldom work. My body flinches when someone innocently and accidentally brushes by me. I will save those accounts for another time.

Writing this does not make me feel better. My nightmares probably will not stop, at least not anytime soon. I will still guard the safety of my son like a lion protecting his pride. And I am not sharing this for any altruistic purposes. My mind is unquiet.  My soul is without peace. I want others to have an idea of the agony I live with daily. I could not save myself and I cannot save the world. Children will continue to be prey for monsters. But not mine.

Now you should understand why I hate the color orange. It literally makes me sick. It gives rise to feelings of grief, resentment, and even rage. But like I said, I believe in God. I will not burn the curtains in my hotel room, mow down my neighbors’ marigolds, or poison the beautiful Monarchs when they journey south to Mexico this autumn. And I trust God will forgive me when I watch the tangerine setting sun setting the sky ablaze, but my anger and bitterness only allow me to see red.

on 11/17/2009 11:10:03 PM
I can not imagine putting myself in your shoes. I wouldn't able to survive. You are one of survivors...God knows your heart very well and you don't need to ask him forgiveness to start with. Stop blaming youself, you were a victim. And you are also doing the right thing to protect your son despite your feeling. My husband is very over-protective to my children with strangers and their cousins probably because he might have been...I don't know. I was passing by your writing for last couple of days, feeling not so good about it. I am glad I read this because I hate to be blind to the truth anymore. I want you to know that I am nothing to do with your abuser who represents the color orange flattering around you. I don't want to be a butterfly that constantly aggravating you. God bless your heart and he has a great things for you.

Michele   Michele wrote
on 9/9/2009 6:16:14 PM
Wow--I only wish there were some kind of 'cure' for these terrible cruel things---your insomnia-writing is probably the best therapy. I've been through emotional wars, but have been spared this. I do know that ALL our life experiences make us who we are--if you had a more mundane life, maybe you would have 'never picked up a pen'!!! Your caring fatherhood shows you have overcome so much of this...so many many survivors of abuse have become evil themselves...your writing is truly a gift.

stet   stet wrote
on 7/25/2008 5:16:35 PM
You should read my piece titled untitled, we have something in common you and i. And yes, you were very brave for sharing this, i know once i told someone for the first time i was so embarrassed and ashamed after wards even though i know it wasn't my fault. But the worst life throws at us the stronger we become and the better we become. You will never be alone though, there will always be someone you can talk to who will understand. God will forgive you, because it wasn't your fault and when the day comes for you to go to his gates; and he will look at you and welcome you. While someone else is having to live with the torment he caused you burning up with it in flames.

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 7/24/2008 11:45:01 PM
Hoodiegirl is so right. I feel for you so much and my heart goes out to you then, and even more today. You had to live with this for years and that in itself is torture of the worst kind. But I see and admire you even more for you put this behind you and went on to be the great person you are today. May God be with you always.

Warriorprincess55   Warriorprincess55 wrote
on 5/28/2008 9:29:46 PM
P.S. And now I understand why you detest the color orange!

Short Story
writing jlew1973
"It could be better, but it's good enough."
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Rating: 8.3/10

This is an autobiographical account of a childhood tragedy. Originally, posted here in Apr 08, it was the result of sessions with my therapist, where I couldn't speak of what had happened. He suggested that as a writer, use that as my voice. It worked and I was able to move past a lot of the bitterness I felt at the moment I wrote it over a year ago. Now, my story is to be shared with other male survivors of abuse and I wanted to correct any errors that I overlooked while preserving my truth and the power of the story.
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Published Date
4/4/2008 12:00:00 AM
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