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Orange, not clockwork

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, March 18, 2004

Look around you. You are in the dining hall getting ready to dig into your food, when something catches your attention. You see a few people around you – or maybe more than a few. “They’re orange,” you say to yourself. Bright orange. And whoever said that orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.

Look around you. Maybe you’re in class, surrounded by fifteen, or fifty, or five hundred fellow students, and again you can’t miss the orange glare emanating from a brave few – or perhaps, not-so-few. You look closer, and find a message you did not see before: “Gay? Fine By Me.” It shocks you for a moment. It shocks you, in fact, for more than a moment.

You’ve heard about these shirts: heard a whisper that something like this was coming. More than a thousand sold, someone said. You didn’t think they sounded too happy about it, but they were just walking by on the quad, so you weren’t sure. No one you know is wearing one, so you haven’t had to think about where you stand.

There were indeed more than a thousand sold.

But you do not see that many. In fact, right now, you only see one: the one on the girl who you usually sit next to. She’s smart, pretty, a good conversationalist; you even ate lunch with her at the dining hall once and were impressed by how many things she’s interested in. “But she’s gay?” you ask silently. Then you catch yourself. She’s just showing solidarity. She thinks she’s speaking out against injustice. But the thought keeps nagging at you as you steal glances all through class from across the room.

And now your classes are done for the day, and it’s home to your dorm. You know you have work to do, but there’s a good movie on cable and you have all night to get down to business.

And so you’re sitting there – relaxing, minding your own business – when your roommate walks in. A second later, it registers to you that his (or her) shirt is vividly orange.

With feigned ignorance you remark that she (or he) is looking bright today. Then the look on his (or her) face stops you.

“Is something wrong?”

“I’m gay,” your roommate says. “I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while.”

And flash through your mind disjointed thoughts, which pass before you can even attach words to them.

There’s no way … what about her boyf … that’s impossible … so that guy who …

But all you can stammer out is “That’s … that’s … fine by me.”

Is it?