It had its own space on one corner of the orderly desk. As the majesty of the Tetons is enhanced by the absence of foothills, the comedy of the point where it rested on the smooth walnut was unencumbered by smaller trinkets. A bland desk lamp illuminated the little round oddity, with its lunar peel and split navel covered in a foreign color, and removed all doubt as to what was sitting there; not a ball but a blue orange.
It was the product of an Saturday morning accident that involved an excitable dog, a cooler in the bed of a pickup truck, and an open gallon of Pacific Calm paint.
He originally placed it on the desk for himself, a little beacon of light-heartedness and the humor that occassionally bursts out of calamity. When the real orange began to slump with decay, he took the time to find and paint a polyfoam fake and put it back in the spot it had evidently earned. The concept fruit was here to stay. He would consult it during the workday, having made it a co-equal with a family photograph and motivational calendar. Each of these encouraging triplets had a crucial role here, since his work ensured that he would see troubled people at their worst. The painted fruit was certainly stranger than its desktop siblings, but it was also a better conversation primer and a more fitting representation of the luckless individuals who found themselves sitting in front of it. When they did, the blue orange and silence were a confusing duo.
Is that an orange? Why is it blue? Is that what it is? Is there other stuff like that around here?
Inevitably, they would stare and never touch. A few would ask. Some were more nervous than before because of it. It prompted some to check their surroundings. What kind of lunchbox did that thing come out of? He kept it there when he realized the degree to which it disarmed them, although the peculiar orange was more a comfort than a nuisance to these weary souls. Without a word of explanation, it told them that conflicts and contradictions, even oddities, have a prominent place in a world that most of them saw as orderly and oppositional. As surely as a misfit fruit can sit on this desk. You're looking at a blue orange. An orange can't be an orange if it is blue. But there it is, right here with you.
Difficult decades behind that desk had taught him that everything is an act of identity. The actions of the troubled souls who squirm in the chair behind a fake, painted fruit, and his own. The blue orange concurs. Bearing witness to angst in twisted shapes and adverse sizes had taught him that everyone alive is wrestling with identity, and very few grapple skillfully. Especially at first. Everyone is straining to create an identity. Or find one, Run from one to keep the shame out or defend one to keep some little morsel of esteem in. Perpetuate a persona when you feel sure of yourself and hide one one when you're not. Understand one on the days that you care and ignore the whole thing and the world when you don't. For most, daily life is a mysterious complex web, with sticky strands made up of troublesome identy issues and diverse and difficult circumstances bisecting them. Vertical doubts and horizontal dilemmas. He had spoken to a few people over the last thirty years who possessed a maturity and faith that allowed them to see a web as a safety net, but most just saw a trap.
Along the way, most are attempting to convince the world with loud or quiet means of an identity that they know is a farce, while life is tossing their DNA around before they have learned to wrestle well.
It was almost 2 o'clock. He sat down and looked at his watch to see how many minutes of silence and snacking he had left. He glanced at the picture of his family. The glass over the photo was washed in a blue reflection from the orange.