Mitchell is no fool, knows his color palette. The reason he asks is because the color is translucent and always changing, so it looks different when the sun hits it directly versus when it glints off building windows versus the busses versus when it blinks out in the shade of tree leaves as we pass from the cobblestone street into the park.
The color, at its base, is beige, but has a pearlized veneer of blue-green flecks so tiny they aren’t even flecks but aren’t a gloss either. It’s distinctly unglossy. It’s opalescent like the under side of a seashell, and kind of dingy that way too. Mitchell likes it. Because, he explains, still turning a finger of mine in his hand, examining like it were a diamond under a monocle, because, when I hold it just right and the light gets it, and its really at its greenest, it is Celeste Green. Do you know about Celeste Green? I do not.
Celeste Green is the official color of Bianchi bikes, an Italian racing bike company founded in 1885. It is the world’s oldest bicycle-making company still in existence, having pioneered the use of equal-sized wheels with pneumatic rubber tires. Bianchi produced cars and commercial vehicles from 1900 to 1939 as Autobianchi, though that business was sold to Fiat; and motorcycles from 1897 to 1967. Bianchi bicycles can cost over $10,000. They are very stylish, too. The Celeste shade has changed over the years, sometimes more blue, sometimes more green…
He goes on about the color, citing royal crests, the sky in Milan, the color of the queen’s eyes, military paint.
I listen and watch my fingernails change like fish scales. Because I know greens but don’t know Celeste, I have to decide to which angle and which shade he is referring. I choose the brightest iteration of green that I can see—a muted neon. It’s almost childlike in its unyielding greenness but has a flashy maturity that belongs on stage. I am sure this is what he is talking about when he says Celeste. I silently congratulate myself on my intuitively great taste. But, as soon as I catch a glimpse of this shade, it’s gone and becomes Tiffany blue, or Robin’s Egg, or turquoise, or sometimes just shell. At this point, we are deep into the park. We are finding a place to put my blanket.
We talk about Celeste being a sexy name for a woman. We talk about the color of the water in the Mediterranean—he says turquoise, but I still think it was sea foam. It felt like champagne. I remember us holding hands under water. I remember an unusual tide trying to thrash us but we dove under, glided over, pushed ourselves in wholly, remained. In the park, on the blanket, now, his hand is under my long skirt and no one can see exactly what is happening. I run a fingernail down his chest. His phone rings but he doesn’t answer.
* * *
The next day we are back in our office not being anything. I still haven’t confirmed Celeste green, but resist the urge to look it up. When I want to see Celeste, I just look at my fingernails and move them around under the fluorescent light and try to hold on to exactly which color I think it is. We make eyes so briefly as he walks by.
I also don’t look up Celeste green because I don’t want him to see me looking it up. That would be gauche. We call our spouses after lunch. I wonder if I will ever change my nail polish again. The girl who sits next to me catches me looking at my nails and says, Nice polish…opalescent.
What’s nice about translucence is what’s nice about lace is what’s nice about Mitchell and I—it’s there and it isn’t at the same time. It’s nice to have it and not have anything. It’s nice if you don’t show everything. That it can be examined forever and never completely parsed. When I finally cave, in the privacy of my own home, I find Celeste green to be matte and mintier than I expected. Less sparkling, more practical, sweeter. An agreeable, long term color befitting a European bicycle. I look hard under my table lamp light and realize yes, there is a definite Celeste hue. Celeste is a steady, reasonable vector that defines this intangible wash that sits over a basic beige that colors my finger tips. Celeste is what he is saying but not what he’s talking about. It is not the alien neon tinge that reveals and disappears, that keeps my fingers turning in his.
Mitchell says Celeste but sees something sexier that’s made by the light and dies in the light. And when he’s inside me saying my name over and over and over, I don’t have to wonder what it is about me, but what isn’t. An unusual tide into which we throw ourselves wholly, and name it later.
AUDRA V. PACE is a writer, advert creative director, and aerialist in the only city where it is possible to be all three of those things–New York. Her work has appeared in SugarMule, READ Magazine, Attache, The SLC Review, and across a few billboards in Times Square. She studied writing at Sarah Lawrence College and believes in storytelling by any means necessary. She is working on a collection of essays temporarily titled The Fraud That I Am, and is obviously a Gemini.