Irene fits people into her world like puzzle pieces made of color. Combines people like cooking spices, hoping to find the perfect blend of something that tastes like freedom but smells as sweet as home. For years, she’s drifted. Town to town, picking up men like matchbooks, hopping on the backs of their bikes, into their truck beds only to emerge smeared with mud or cow shit, or both. She never asked their names and gave them colors instead. Once, in a long stretch between Indiana and Kentucky, she named an entire month of men shades of blue. Like the water and sky the color dominates, Irene thought that if she named the nameless with tints of authority, maybe she’d be able to find her own.
Crossing over from Chicago into Indiana, Irene had been stuck in Gary for three days before Baby Blue Eyes appeared like a djinn and offered her a ride all the way to Lafayette. Ninety minutes and two spent condoms later, Irene found herself in the middle of Indiana, no closer to her goal of getting to the coast. After Triple B, she’d found her way closer and closer to the Carolinas with Azure (he was sweet, his hands rough from working the farm and his shoulders brick) Royal Blue (an asshole cop who choked her when he fucked her). In Kentucky, a band of biker brothers, Beryl, Cerulean, Catalina. They fucked her in turns, laughing. Irene shut her eyes to the world and after, when she discovered the pattern of blue black bruises that covered her ass and tits, she named those too. Near the end of the Kentucky line, she ran through the remaining shades the way men ran through her – making her royal, teal, sapphire.