I go to the pool to see her. The orange girl. I call her this because she is. The unreal color of fruit.
I live in a building that is as big as a block. It used to be a factory, I guess. It is full of people with very small dogs. The halls are long and clean and smell like dog shit.
In the pool I float on my back. The water is so chlorinated that when I shower it off afterwards my eyes burn from the run-off. I float on my back in the pool in the south and look at the sky.
There are cats that live in the courtyard. Eight of them. A ninth showed up last week but there are only ever eight piles of food, so. The last cat is black and white. Larger. Everyone knows he’s not meant to be here.
On my back I see a too blue sky. There is dark around the edges. I am pleased by it and worried. The darkness and rumbles. If I don’t see the girl. Whose name is probably Jenna. Straight hair in a straight cut. The word which looks so much like another.
The room I live in is painted red. Or ochre. I don’t know. It’s a deep fake color not like any fruit, not exactly. I look like a small bird in the room. Or feel like one, surrounded by cats. Waiting to be eaten.
There are pitter-patters all the time. Rain, small dog feet. The sounds of marbles being rolled back and forth, a floor above. When I go to sleep, I can hear a sheet of water sloshing back and forth above me. I know it is a toilet flushing but imagine a room two inches deep with clear water. There are no dogs here, or cats. A golden fish which never shits or dies.
I see a sky with a horrible sheen. It comforts me to know the danger. Coming. If I pressed myself against the hard jet of water.
Alone in my room I wear a long dress. The girl is surely at work. I am not, do not, am not. A small pain pinches off my left hip. An egg. I go to the pool to see.
I need a horrible sky but here there is not. When I hear the dogs and rain I miss the up-there, its predictable cool. I step into the water, float into the water, water down the day with a wet wrath. My hair in a matted wreath about my empty head.
The building is all exposed brick and long legs. I-beams jut out of the walls, what pretense. Of course this is what won me to it. In the absence of the real, the rusted copy. But the appearance of life just deadens, no, deadpans.
See her walking. Unbearably. Little spikes cobbling over the street. But her eyes are grey and this becomes brighter.
The cats know me. They don’t know me. After a month of watching rain fill the little bowl I leave out. Of squatting on the ground. Of moving snails out of water swells. One cat comes close. What’s called tortoise-shelled, but really is the color of mixing chocolate and woody moss, different dilutions of milk in ruddy coffee, a burning and churned. Coming close to see and moving snails I name her Iris Rainbow and crush one under my wobbling street cleats. An accident.
In the water she sits on a brick ledge and gasps. Her breathing. My own room is ruddy too.
For days. Days through which I am quiet. Gasping. Days rasp forwards. For days I watch the water.
The day I will tell about is this. She came. Orange Jenna in her pink bikini. She shines with water though she is not wet. I am on my back, looking at the blue sky, not hating it. O.J. watches nothing but grows. She crooks her long arm around to unhook the pink neck.
In another life I am biking alongside the river. A real place. Each block rising as high as humanly possible. Just as high as possible. The buildings there fill with little dots and paint over. Sometimes I go high into the sky with that paint. See other buildings and the thickest water gilding deeply.
In this one her back dips so uniformly. Iris Rainbow speckles the brick. Down here we are fake orange. Colored in.
Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012), and The Buff (The Cupboard, 2011). Her writing has been featured in the Best New Poets and Best American Poetry anthologies. Born and raised in New York City, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is a teaching artist.