Most of the food was blue. They had put quite a lot of effort into it - there were Ritz crackers spread with a number of blue pastes (cream cheese, and possibly guacamole, but I didn't recognize the others), and dry-roasted peanuts now wet with a smeary blue food colouring that came off on your fingers; the surface of the baked potatoes was bluish and there was a blue cheese dressing to go on them, its natural blueness boosted by artificial means). They were served with a bowl of a stringy indigo substance that turned out to be braised red cabbage. 'There you are, you see,' Rob said, taking a swig of blue wine. 'This is what I mean about language and colour. There is probably only one really blue food in the world, and we call it red.'
'It is red, isn't it?' I said, lifting up a forkful or it. It was hard to be sure in the blue light.
'Not when it's cooked. Cooked red cabbage is definitely blue, and since it's usually cooked when you eat it, it's at least as appropriate to call it blue cabbage. If we called it blue cabbage that might conceivably help you to see it as it really is.'
'I thought it wasn't really anything. Isn't that essentialism?'
Rob shrugged. I didn't hear his reply. The room was dark and very crowded, and there were currents of people moving all round me, which made it hard to stand still for long. Even though I was managing that more or less, people kept getting in the way and I found I was being turned slowly until in the end I was facing in the wrong direction. There was a bass-heavy music coming from another room. We were somewhere in the North Slope (Rob had just followed the bass vibrations to get here), in a little arrangement of four rooms and a kitchen opening off a corridor. This was the kitchen, though it had been glamourized for the occasion by hanging blue cloths over the lights. The food and wine was laid out on the work surfaces on both sides of the room, so that you couldn't see all of it at once, and sometimes you couldn't see any of it at all, depending on the flow of people. I had half a blue potato plus the blue cabbage and blue dressing on a blue paper plate that buckled beneath them, and was trying to eat them with a blue plastic fork while holding a glass of the blue wine in my fork hand.
'Blue Nun,' a female voice said somewhere underneath my right armpit.
'Oh yes, very good.' But I never got to see who I was talking to, and perhaps the remark hadn't been addressed to me in the first place.
I realized I was very hungry, but eating was impossible. The fork wouldn't penetrate the potato even when I had room to move it, and the plate was in danger of collapsing every time I tried. I gave up and made an lunge for one of the work surfaces to put the plate down, but it just got further away, and before I could stop myself I was out of the door and standing uncomfortably in the corridor between two rows of people seated on cushions with their backs pressed against the wall and their knees drawn up. The cushions were of the large square chair-seat variety and there was only about six inches of institutional crewcut carpet between them. There was no light here except the blue glow from the open doorways of the other rooms, and it would have been difficult to make my way between the knees and feet and cushions even if dozens of other people had not been trying to do the same thing. What was I going to do when I got rid of the potato? Talk, dance, listen to the music? There seemed to be rooms for each of them, but no one to do any of them with. It was as if fifty or sixty people, with their eating, drinking, love-lives and conversations had been broken into fragments and the challenge was to put at least one of them together again in the blue, throbbing maelstrom.