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Words and Colors
The rain falls harder and harder, hitting the roof above me in bursts of pink and red. People always tell me that the sound of rain should be blue or grey since that’s what rain looks like. I never understood what they were talking about as a child. Sure, rain looks blue, but I’m talking about the sound of rain, not the physical appearance. Those two things aren’t really related.
I stare at the ceiling, worrying, listening to the rain. The rain comes down so hard now, there is very little red and mostly pink. The sound of snoring mingles with the rain, covering me in its strange greenish sound sprinkled with the blue of my husband’s voice and the rust of the dog’s. Most people think I see just words and noises but it’s so much more than that. I see every sound I hear. Just like most people can hear the voice of a friend and know who it belongs to, I see the voice of my husband and know whose it is. Every word he says not only has its own color, but the distinctive shade of blue I’ve come to recognize as his.
At the age of 7, I was sent to the principal’s office for cursing at a teacher. I explained that I wasn’t being rude; I heard the word on T.V. and was attracted to the golden shimmer. My parents were advised to take me to see a doctor. After doing many tests, the doctors diagnosed me with synesthesia and explained to my parents that there was nothing actually wrong with me; the wires in my brain are just connected in ways that most people’s aren’t. It’s a genetic condition and although I’ve done extensive research into my family history, I’ve yet to find the person from whom I inherited it. I know for sure none of my living relatives has it, which gives me hope. Maybe synesthesia skips several generations. In my husband’s family, however, I find less hope. David has number form synesthesia, which is not one the traditional forms, while his mother shares my sound color synesthesia and David’s aunt and great uncle both have grapheme color synesthesia. Which means that any child we have has a large chance of inheriting synesthesia from us. Which is why I’m lying awake in my bed at 4:32 in the morning. I’m worrying. Worrying about our potential future child. Worrying about our appointment with the genetic counselor today. Worrying that I’m doing the wrong thing.
Gently, so as not to wake David, I slide my feet over the edge of the bed, easing out from under the lilac bedspread, almost the exact color of “wish” but with a tinge of “dream.” My feet sink into the plush carpet, the same grey as the turn of a page. I pad softly into the kitchen and flip on the light. A faint scarlet buzzing fills the air. I’ll need to change the light bulb soon.
Chester, my ill-named female cat, mews softly over her calico paws from her perch on the top of the cabinet. Pale yellow.
“Sorry, Ches,” I murmur. “Did I wake you up?” The colors of my words are speckled with the cyan I associate with my own voice. I open the fridge with a sticky dark orange sound. The soft brown hum of the fridge comforts me for some reason. I pull out a half gallon of milk and reach down to open the cabinet door. The door, mahogany like the “hmmm” made walking into a warm kitchen full of chocolate chip cookies, opens with a funny olive creak and I grab a saucepan. I carefully pour the milk, watching as the initial splash makes a pink so similar to the still-pouring rain, I can hardly distinguish between the two, and fades to the soft red of moving liquid. I turn on the stove, placing the pan on the left front burner as quietly as possible.
Chester jumps down and sticks her nose dangerously close the stove. I scoop her up and sit on the counter with her in my lap. She kneads my thighs, sending pinpricks of pain up my legs, and begins to purr.
A purr is unlike any other sound on the planet. It’s a purple sound, but it constantly changes shades, never settling on one. It moves from orchid to violet to mulberry to amethyst to mauve within seconds.
I sit, so focused on the beauty in front of me that I almost miss the magenta of the milk boiling. I hurriedly move Chester aside, reaching for a potholder the same lime green as an excited scream. Setting the pan on the potholder with a muffled tan thump, I wait for the milk to cool enough to be drinkable. Chester sniffs cautiously and I move her to the floor.
Once the milk has cooled a little, I pour it into a glass for me and a bowl for Chester and move to the table, the same mahogany as the cabinets.
“C’mon, Ches,” I whisper. She follows me and jumps first on a chair and then on the table. She delicately begins to lap at the milk I’ve set before her with a reddish sound, not unlike the now softly falling rain.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Cats are lactose intolerant” My husband comes up behind me, wrapping his tanned muscled arms around me and laying his dark head against my frizzy copper hair. “You’re going to give that cat indigestion.”
I smile listening to his voice.
“Ches loves milk. It never hurts her stomach.”
“Just you wait and see”
We’ve had this argument so many times we both have our parts memorized. The only reason I even respond anymore is just to keep him talking. Out of all the voices in the world, my husband’s is the most beautiful. I often tease him, saying I only married him for his voice. It’s an indigo blue, a dark sapphire, the color of the sky after the sun’s set but before it’s night, the color of twilight.
Now it caresses me as his hands gently massage my shoulders.
“So what are you doing up anyway?” He asks.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I mumble.
“Thinking about the appointment?”
“Yeah. David, are we doing the right thing here? I mean, sure, we can guarantee our child a healthy life, a normal existence, but what about the embryos that aren’t perfect? Can we just throw them away?”
“I don’t know.” He replies softly. “Maybe this isn’t the way to go about this. Who are we to play God? Maybe we should just accept the child we get.”
“And I would almost agree with you. Most of the time I consider this a blessing not a curse. Synesthesia is beautiful. But the stuff it’s put me through. I begin to cry, tears leaving wet streams down my cheeks. The constant checkups to make sure I haven’t gone insane or schizophrenic. The increased chance of mental illness. The teasing. The name-calling. The panic attacks when the colors overwhelm me. I can’t knowingly put a child through that.” Chester bumps her head against my arm and David grasps my shoulders, standing my up and pulling me tight to him.
“Shhhh,” he murmurs, his indigo voice sprinkling the light grey of the sound. “We’ve got plenty of time to decide what to do. Come back to bed and get some sleep and you’ll feel better about it.”
Taking my hand, he leads me back to our bedroom where the rust-speckled mossy green of Franklin’s snore awaits me.
The alarm clock cuts through my dreams in abrasive orange flashes. I groan, rolling over. Isn’t today Saturday? I don’t have to work today. David shuts off the alarm.
“I’ll shower first if you want to sleep a couple of extra minutes,” he whispers in my ear.
I make some grunts and groans in various shades of brown he ambles to the bathroom with a laugh. Such a beautiful laugh. But isn’t it Saturday? The genetic counselor appointment.
Suddenly wide awake, I climb out of bed and head to the kitchen. I throw a “good morning” in Chester’s direction and open the back door to let Franklin out.
The songs of birds hit me in a multitude of bright colors. Squirrels chatter loudly and obnoxiously in the trees with orange squeaks. Franklin barks, a loud rust-colored bark, and frightens them, making their chatter even louder. Cars drive by with denim whooshing sounds. Next door, Mr. and Mrs. Smithers yell at each other, each colorful word spotted with the green of his voice and the yellow of hers. Water drips off the roof and trees with pink and red sounds.
I slam the door with a burnt orange sound, shutting out the overpowering colors of the morning. Usually, the morning sounds don’t affect me this badly. Maybe it’s just too early. Maybe it’s because I didn’t sleep well. Maybe it’s because I’m stressed and worried about the day ahead. Whatever it is, I just can’t deal with the colors this morning; it’s just too much.