Five is always purple; green smells clean and crisp like pine. Sunday tastes like pancakes, Monday like grapefruit. The letter J is the happiest woman I’ve ever seen. I am partial to words cluttered with consonants and songs in the key of C because these are my favorite color, orange.
On a Wednesday (blueberries) when I was still young and merely precocious, I catalogued the simultaneous smells, sounds and shades for my parents. Waited patiently for the glimmer of recognition, the camaraderie of a secret shared. How easy it is to extrapolate your experience of the world to everyone else’s; how invisible the workings of the mind behind the simple words that come out of our mouths. My parents looked at each other, alarmed (red), and called the doctor (dish soap). He pinned a rare label on me with such pride it was as if he got to wear it himself.
For years, I regarded the sensory tangle as a badge of honor. A random gift of heightened reality bestowed by the universe, a high voltage brain that fired neurons on all cylinders. We are not built to question the way we are wired. We run blissfully until someone tells us we are malfunctioning.
Later, I met a man (pipe tobacco) who loved me explosively, enough to turn organs inside out. In other words, perfectly, except he believed every diagnosis was a disease (yellow). For him, partnership was experiential equivalence, and my affair with the world provoked slithering jealousy. But the way his lips formed the word “equality” (fresh honey) made me desperate to exorcise myself.
The doctor was skeptical (periwinkle) at first. “Sensory deprivation will not cure you,” he said, wringing his dishcloth hands. “Because there is nothing to cure.” Ultimately, though, he yielded to my insistence. He led me down an empty corridor to an unmarked door. Inside was a small room painted entirely black (smoldering ashes) like a depthless void. In the center he had placed one black chair, the only furniture. I sat there, facing the doctor’s silhouette lingering in the doorway. He sounded caffeine jittery and tried again to dissuade me. I asked him to shut the door quietly and come back in three (royal blue) hours.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, sank to the bottom of a dark well of solitude. Looked up at what was to be a blank, starless sky, the future forever. Instead, behind my eyelids, I found a spotlight moon beaming back the specter of the open doorway. A crowd of dancing fireworks sprang up from within the folds of my crow’s feet to keep me company, reenacting their most spectacular finale. The ghosts of perception are not removed so easily.
In the hallway, I found the doctor still lurking, pacing beneath the bee-buzzing fluorescents. “I’m cured,” I said, and continued walking, through the double doors, past the letter-M receptionist, and out into the fried egg day. On the sidewalk outside the building, a thin, whiskered busker was playing the violin, a soaring, ladder-climbing piece. I tossed a coin in his case and told him the concerto tasted like sunlight.