a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
5 is pink
5 is pink. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s soft and fluffy, like a cloud torn straight out of the sky. It’s marshmallows and candy all rolled into one. She’s looked at thousands of shades of pink and hasn’t been able to find the right one. None match the 5 in her head. None match that glorious color.
She sees the 5 on her class schedule and automatically smiles.
Her eyes scan the page as she looks at the rest of her classes. 1 is math, go figure. 1 is red sand in a parched dessert. It’s angry and abrasive, her least favorite number. It’s such a shame that it always comes first.
The rest of her schedule is mostly boring. Period 3 is slightly annoying—3 is sunlight reflected on a freshwater lake, but third period is history. What a waste of a number. But when she sees 5—5 is perfect. 5 is that cloud in a sunset sky pink. It’s cotton candy and strawberry macarons. 5 is band class.
She tucks the paper into her pocket and walks to her first class.
His voice is stars
It makes sense that the first time she sees him is in band. She’s sitting in her chair, assembling her clarinet when she hears his voice across the room. She nearly falls out of her chair.
The first strains of his deep, husky tone are a supernova. Her vision explodes like suns—bursts of color so bright she can’t possibly see behind them. It’s galaxies upon galaxies, a never ending cycle of stars. His voice is the most beautiful color. She wants to reach out, grasp the sound into her small palm and never let go. She realizes she cannot, and it nearly crushes her.
She looks around the room, eager to see if anyone else is experiencing this earth shattering event. Are they seeing this entire universe implode upon itself? Do they understand that out of all the sounds in the world this just might be her favorite one? Then she remembers they cannot. Their senses are not muddled together, criss-crossed every which way so that numbers have colors and names have tastes.
She thinks it’s a shame they never get to experience it.
She grips the base of her clarinet, trying to locate the face behind the voice. And then she sees him. Across the room a boy stands with a violin in hand. His raven hair covers his forehead but she can see his eyes, salted caramel like the color of Saturday. He looks up and their eyes meet. She swears she can see the stars again, even though he doesn’t speak.
“You’re an awesome player.”
Stars. Supernova. A whole universe rolled into one voice, six syllables. She turns at the sound. The boy from class is standing to her right, one hand tucked into his dark wash jeans. The class is almost completely empty, people rushing out as soon as the bell struck twelve. Now it’s just her and the boy. She doesn’t know if she wants to dash out of her chair or dance on top of it. She remains seated instead.
“Thanks,” she says. She mentally winces after she says the word aloud. Is that what you say when you’re talking to someone whose voice looks like that? She’s heard other voices before, ones that are bursts of green or spirals of blood red, but none like his. Why is his so magnificently better than the rest?
“I heard from someone that you have perfect pitch,” he says out of the blue. She nods, now thoroughly embarrassed. How did he even find out? It isn’t something she tries to boast about; she didn’t even know she had it until a couple years ago. It was during a clarinet lesson when her teacher finally discovered her ability, after she was able to recite the notes of a song from color alone. It was easy to remember. A# was sparkling raindrops falling from the sky; they turned her whole vision a tinted blue. E was like the spots on a koi fish, bursts of orange under a glass like pond. Music was colors and colors were music. If you could remember one, you could easily recall the other.
She nods, ducking her head to avoid his eyes. She’s positive her cheeks are firetruck red, the same color as the month September.
“What’s it like? To have perfect pitch?” he asks. She can tell he’s curious. He shifts from foot to foot, an excited toddler unable to stand still.
“Well it’s…” She pauses. She supposes the mundane answer would be to say it’s cool or something to that effect. But she finds herself saying, “It’s like looking at a painting. I remember every note as a stroke of color. So, if I can remember the colors, then I’m able to piece together the painting. I think about notes in the same way.”
He grins. “Like a puzzle.”
She tries and fails not to blush again. “Exactly.”
Did that even make sense? Most people don’t understand the whole colors and sounds thing. She’s learned the hard way that not everyone thinks the word Summer is moss on a forest floor green or the letter F is clear like glass. But he seems to get it. She wonders if he’s like her—if his A is shiny and his Tuesday is roasted coffee beans.
“Do you see colors when you hear sounds?” she asks tentatively. She wants to kick herself. What a strange question!
He shakes his head slowly. “No. But you do?” he questions. No judgement, no skepticism. She’s grateful for his openness.
She nods. “It’s called synesthesia. It basically means that my senses are connected to each other. It’s how I’m able to recall notes. When I hear a particular tone, I associate it with a color. I also associate colors with words, letters, and numbers.” She lets out a breath. She never talks this much about it, never in this much detail. She’s afraid she’s said too much, that he thinks she’s a freak and--
“So do people’s names have colors?” he asks, his eyes sparkling like the stars of his voice. She’s surprised by his interest. No one has asked her these types of questions. No one has cared enough to know.
She smiles at his enthusiasm and nods. “Names, words, letters, numbers.” She lists them off one by one, the things that fill her world with such beauty. “Everything really.”
“What’s my color?”
“What’s your name?” she counters.
“Jonah,” he says. “Jonah’s my name.”
She pictures the colors then, an artist assembling her palette. Cherry red combines with ocean water blue, swirling together until she sees the color, bright and flashing in front of her eyes.
The color of her favorite Jolly Rancher, of grape soda and tangy plums.
His name is purple. She’s never seen a shade quite like it. Sure, 27 and the word friend are also purple, but none come close to his name. She wants to paint her walls that color. She wants to find every piece of clothing that shade and fill her closet full of it. If she could drown in the color, she would.
“It’s purple,” she manages to spit out. “Like grape soda. It’s fizzy like soda too,” she adds—the name is crackling with energy, a can about to burst.
“Purple,” he repeats in awe. “I like it.”
If he likes it, then she’s obsessed with it. She never wants another color to exist. Forget 5 and A#, Jonah is better.
“And what color is your name?” he asks curiously. She smiles. The shade of her name might be her second favorite color now.
“It’s yellow,” she says. “Like lemons and daisies.”
“Lemons and daisies,” he muses. “Like sunshine?”
And love tastes just like peaches
She thought she knew what the color of love was. She imagined it was red, but not like angry 1 or chilly September. Love is the color of rubies; love sparkles under the brightest of lights. Love stains everything in its path, a tornado that leaves the rest of the world bleeding in its wake.
But love has never had a taste.
She looks at Jonah sitting across from her on the cramped park bench. They’re holding hands and his skin feels like silk, the way she imagines the letter J feeling. He’s talking about random things: classes, sports, and pizza. Every time his voice reaches her ear, she sees galaxies. They never do go away.
But it’s not the stars that are distracting her. It’s the taste.
Peaches. Sun-ripened, gloriously sweet peaches on her tongue. She wants to bake them in a pie, turn them into jam, anything to remember the taste. Their taste overwhelms her, consumes her until she can’t remember another flavor besides the one on her tongue. Is this what love is supposed to taste like? If so, she never wants to be without it.
Sounds have colors. Numbers have colors. But emotions? Apparently, those have tastes.
“You okay?” Jonah asks. He squeezes her hand, grabbing her attention.
Stars. Peaches. Grape soda.
"I’ve never been better.”
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.