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The Girl Who Saw Colors

I could always sense that the teacher who came to home-school me was not too fond of me, and one essay that I shared with him shocked him so badly that he quit shouting the words “This one needs help!”.

So, I went with my grand parents to Church yesterday. It took us 30 minutes to get there through a neighborhood of Pink happiness, one of Grey dejection and then a disparate rainbow of colors where the primary shade was Green greed. When we arrived at Church, Granddad was already turning Blue with nervousness. It only grew when we entered. The hall was filled with Pink happiness, Red anger and Grey dejection. All the colors were burning bright like fuel had been added to them. The preacher was glowing Orange — which was a new color.

I thought that the essay paid great attention to detail.

I heard varying versions of “This one needs help!” through that summer from half-a-dozen home-school teachers. My favorite one was “She’s crazy”. I scared them. I disgusted them. I was apparently trying to be intentionally obtuse. Only Mrs. Yvonne had something good to say, “She has an overactive imagination” but she had concluded it with “but she needs to get a grip on reality”.

Since that summer of 2000, I heard it said too many times. People have often been amazed by my ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ in coming up with stories, ways to market to consumers and even solving basic social problems.

But by the time I was 20 years old, I was feeling an expanding ennui; a frustration that I am living a lie and that I am constructing an artifice of a life to meet the needs of everyone one around me.

Since an age I can remember, my visions have been filled with images that (over the course of the years to come) I’ve learnt were not normal. Normal people didn’t see people as torches of color or experience the physical space around them painted with remnant colors of people in the past.

I never knew my parents but my Grandparents just called me ‘creative’ and ‘smart’. But I could always see that they turned a dirty yellow when they said that: Looking at me always seemed to fill them with sadness. Being an only child in the household, they had no alternative grandchildren who were more normal.

I have written countless diaries capturing what I saw since my childhood — I stopped sometime in my teens — and they show a startling picture of my fading enthusiasm and increasing shame at trying to capture the world I saw. There are lengthy, colorful (always colorful) descriptions of things I saw, red, green and yellow always predominated; delicately painted cities I had smudged to perfection for days; a million faces in varying hues, their expressions reflecting what their colors said. Over time it became dry accounts of emotions (rather than colors): Sophie was depressed today, I had written half-a-decade back. I never asked her about it and she disappeared later from my life. I could have asked her about it and maybe even saved her.

Having seen people laid threadbare as colors, I never gave myself a remote chance of falling in love and yet I did. At 20, during the peak moment of my despondency, I met him. He was glowing pink which turned into a nice shade of lilac when he saw me. Five years later, I was pretending to be normal, sharing coffee and toast with him in the morning and seeing colors flit through his frame like dancing rainbows. The three years we lived together was one glorious technicolor opera but with time the Browns, Greys and Yellows won him over and happy endings were not to be.

I’ve learnt over the years to overlook the colors a little bit and stay friends with a small group of people. I think positively about them (even when I do see them flaming in hues that are not flattering to our friendship).

Yet, things have accumulated over time. I see the world shifting to ranges of colors that scare me and I cannot continue to put up with the charade of a normal life. At 40, with both my grand parents gone, I also know that I cannot hope to get through life being myself. It would shock and scare too many people. I could no longer deny that this was more a “curse” than a “gift”.

“There is nothing wrong with you”, the doctors have told me. The doctors of the mind have worked through anything and everything they could think of — a decade of therapy did not make any dents. A spiritual guide told me that God had touched me and I should put my gifts to better use — Join us and lead our little community. A geneticist speculated on mutation. Briefly, I felt like one among the X-men (a X-woman). I even found a strange little online community that had 500 members all reporting similar problems but when I met them, I realized that they were just making it up.

I have moved away from the world. The edge of the sea, away from people, is a great place to be. The fishes look beautifully lit in an even Orange. I live here, avoiding meeting people as much as possible. I can see the stars more clearly at night and have even begun to enjoy this curse whereas I once wanted to cover my eyes up against the world.

More recently, on some clear nights, when I look up at the sky in the space between the stars, I am beginning to see some faint trace of colors. At first, I considered that they were my imagination but with time, I am certain that there faint tints on black. Over years, it even appears to be becoming a little more tinted — or perhaps I am imagining that.

I don’t know what that means but I’ve only ever seen these colors on the living so far. The good news is that I predominantly see pink and lilac. There is some red in the far end of the north sky and I avoid it whenever possible.

I imagine creatures like us (but in populations that are a million multiples of us) in far away worlds all coalescing into a color that’s visible to me here. I also imagine some of them are heading our way.

I only hope that the pinks and lilacs increase in the night sky and the red stay away.