Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sorry, Monday Isn't Blue - It's Burnt Orange
A couple weeks ago I called my stepfather to wish him bon voyage for a trip he was taking up to Glacier National Park. Before hanging up, I said, “I’ll call you Sunday after next, when you get back.”
Instantly, what popped into my head when I said Sunday was not the word itself, but the image I have long held of what Sunday looks like, which is a block of pink set among another series of blocks, all differently colored, all representing days of the week, all stretching out in a kind of linear grid-like from, extending from whatever day it happens to be now into, well, infinity.
Likewise, if I think about what month it is, the image I see in my head is of a block of color that has a particular position on something I call a “year wheel,” which begins in the upper left hand corner with January (a dusky pink), and works its way down through the months (all differently colored) to form a kind of long, racetrack-shaped oval and ending with the month December, which is a block of deep blue/black.
Every letter in the alphabet also has its own color. Some of the letters even have personalities. F you have to watch pretty carefully, because it steals. And it’s too far away from the zen-like mitigating personality of M, which is too busy trying to convince N and O to take better care of themselves. Z is plotting to take over the government. L is an incessant complainer.
However, while individual letters each have their own color and personalities, that all disappears when I use them to form words. Say a word, any word, and I have a Crayola Crayon color from the box of 64 to go with it. My friends, family and colleagues? I don’t think of them necessarily in terms of their names, but their colors. Everyone’s got one.
I’ve been like this as I long as I can remember. Up until a few years ago, I didn't think much of it – I always thought everyone was like this. But then I mentioned it to a few people who all looked at me like I was a few screwdrivers short of a full tool belt and I began to worry if there was something wrong with me.
Well, not totally.
I finally found out just exactly what this thing is only a few weeks ago. I was reading a favorite perfume blob and someone left a comment saying that whenever she smelled a certain perfume, she thought of the color purple. Did any of us do this? A few comments down, another person said, “Oh, sounds like you have synesthesia.”
Which I looked up and, lo and behold, suddenly I understood myself! And my particular manifestation is nothing, Party People, compared to what some people experience. Some synesthetics can actually “feel” words. Or “smell” sounds. I don’t do any of that. (Although, sometimes my mouth feels too full of words and I have to swallow a few to make room.) And, according to most of the info I've read, this isn't anything to worry about.
Then I went to a housewarming party this weekend and started talking about synesthesia to a couple friends – pumpkin orange and lemon yellow – and it turns out pumpkin orange knew exactly what I was talking about. Not because she's synesthetic, but because she works with children who have p-r-o-b-l-e-m-s and, apparently, she told me, synesthesia is associated with particularly high functioning autistics and people with Asperger’s.
Great, I’m Jerry from Boston Legal.
How about you? What color is your Monday?