Drinking Orange (Short Story)

I want to see what is happening over there. There seems to be a group of people tasting drinks on the other side of the convention hall and right in front of them is a big wheel with different colours on it. I want to check it out too. I put my head down and start walking towards the other side. The hall is full, surprisingly. I make my way through the crowd and stand next to a woman giggling and trying the drinks in small tasting glasses. The drinks are black in colour. They look horrible and unappetizing yet the people seem to enjoy them and I know exactly why.
I stand in a considerably small queue and wait for my turn. I keep my head down at all times. I can be very patient, one of the main aspects of my personality that I got to realise in the past two years. Normally I try not to think about it. Soon its my turn and the man behind the counter smiles and explains to me what has to be done.
“You taste the five drinks labelled 1,2,3,4 and 5. You then put the corresponding number onto the colour chart”
I nod my head and start tasting drink one. While I do this, everyone around just stares at me. I smile awkwardly and suddenly feel performance pressure building up inside. As soon as the black gooey liquid hits my lips, I make a cringe-face expecting something that smells like petrol. But to my surprise the liquid is actually sweet and I am certain its banana juice or puree and immediately close my eyes. I see a faint orange. I take a sticker saying “1” and paste it on the orange part of the wheel. To my surprise some people around my applaud.
You see, I am what my psychiatrist referred to as a Synesthete. It says on wikipedia that in people like me stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to the stimulation of another sensory pathway. Has a song ever reminded you of somebody or some place or viva versa, or a smell, if yes, then you can understand what I am. No, that does not make you a synesthete. But you can understand how some object or smell can make you brain process some memories associated with them. What I am experiencing right now is referred to as Chromesthesia, I think. It means that stimulating my sense of taste can also stimulate the part of my brain that sees and interprets colours. There is so much more on the internet but I generally run out of interest in technical details and wall of scientific information.
I soon taste the rest of the drinks, the second one is definitely strawberry milkshake and I quickly put the sticker “2” onto the green area. The third drink is red wine and I place the “3” on pink, “4” on red since its a Mojito and “5” on blue, its mango juice.
I don’t remember the exact day when all this started, I wasn’t born with it, at least from what I know, maybe I was, I am not sure. I started noting it since the time of my parent’s separation. The fighting, shouting, contempt in my parents voice for each other and lack of love, for each other and for me, could not have lead to anything else other than depression. I was just a teenager, life was not easy in the first place but my school had always helped. I was good at studies and no, I was not one of those awkward teenagers who you see and wildly judge as rebellious Goths. I had loving friends and my teachers noticed me. My depression took a lot with it. I thought divorce would make things better. But it disturbed me much more than I had expected. My mom soon noticed that my grades were falling and decided I had to undergo therapy. I agreed, of course, I wanted to feel better. I was tired of feeling empty, feeling that I was not capable of anything, that my life was ruined and that I should just give up and die. I wanted that voice inside my head silenced.
My dad was on a roll, it seemed, and it didn’t seem to affect him that his only daughter was undergoing therapy for depression because of the tensions he participated in causing. In no time, he had bought a new house and found a brand new wife. I was in front of him and yet invisible. Soon I had started feeling sick and nauseous when I had to visit him. I started sleeping in a lot more. I would feel sick with him and his new family. At home my mother’s complains of how he would resist paying for child support didn’t help either but instead of just making me mad, this all would give me high fevers and I remember fainting during the basketball game for the first time. I couldn’t concentrate on the blackboard or the text in the books anymore. The doctors said that nothing was wrong with me and had recommended vitamins, vitamins! I had graduated high school with the grades that no one expected from me including me. Teachers had talked to my mother and had hinted towards dyslexia. I could read, just had no will to do it.
I would go out only for buying groceries with my mother and to the psychiatrist. Food had started tasting horrible and I was hungry all the time but would starve myself as nothing would taste like anything and I swear there were days when I couldn’t smell anything but it would always come back. There were days when food would taste great. My eyesight had started weakening or so I thought. I still remember when I started feeling something was definitely wrong and not just psychologically.
I remember walking home one autumn evening when I saw my neighbour smoking his cigarette and I remember being able to feel the warm smoke in my lungs. He was on the other side of the road. I panicked and ran home all the time tasting the bitter taste of nicotine in my mouth. I had never smoked in my life.
The next days were nothing different, I would feel what others should be feeling. All around me. Jason smacking on the back of Dave’s head as if he had hit me on my head, Natalie’s arm getting bruised on the doorknob, I swear I cried out in pain. Thankfully people just thought that I had cried out for Natalie albeit a little surprised. Basketball games were the worst, I was out of the team anyway due to my constant school absence but even watching them was painful. I would feel the exhaustion of every player, their jumps, hits and injuries. I would invariably end up rolling on the floor in pain. People couldn’t understand because they did not see the bruises.
However it was not the pain that was the worst. I had been sick that morning. My mom had recommended that I stay home but I had decided to “fight it” and went anyway. I was on self-administered denial thinking that “it” would go away if I ignored it. After feeling no better in the first class, I felt sick again so I decided to just stay in the washroom for a while. I was successful in warding off all friends by that time as not one of them inquired if I was Ok. So I found myself alone in the washroom, closed the door and waited to get sick again. Then I heard them. It was definitely Jason. He was in the girl’s washroom with someone. I slowly opened the door and peeked as he planted a big kiss onto Mia’s lips. My eyes were full of tears. Jason and me had started going out just before trouble at home had begun. My sickness had not only impacted my grades, friends and sports but my relationship with Jason too. That day in the girl’s washroom, I finally got to experience my first kiss, its just that no one had kissed me.
School had truly become a nightmare after that day. That one incident had scared me for what will happen if “it” stayed forever? I could never be able to truly have my own relationship, my own boyfriend, my own experiences. To be able to feel what others were feeling and doing, felt like I was somehow stealing from them, invading their private space. At the same time, I would never have any private space of my own. It felt wrong, it felt unfair. It wasn’t enough that I had lost almost everything in my life but that losing everything had cursed me to live everyone else’s life forever.
Ofcourse I told my mother. She thought I needed medication. Fortunately my psychiatrist was able to understand “it”. He told me that there was a name for “it”, Mirror-touch synesthesia. He told me that my family situation had caused me so much trauma that I was developing a very rare condition that made me feel what others were feeling.
Since then life has been very different. I had to alter the course of my life. I no longer had the same ambitions that I had before my special abilities. Everyday, I find something more about what else had happened to my brain. My empathy had increased so much that I could no longer stand in crowded places. I could no longer enjoy a beach, a movie or any place with lots of people in it. I decided to study online, since attending a university would overwhelm my senses. I find it hard to walk with head held high in public places so I just look down. That not easy either, I feel every discomfort caused by every stiletto on the street. But I love winter. I love that there is no one on the street. Winter is my friend.
Last month my doctor gave me a card of a university professor who specialised in Synethesia. My therapy is over, for now. Now is the time I start discovering myself. Today, I am here to start a new page in life. I look up at the man behind the counter, he’s the professor.

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