A note to the reader:
Hi! I wrote this before YWS so maybe a little shaky. And yes, I noticed all of the commas after dialogue I will fix that as soon as I can. Thanks so much!
P.S. I have the same condition as Rainee, except I don't see shapes in the air when I hear sounds and emotions don't have as much color. Also, smell doesn't have color for me but anyways.
Colors. I'm surrounded by them. Pine green. Cotton candy pink. Sky blue. Fire truck red. Every number and letter and sound has a certain color. I thought it was normal. Then, one cold October day, everything changed.
I was talking to my best friend Marla on a bench by the yellow playground and I asked, "Does the yellow of that playground remind you of anything? Like the letter C or the number 4?". "No. Does it remind you of anything?", she said. "Yeah. The letter C, and the number 4. I thought for everyone C and 4 were yellow. Does C have a different color for you?", I said. "No, and C doesn't have a color for me at all. They're gonna put you in a special class for that.", she said. She got up and walked away towards the group of popular girls. Suddenly, it didn't feel so warm outside as it did before. I huddled up in my sweater and counted the seconds 'til the bell rang.
I walked slowly to the unseen circle of birch trees a mile from the house where I was keeping my journal of my findings in the woods. It grew closer and closer as I took step after step, the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet made a swirl of pink and green rings appear in the air. I had gotten over the incident with old friend Marla and now I appreciated the colors, even though I wondered what it meant. Why did numbers and letters and sounds have color for me I didn't know. Never mind that, though. I could just appreciate them for the rest of my life, even without knowing what they were. I looked at the tall birch trees, their delicate leaves swaying in the breeze. This was one of the perks of living on a smaller farm. You had plenty of time to do your own thing. I just wish there was a faster way to get here. Maybe next time I would take the horse. He was perfect for the ride, he was an old horse but he needed his exercise. He was perfect for trail rides. I was at the birch trees now.
The leaves were starting to fall, the wind carrying them making swirls of yellow and orange dance through the sky. I sat on the sitting rock and opened the journal.
"The leaves are falling from the trees, eventually finding the path of wind, each one's colors and shapes as unique and original as a snowflake. It is getting chilly, the November wind keeps on blowing as Thanksgiving approaches. We may have to begin candle making already. I get to help Dad bring the cows in in a couple weeks. He says that I can help milk them, even. We have been doing homeschool for a year now. It is way better than regular school. I have been learning so much that if I was doing real school, I would have to skip a grade. My mom says that I am almost ready to teach myself."
I put the journal under the rock and stared up at the small beginning of my roof. I should probably get back up there and finish it. I got up and I took a stick of of the pile of sticks and leaned it up against one of the birch trees. I shimmied up until I got to the roof. I reached down and grabbed the stick and set it between one branch on this side and one on the other side. I jumped down and got another stick, leaned it up against the tree and shimmied back up. I grabbed the stick and set it about five feet from the other stick. I repeated this process 7 times. I put one of the longer sticks up against one of the other trees in the small circle and shimmied up. I grabbed the stick and dragged it over across the roof to the other side. I took the coil of blackberry vine rope I had left up there and tied it down. I got down, leaned up another stick, shimmied back up and grabbed the stick. I laid it across and tied it down again. I did this until the whole thing was covered up. I shimmied back down and gathered some ivy vines. I took all of the leaves off and weaved them together to make a basket. I took up ferns and covered the whole roof, and then mud until it was finally finished. I got back down, and started walking towards the house.
When I got back to the house, I put my hair up and changed my clothes. I didn't want them suspecting I was at the birch trees. It was my secret place, and mine alone. I began preparing dinner, even though mom wasn't home from work yet. I was making pancakes and eggs for dinner and I was just beginning to whip up the batter when she walked in. She set her purse down and she looked happy.
"Guess what?", she said.
"What?", I asked.
"Mrs. Bell is selling her house!", she said excitedly.
"What?", I exclaimed.
Mrs. Bell was an old grumpy neighbor lady, who had a husband with a hunched back who was even more grumpy. One time I was riding Travis, our horse past there house on the dirt road, and he came out and yelled, "Make that horse quiet down! It is very disturbing! And look, at the big cloud of dust you've left for my wife to drive through when she comes home from the store!" and slammed the door. I didn't care what he said. I kept on riding down the road as fast as I could, until I had completed the loop around the large neighborhood, even though hardly anyone lived in it.
Our farm was small, only about 10 acres. But ten acres was enough. We had room for all of our meat cows, and the two milk cows, Clover and Bessie. Also room for the pigs, and a big vegetable garden with sugar beets in it to make our own sugar. We also grew a bit of wheat for flour. We ate extremely healthily, and every once in a while we went to the store. But not often. Things were so much better since we moved to the farm.
"She is actually selling her house.", my mom repeated.
"I wonder who our new neighbors will be.", I said.
Me and my mom were hardly ever alone together. I tried to get moments alone with her but she never managed to because I was always asleep by the time she was done putting my brothers, James and Oliver to bed. She had time, I just fell asleep to fast. Finally, we had a moment alone.
"Hey, mom. There is something I have wanted to talk to you about since second grade, and it is kind of important.", I said.
"And what might that be?", she asked.
"Numbers and letters have colors and so do sounds.", I blurted out. I looked down at the floor.
"I know why. When we were little we had these alphabet blocks and I bet you just memorized the numbers and letters and their colors.", she said. "I'll go down and get them." She walked down to the basement, and she came up with some of the alphabet blocks.
"What color is this?", she said. She was pointing at a green h. That made no sense. H was bright pink.
"It's green", I said.
"See? I'm right!", she exclaimed.
"It's green," I began, "On the block. But in my head, it's bright pink, like... a flamingo.", I finished. My mom looked very bluish purple, otherwise known as alarmed.
"And... sounds have color for you too?", she said in a hoarse voice.
"Yes.", I said.
"I am going to go call the doctor.", she said, her face pale. My mom walked into the other room, and I heard her dialing numbers.
"Hello? Yes, this is Amy. I just wanted to ask you a quick question. My daughter said that she sees letters, numbers and sounds in color, and I just wanted to ask what that was and what it means. Is it a disorder, should we be concerned?", she said in a small voice.
I heard some talking, and she said "Okay, thank you." And hung up. She came out, looking relieved.
"What you have is a harmless condition called synesthesia. It is when you perceive sounds, letters and numbers in color. It is when certain wires in your brain are crossed and that means that you have synesthesia.", she said.
"Oh. Good.", I said, calmly, but inside I wanted to dance and sing with joy. Finally, after four years of waiting, what I had had a name! I went back to the pancakes and whipped the batter up, humming, and I finished making dinner, but it was just me and my mom that were home. Suddenly, my dad walked in, all grubby from doing farm work, and my two brothers, ages 7 and 9, came running in, there faces sweaty and pink, and they were laughing like hyenas.
"What did you do?", said my mom slowly.
"We pulled an epic prank on Mrs. Bell.", said James, in between giggles.
"We made a bunch of raw eggs fall on her when she walked out her door!", said Oliver.
"You did what?", said my mom, trying to keep a straight face.
"We pulled a prank on her! Like we just said!", they said. We heard a knock on the door. Everyone froze. I went and looked through the peephole. It was Mrs. Bell.
"It's Mrs. Bell.", I said.
"Don't answer!", my mom whispered.
This time, the doorbell rang. I slowly opened it. She looked very mad. Her white hair was yellow, and her clothes were all slimy.
"Those mischief making sons of yours need a good hard switching!", she yelled.
"I'm very sorry Mrs. Bell.", I said.
"You should be! Here I am, going about my business, walking out the door and then a bunch of raw eggs fall on me!", she yelled, even louder.
"I can't wait to move. In fact, this recent event has made me want to move faster! I will be out of the neighborhood in one week.", she said. She looked behind her. It was raining, and hailing. Thunder boomed, and lightning flashed.
"Every time I come around you folks, something bad happens.", she said, quieter. She shook her fist and hurried back towards her house. We all cracked up, and sat down at the table.
"Now boys, that was a little funny, but you can't do that again.", she said sternly.
"Yes mom.", they said.
"So, Rainee, tell your father about the discovery we made today.", said mom. I looked at her.
"No. I will not. And I don't want you to either", I said in a tense voice.
"Rainee was telling me about how she sees these colors hanging in the air whenever she hears a sound, and how she sees numbers and letters in color.", she said with a smile on her face.
I couldn't believe it. My mom, who I trusted, just told my whole family my biggest secret.
"Weird.", said Oliver, with a look of awe on his face.
"Wow.", said James.
"How could you!", I yelled. "I trusted you. I told you my biggest secret, and you just went and told the whole family!"
I left the table, put on my shoes, and ran out towards the barn. I grabbed my hatchet, and jumped on Travis, riding as fast as I could towards the birch trees. It was cold, and I was getting soaked. I didn't care. My mom was in the house, and I had to get away from her. She could not be trusted. Not anymore. I was finally at the trees, and I went to find dry materials to start a fire. I found some sticks, and decided to go and gather birch paper. I made one spark. Two. I heard voices yelling, "Rainee! Rainee!" I didn't care. Three sparks. A lightning bolt struck a large tree branch on a nearby maple tree. It fell on the roof. It started to cave in, and Travis ran. I tried to get out, but I wasn't fast enough. The roof came in on me, and the branch hit the back of my head. The last thing I heard was a scream saying "Rainee!", and then everything went black.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. I blinked once. I blinked twice. I opened my eyes. I couldn't see anything. "Mom!" I yelled. She rushed to my bedside. I sobbed.
"I can't see.", I said. She called for a doctor, and he came in. He said to my mom, "I will have to do some tests. You will need to leave for a bit.", he said. "I will come and get you when they are done." My mom left, reluctantly. He said, "Can you open your eyes for me?" I opened them. I heard a click, and I could feel something coming towards my forehead. I kept my eyes open. "She's not responding to the light.", he said to another doctor that I didn't know was there. He turned me over and he looked at the bandage on the back of my head. He brushed it with his fingers, and I winced in pain. "We will have to do a brain scan.", he said. "I will go and tell her family." Then he came in again and told me that I was going to undergo a brain scan. He put something on my nose, and he told me to count to ten. " One, two, three..." And I was asleep.
I woke up again, and I said, "Where is my family?" the doctor said, "They can't come in quite yet. I have to give you some news. The brain scan showed that your occipital lobe, your vision center,
"I know.", I interrupted.
"was severely damaged. It was unfixable. You are blind. Permanently."
I couldn't say anything. Permanently blind? I couldn't read then. I couldn't write in my journal. I couldn't tell if I was about to trip over something. What would I do? What would we do. Then I realized something. My colors. They were gone. The beeping didn't trigger red rings. I said to the doctor, "I had synesthesia. The noise of the beeping didn't make colors appear in the air. Will they come back?"
"I don't know. Synesthesia will go away after a traumatic event, such as this, but it comes back eventually. I don't know if it will in your case, but.. I bet it will.", he explained. I couldn't see him, but I swear he winked.
A week later, I got to go home. Every single time the truck stopped, I wondered if we were home yet. Finally, I heard my dad turn off the truck and he opened the drivers side door. He walked over to mine and helped me out of the truck. I tried to use the metal stick to guide myself to the front door, but I kept tripping. I let my mom guide me up the wooden steps to the front door. I was able to guide myself up the stairs to the attic, and I sat down on my bed and cried for a long, long time.
We found Travis the next day. He was grazing on grass a couple miles from the orchard. We brushed him and fed him and gave him water. He could still see. He was a fortunate soul. Very fortunate.
As the month passed, I got better and better at guiding myself around with the metal stick. I was able to walk up the stairs to the attic now, and my brothers were helping me learn to ride Travis, even though I couldn't see. My parents applied for a school for the blind, and they are going to get me a service dog. I picked one out already. The dog was a Corgi, and her name was Rowdy. She was described as energetic, silly, loyal, obedient, friendly and smart. I was excited. Those were all good, but not as good as seeing. Not nearly as good.
On October 25th, as Halloween approached slowly, at 12:23 pm, my life changed. For the better. We went to get Rowdy, and at 12:23, I heard tiny feet running getting louder and louder. Light pink. Pink. Magenta. Bright Red. Fire truck red. Then a small warm tongue licked my face. My colors came back. And everything changed.
Rowdy was described to me as small, reddish brown, (like the color g) and black and white. She had no tail, either. She had a black leather leash, and a sky blue (like the letter b) collar with bones all over it. She had ears way to big for her body. She obeyed every command, and she guided me around the house really well. She did it as good as a person who had eyes. Unlike me. But that was gonna be okay. I knew now.
Our next door neighbor had and 11 year daughter named Beth, and her name was a rich purple periwinkle color. I couldn't wait to make friends with her. If she wanted to, at least.
And, my colors came back. It happened when I heard Rowdy's tiny feet running toward me, the colors getting darker and darker each time I heard a little click-clack.
After Halloween my parents drove me to the airport where we departed. I was to stay there for a month, but I would go home for Thanksgiving. I would learn to read in Braille, eat without help, and learn to navigate and other things. I was excited. And, there would be other blind people there that I could meet. They understood. I didn't know if any of them had synesthesia, though. They didn't completely understand. But a little was enough.
On the plane, I was sitting next to someone who's voice sounded like a woman's. She was really nice. Her name was Rhonda, and her name was the color of burnt sienna, and the texture was sharp and thin. I wanted to tell her that, but I didn't want to sound crazy. I told her my name, Rainee, and to my absolute shock she said,
"Rainee is a pretty name. It is a dark yellow ochre."
"No, it is a bright purple!", I blurted out.
"What?", we both said.
"You.. you have it too?", I whispered.
"Have what?", she asked.
"Synesthesia.", I said.
"What is that?" she inquired.
"Where numbers and letters have color, and sounds and a bunch of other stuff.", I answered.
"What do you mean? Everyone has that.", she said in a nervous voice.
"No. Only some people have that.", I explained.
"What?", she exclaimed. "Only some people see numbers and letters in color?"
"Oh. Really? It's... just us?", she said in a frightened voice.
"Yes. I bet there are a lot more people who have it. I only know of one person who has it. You.", I said.
She sat back in her chair. She was quiet for a moment.
"How old are you?", she asked.
"11", I answered.
"I am 15.", said Rhonda.
The plane stopped. We were at the airport. The co-pilot came to guide me to a taxi, and I said goodbye to Rhonda, and she said thank you. The co-pilot guided me to the taxi, with Rowdy, and I was off to the school.
About a half hour later I arrived at the school. I was assigned to a dorm room with 3 other girls. Mariam, Gwendolyn,(she goes by Gwen,) and Cameron. They all seemed loyal and trustworthy. They told me there stories about how they became blind, and I told mine but I left out some of the details. We had an instructor for every dorm room, and ours was a lady named Sarah, who's name was a pinkish brownish color and had the texture of wet grass. The first day was a unpacking get settled in day, but the second day we got to learn Braille.
"Okay, I am going to give you all a braille slate, and there are spaces between the letters. Try to memorize the first five letters of the alphabet.", she said.
A: 1 dot, top left
B: 2 dots, top left and middle left
C: top left and top right.
D: top left, top right, and middle right.
E: top left and middle right.
"Done!", I said, running the first five letters through my head.
"Okay", said Sarah. "Now memorize the next five."
F: top left, top right, middle left.
G: top left, top right, middle left, middle right.
H: top left, middle left, middle right.
I: middle left, top right
J: middle left, top right, middle right.
"Done.", I said again
"Done." said Mariam, Gwen, and Cameron.
"Okay, ladies, next five.", Sarah replied.
I memorized K, L, M, N, O, and moved on to the next five. P, Q, R, S, T, and so on until I was done. I went through them again and again until I knew them by heart. Little did I know that a whole two hours had passed. Gwen, Mariam and Cameron were done too. I used synesthesia to my advantage. Each dot sequence was associated with a certain color. Then we practiced reading it. I read, If you understand this, you did it!
"Wow, girls. You did that fast. For most people it takes a couple days. It took you a couple hours.", said Sarah. "Now, lets have lunch."
We got a break for the rest of the day. We talked about ourselves, and I almost told them about synesthesia. I decided not to. They had to completely earn my trust before I told them that.
As the week passed, my friendship with Gwen, Mariam and Cameron, Gwen especially, got stronger. I decided to tell them. When we were alone in our dorm room, I said,
"Hey, guys, can I tell you something?", I asked.
"Sure.", said Gwen.
"Promise to not tell?", I said timidly.
"Yes.", said Mariam.
"Are you sure?", I said.
"Yes! Now, tell us.", said Cameron.
"Well, I have this thing called synesthesia. Have any of you ever read "A Mango Shaped Space", I said.
"No." They answered.
"Well, it is wear numbers and letters have color. And that is just one type. I also have emotion color synesthesia, and chromesthesia where sounds make you see random shapes and colors in the air.", I blurted out. And I told them everything. About Marla, and Travis, and telling my mom, and running away, and the hospital, and Rhonda, and how my colors came back and the colors and textures of there names, until I was empty.
"Oh, Rainee", said Gwen.
"I'm really sorry.", said Mariam.
"That sounds horrible.", said Cameron, who goes by Cam.
"I thought you guys would laugh at me.", I said.
"Oh, Rainee, we would never.", they said.
"Really?", I said.
"Of course not", said Gwen.
"Thanks.", I said.
And after a lot of tripping and bumping, we found each other and we hugged. We stayed like that for a long time.
When it was time to go home and we had learned all that we needed to learn, we packed our bags along with a Braille kindle that we had gotten so that we could read, we exchanged addresses and phone numbers. It was sad saying goodbye, but I was glad to be going home. I was excited to see James and Oliver and dad and smell the usual smells and hear the usual sounds of my home. I was even a bit excited to see mom, who I was still angry at for causing me all this pain. I had learned to develop my other senses, and read Braille really well, and I now had super hearing. I'm sad that I can't see, but if I could I never would have gotten all of this. On the flight home, Rowdy sat on my lap and the pilot had turned on music, and I let the beautiful colors flow over me, constantly shifting, changing, and appearing and disappearing, and I fell asleep.
When I got home from my flight my parents led me to the car, and I smelled the normal blue smell, pine and gasoline. An hour later, we arrived at home, and I heard the excited voices of James and Oliver.
"Rainee! Your home! Happy Thanksgiving!", shouted James, running up to me and hugging me.
"Hi, James.", I said. "Where's Oliver?", I asked.
"He is scared. He was really worried about you.", James answered.
"Oh. Okay.", I said.
Oliver came out, and he seemed pretty sad.
"Hi Rainee.", he said timidly. I could tell he was looking at the floor.
"Hey. I'm okay. I'm gonna be okay.", I said, walking towards him, hearing him shuffling his feet. I hugged him, and he seemed less sad. He hugged me back, and then I let him say hi to Rowdy. He sat down, and she put her paws on his shoulders and started licking his mouth. Rowdy came up the stairs with me, and I started to unpack. Thanksgiving was tomorrow, and we needed to hurry.
Finally, tomorrow had come. It was a cold November day, I had been blind for 9 months now. I had sent Gwen a letter, but she hadn't responded. My birthday was in a couple days. I was turning twelve. My cousins Addison, who was 10, Ethan, who was 13, Grace who was seven and Alex, who was 6. I was closest to Addison and Ethan because they were my age, but I loved them all. Addison was an outgoing, energetic kid, and she loved being outside, just like me. Ethan was a strong kid who liked to joke around and he liked being outside too. He had a creek behind his backyard. They all lived really far away though, like 3 hours. I treasured the time we had together. I was helping mom make the pies and cook the turkey and the cranberry sauce and the stuffing and everything else when I heard a knock at the door.
"That's them!", I said.
I went to open the door. Alex and Addison were brother and sister and Grace and Adam were brother and sister so right now it was just Alex and Addison, because I saw the car out front. I opened the door.
"Hi!", said Addison. "Long time no see!". It was true. I hadn't seen her since Christmas.
"Rainee!", said Alex. I heard him running towards me.
"So, how have you been?", said Addison.
"Pretty good.", I said.
"What happened to your eyes?", she asked. "They are all blue."
"Well, um, a big tree branch fell on the back of my head and blinded me. But on the bright side, I have a dog, and I met some new people when I went to a school for blind people, and here I am!", I said, trying to sound cheerful.
"Oh.", said Addison.
"Yeah.", I said. "Do you want to go up to the attic?", I asked.
"Sure.", said Addison quietly.
James and Oliver came running out of there messy bedrooms and instantly started playing with Alex. They ran outside to show him Travis. I heard them shouting and prancing about the fields, and Addison sat down on my bed.
"I'm sorry.", said Addison.
"It's okay.", I said. "I'm alright. Do you want to meet Rowdy, my service dog?", I asked.
"Sure!" said Addison. Rowdy was obediently sitting at my side, and I was petting her.
"You can go and say hi, girl. Go on.", I told her. She walked over to Addison. Addison started petting her. Ding-Dong. I heard.
"There here!", I said jumping up. Me and Addison hurried down the stairs and opened the door. Adam and Grace walked in.
"Hi, Rainee!", said Adam.
"Rainee!", said Grace
"Hi Addison.", said Adam. "Long time no see!".
"So how have you two been?", asked Adam.
"I've been pretty good.", said Addison.
"Well, a big tree branch fell on the back of my head and blinded me, but I'm okay.", I said.
"Wait, what?", asked Adam. "You're... blind?".
"Yeah.", I said. "But I'm doing pretty good. I have a kindle that I can use to read in Braille, that is like the way that blind people can read. And I went to this school, and I learned a lot. And I got this cutie.", I said, gesturing to where I thought Rowdy might be.
"Hi, pooch.", said Adam, putting his hand out towards her. He petted her, and I asked them if they wanted to go see the pigs and the cows and the garden. They said yes, of course, and we ran outside. 20 minutes later, my grandparents arrived, and we had lunch. All of the cousins played a game of ghost tag, so I could play too without the blindfold! Eventually it rolled around to dinner time. We went inside, and I helped mom serve the turkey. We all sat down at our dinner table, and we prayed first, and then we ate. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, potatoes, corn. Then, we were all stuffed and we talked for a little bit. All of the kids were in one room, and the adults in the other. When we had ate every last scrap of food, we went out to play in the garden again. We climbed trees, and then we went to play in the woods. I made sure that the birch trees were out of sight. I didn't want to see that place again. Ever.