PICKING UP PEAS WITH CHOPSTICKS
I often consider killing myself.
I grapple with the lure of what’s on the other side. That’s if there is another side. And if there is another side, I imagine it to be shrouded in a coat of mother-of-pearl, with its magical hidden colours that beam out at you as they catch the light. They say there’s a brilliant white light, but I don’t know about that. I prefer to think in colour.
It’s amazing…you should try it sometime. Translate your thoughts into colour and they become so much more vivid and detailed. A magical kaleidoscope of images that help you understand the banalities of…well everything. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll always want to think in colour, because if you don’t, then waves of slimy grey start to wash over you. After a while the greyness makes you feel heavy, so heavy you can’t move. Then you’re trapped, like a fly in some kind of jar and you’re just waiting for someone to screw the lid on.
Thinking in colour. That’s the mystery of people like us.
And then I thought…no, I can’t kill myself. I’ve just learnt how to pick up peas with chopsticks. I wonder if they have Chinese food…or more precisely, Cantonese food on the other side. I discovered that eating Cantonese food makes me happy. I’m sure it’s because of all the colours.
I remember when I started to think in colour. It was when I met Sylvia. She, like me, vividly understands the extent to which her mind steers her. Through the purple sludge of some days. Purplosity I call it. Although not all days are purple, just the irritating ones.
I loved Sylvia from the moment I met her. She understood me in a way no-one ever had, or has since.
I met her in the library one particularly glum afternoon in February. February 11th. My 31st birthday. An afternoon shrouded in ugly curtains of pale grey, which were probably once white but which probably needed washing.
She called out to me. I told her she shouldn’t talk so loud in the library, but she just laughed. Her silvery Sylvia laughter drenched me like a waterfall. I felt clean and fresh after.
It didn’t take long to find out that Sylvia was someone who always did just what she wanted.
We became familiar with each other that afternoon and I felt inexorably drawn to her.
We shared our beige trivialities because that’s the way things are supposed to work. Get the prosaic nonsense over with first.
Boston, Massachusetts, she said.
Lived here all your life?
I haven’t had all my life yet.
I wish I could say the same. What’s your name?
As in Livingston Seagull?
We did this for moments. Then I asked her.
What do you think about colour?
Colour is my world now. I always suspected that anyone who lives a monochrome existence is a little mad.
Didn’t someone once say that the only thing to do about madness is relax and enjoy it?
Yes. It was R.D. Laing. And I believed that once.
And now? You think in colour?
Now I do.
Are you mad?
Not any more.
We met regularly, and spoke about many things. She shared her childhood with me, and I shared mine with her. When she spoke of the child Sylvia, she became the child Sylvia. In her melodious child voice she would tease me by hiding amongst the library shelves.
Jonathan, Jonathan…come find me
I would hear the pretty tinkle of her Sylvia child laughter from all over the library. I would search for her and see her dart between the poetry and literature sections – then magically appear amongst the ancient dictionaries and reference works.
I’m sure we raised eyebrows with our silly games but I didn’t care one bit. Being with her was everything to me.
When I was with Sylvia I always thought in colour. She told me she wrote a poem when she was five. I believed her. Then when she was 8 her father died, and after that she couldn’t stop writing poems. She even inspired me to write a poem. I called it Lemonness, and read it to her one afternoon.
at his yellowing hair
and reflects on the lemonness of
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