I have synesthesia, and people come in flavors. That’s what I think, anyway. My mother reminds me of hot chocolate– sweet and full of gentle warmth. My father is the flavor of mint, sharp and bright.
I’ve encountered so many flavors my mental taste buds are seasoned professionals. Nutty, bitter, pineapple + jalapeno, cotton candy sweet enough to make me sick: I can recognize them all. Sometimes a pair will have the same flavor, especially common with people who have been married for a long time. I suppose my parents will one day become mint hot chocolate.
My name is Lily, and if I had a flavor it would be lilac. It’s hard to judge your own flavor- sometimes it’s different from what other people think. I’m just me.
I am lilac because it’s not just a flavor. It is a scent, a color, a flower, something tangible but undefined. I find that my lavender hue becomes diluted when the day is drawing to an end or when I whine, cry, or am told I can’t write in passive voice. There have been some awfully gorgeous moments in my life when my thoughts and my feelings and the physicality of everything aligns perfectly and I feel as if I am truly, honestly alive and full of the thought that this, this is what I’m here for. When it happens, I see lilac. They are rare and fleeting and I spend the rest of the time looking for them again. Lilac is the color of my first friend in America: a paper doll my mother made me out of 30 cent wrapping paper. I want to imprint lilac in my mind, infuse it in my blood and paint it on the canvas behind my eyes.
At night, the world fades into darkness and becomes illuminated with a thousand points of white and gold light. To get a feel for the city, I pretend each light represents one person, and imagine how it would taste to mix all of those flavors together. It’s overwhelming.
Drive a little to the south, however, and we are taken to the city limits, cutting across a surreal landscape full of spinning, pinwheel-shaped towers. Flavor? Tears and burnt cinnamon. Landscapes can have flavor too.
Oftentimes it feels like I’m looking at the world through a kaleidoscope, like everything familiar has been fractured to pieces and rearranged in a new way. Now, everyone is plugged into their own world. Gone are the days of subway conversation. They laugh about things I can’t see, talk to people who aren’t here. A lot can change in 10 years.
More and more often now, I am wrong about my initial guess of people’s flavors. But sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. Being wrong about what I expect means that every moment has the potential for surprise and wonder. The flavor of people will always come through, whether they intend it to or not. I hope you’ll try to give me a little texture too.