He loves words. Words big and small, jagged and soft, bold or pastels, colourful. If one knows how to put them well they are as a well-ordered garden and a joy to behold. Poetry is his love, in ink and voice.
He delights in language, has mastered five of them himself. When he speaks with a soft voice its forms are most pleasing, almost but not quite as good as playing his flute, which creates the cleanest lines and shapes of all. Words are the colour adorning them.
Jean Prouvaire is slate grey and yellow. Jehan Prouvaire is cornflowers in a field of grain.
Jehan loves flowers, too, for they are most colourful. Stems and leaves and petals, and their change from budding to blooming to wilting; and if they have a scent there are even more, their hue suffusing the space around them.
His new waistcoat is a dull dark blue, and lacking a print might seem plain were it not full of flowers to him. Bahorel, who covers his oliveness with bright cloths, tells him he cannot possibly wear that shade with his suit, and complains how he should never have bought such a boring thing. But the cloth had been red and dark green in his fingers and gave him roses in his mind. His friends, namely Bahorel and Courfeyrac, have almost given up on trying to tell him what to wear since he doesn't listen to their advice. Jehan likes his garments and their colours the way they are.
When he had been small other people had been endlessly baffling in their refusal to see the obvious; they had ignored him or called him absent-minded or foolish when he defended his view. As he grew he had realized that other people saw the world different from him, and that extended to its colours; his colours.
After that he learned how to discriminate between what he knows and what others see, what he can tell and what he better keep silent. He has become rather good, and when he misjudges nowadays people at most shake their head at those Romantics and their fancies.
Only in his poetry is he completely free to craft with sound and letter and shape, and let the colours roam free in his head and his verses.
Enjolras is a superb speaker when roused from his stillness, engaging and inspiring, but Jehan freely acknowledges the pure aesthetic joy of listening. His shapes are clean and precise, and his voice is almost the exact shade of gold as his hair acquires when haloed by the sun. The symmetries in shape and colour, gold on his head and gold in his mouth, are very appealing. Sometimes when his speeches are most fervent there are little white sparks like stars among the gold.
His name however is royal blue. It is a beautiful combination, but Jehan is sure he would not appreciate the irony of bearing the king's colours. Their beloved France is blue too, but different.
When the others say Bonaparte it is forest green, but Enjolras' Buonaparte is lemon yellow. Sometimes, Jehan amuses himself by adding the bouncy cerise Napoleon into their discussion.
The numbers spread in a merry dance over the papers on his desk, a rainbow of francs and sous as he makes note of and references wages and costs of living, demographics and the price of bread.
When he thinks of the people beyond the numbers — the men earning barely enough to get by, the women, poor Woman who receives less in all and deserves so much more, the little children who can't be fed — his heart is heavy and his stomach turns. The colours mock him with their cheeriness, and he hates them in those moments like he never does.
Many a day the writing on the papers disappears before the blurring in his eyes, the colours washed away by angry tears.
Grantaire is deep red and drunk, and the wine he brought to their table was red and nasty. He rubs his tongue along the roof of his mouth and scrapes it with his teeth when the dark violet won’t come off. He would complain, but Joly is nearby and Jehan has already made that mistake once.
The colours on his tongue are not those which Joly seeks. But the Ls Jehan gifts to his name make it soar and light up with a rosy peach, make it fill his mouth with the echo of smooth grapes.
He is so used to other people being unaware that he is completely caught off guard when Combeferre sits with him one day and asks him about his colours. When he begs pardon and a clarification, the other man obliges in laying out his observations made from the images in his poems and many small phases gleaned from his speaking.
Listening, Jehan feels the heat flushing his face, surprised and bewildered by Combeferre’s attention and the accuracy of his observations, and somehow also excited and a bit pleased. Faced with this, he can do no other than confess.
Combeferre listens intently and with carefully contained excitement thrumming underneath, triumphant when he sees himself confirmed.
Jehan is quite bewildered by the situation, but then Combeferre tells him about a fellow medical student of his acquaintance who had spoken of a case that had later reminded him of his friend. A German doctor apparently had written about a pair of siblings that had perceived colours when hearing music or words. Of the details Combeferre is not sure since he has not yet been able to read the text in question himself, but the descriptions he relays are scarily similar to what Jehan experiences.
It makes him feel strange now to think that there are others like him; that he really is objectively different from other people without question, but that he is not alone among them, the only one of his kind. Why they are like this Combeferre doesn't know or dare to guess; the siblings had been albinos, but Jehan evidently is not.
Combeferre promises to find the report for him to read, and asks if he could write down everything he is told, if he could make a proper study of him at some later time. Jehan readily agrees, giddy with the thought of being able to tell somebody who understands and believes him.
They stay up late, carried away as Combeferre questions and Jehan talks, talks of colours and shapes and sound and taste. How things and people and words have colours, how music makes lines and swirls, the geometries he creates with his flute. How Courfeyrac is mauve, cherries are square and bristly, and his favourite cravat gliding through his fingers tastes of honey, and how the wool of Combeferre's scarf is viridian green to his touch. How both the word 'red' and the digit '6' are sky blue, but 'six' is green, a few shades more muted than the lush colour of Feuilly.
Combeferre is a comforting red ochre beside him, enraptured and his notetaking long forgotten as he listens and inquires and marvels.
The pigeon outside the window is cooing in pink bursts like a beating heart, and has been for some time.
Erato has abandoned me too, Jehan thinks despairing, as he broods over the second-to-last stanza of his poem. He has found the perfect phrase to fit meter and rhyme, but the words are the wrong textures and colours, clashing worse than Napoleon and Buonaparte; those may be good for a joke but in his poetry it makes him nauseated.
Jehan thinks again how beside him no one would know, but this is for him, and so he will make it perfect.
Outside the Corinthe it is darkest night, illuminated by lamps and torches, as his friends sit awaiting what may come. They are reciting love poetry, somehow both at odds and not with their loaded guns beside them.
He has finally fixed the bothersome stanza of that poem, and it is a shiny verdigris in the flicker of the light. No one else can see it, but Combeferre knows of his hidden triumph, and Jehan feels nothing but gladness at having someone else share it with him.
Gunsmoke is red like morning clouds and tastes like sour apples.
His voice is a soaring line without flaw, France is blue and future is blindingly white.