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Listening to Saxophone

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Kevin seldom said the words that would have explained him to others, because of their colors.

Autistic was a word loaded with wariness, distaste, pity. And yet, the royal purple that spilled through Kevin’s mind when he heard it was so exquisite he could scarcely bear to see it, would stand entranced instead of continuing his conversation. Conversations were difficult enough for Kevin without adding undue distraction from his colors.

Synesthesia meant a beautiful gift, a blessing to his senses. The colors of sounds. The sounds of what his hands touched. (When he held a saxophone, he could hear its cold metal in his head, tinkling notes completely unlike the sound the instrument made when played. Soft fabric made a gentle rushing like the ocean against his palms. Cold marble intoned a deep echoing church bell through his mind.) People who knew what it was were intrigued, envious. And yet the word was a blur of sickly pea-green melting into murky brown like stagnant mud. Too distasteful to say when he could avoid it.

Besides, the royal purple of autistic meant that Kevin forgot that others did not see what he saw, or hear what he heard, or think as he thought.

“I’m here about the receptionist job,” Kevin said the first time he came to the Ghostbusters’ office. 

The women’s voices were warm as they greeted him. Abby’s was the serene jade of someone deep in thought. Ellen’s was pure fuschia lust, but many people’s was. Kevin had met people who never lacked it. Their lives must be difficult with such constant arousal. Jillian’s voice was the powder blue of amusement ribboned through with, oddly, the slate grey of envy.

They didn’t claim any of the logos he had made for them. Even though his counselor had warned him that his designs might not be to everyone’s taste, had reminded him that other people thought differently from him, it was a disappointment. But he still had a chance at the job. 

“We need to convene for a moment,” Erin’s fuschia voice informed him. “Don’t listen!” With that, a ripple of goldenrod teasing moved before his eyes.

“I won’t!” he promised. And to prove it, remembering his counselor saying that most people liked to see gestures that went with people’s words, as he stepped away he covered his eyes with one hand so that he would not see the magenta of Let’s hire him or the saffron of He won’t do.

As he waited, he studied the phone in the aquarium, musing on why someone might have put it there. Was it so that the goldfish could make phone calls? Who would goldfish call? Maybe distant relatives back in the ocean, waiting to hear about their explorations on dry land. 

“An aquarium is just a submarine for fish,” he mused aloud, then fell silent. His counselor had told him not to make metaphors around new acquaintances. Many people, apparently, didn’t see the reasonableness of calling a wrist an arm ankle or tires car shoes.

None of the Ghostbusters replied to his remark, just kept quietly conferring, their voices soft enough to be only a dull orange to him. His gaze travelled over the other odds and ends around him until he noticed the gong. Curious, he placed his hand upon it to hear how it would sound in his head. It sounded like a firecracker. To see if it would make a sound at all similar when he struck it, he picked up the mallet and hit the gong. 

The gong’s crash sent searing jagged aquamarine across his vision and he covered his eyes against the visual assault. “God, that’s loud!”

Erin and Abby agreed in politely neutral rust that it was indeed loud, and then Abby gave him a nice magenta, “Kevin, you’ve got the job.”

So apparently he had remembered all the strange arbitrary things that made neurotypicals feel comfortable. His counselor would be so proud of him.