"...as a child I was given much of the language of adults, and I continue to use it, even to describe my youth. I court the freshness, the immediacy, and all the resources of language that make the past tense strangely shine as though it were the present."
----Ahab's Wife or, The Star Gazer Sena Jeter Naslund
I was one of those kids. One that was given 'much of the language of adults'. I don't know where it came from. I grasped, comprehended, and seized on words in great greedy fistfuls. Adults would laugh and comment about the way I expressed myself. At the time, it confused me. 'This is what I have,' I thought. 'This is how I say it. All these words are here to use.' To me, settling for less was eschewing the box of 64 Crayolas with the built in sharpener for that four pack of generic crayons you get in a family themed restaurant so you can color on the placemat. I didn't want quadrichrome horses tacked up behind a cash register. I wanted great oceangoing behemoths heaving on swells of murk and shimmer, decks of walnut and ochre creaking under the dappled shade of snapping sails.
I wanted the words AND the color. These things have always been strongly and closely related. When I picture a calendar of months in my head, that calendar is and always has been exactly the same both in orientation and organization. Even the angle at which I view it in my mind has never changed, though it twists slightly as we progress through the year, almost as if it hangs on a wall not quite high enough to keep the bottom (October, November, and December) from resting on the floor. My mental calendar of a single week or entire month is much more simple and appears in my mind as if it is written on a chalkboard. But it always slants slightly downward toward Saturday. Centuries march through my mind as if in a parade on a broad city avenue. I look to my left toward the 1600s-1800s (where the buildings just begin) and see big skirts and horses, carriages and carts, which give way to early automobiles as I turn my head (in my mind) to the right; the cars get first bigger and then smaller, and then I can insert myself in this left to right progression of time. Its almost as if every block the fashion changes. Some of the cars have presidents, musicians, poets and writers in them.
I've always been fascinated with synesthesia, and wondered if I had it in one of its forms, first because of this calendar business, and second because I am instantly drawn to any series of objects that are identical except for their color. Eyeshadow palettes. Sets of colored pencils. I can stand in front of a paint display and stare at the cards of paint chips for several minutes and the only explanation I can offer is that seeing all the colors together makes my brain happy. I own close to 130 bottles of nail polish and choosing one to put on is one of the small but deeply enjoyed pleasures of my week. And if something is packaged like this, you can be sure I'm going to get it. I found this in a local drugstore and it was in my hand before I ever consented to purchase it.
Whatever its called, and whatever it means, the colors, the words, and the memories are tightly braided and always at the ready. I like to think that my strangely shining past tense is not a maudlin recitation of past glories or a desire to cling to things as they once were. I just enjoy taking out the colors of memory, laying them carefully side by side, and looking at them.