He heard colors.
He saw voices.
People told him he’d gotten it wrong when he said it like this, but he knew better. It took so much effort to tell anybody the truth of what he experienced that it didn’t matter if he told the whole truth, so help him, God.
God was the only one who could help him now, anyway.
The people recoiled when he told them about the voices. What little they knew about mental health warily shuffled to the fore at the word. Everyone knew that test, said quickly, almost as an aside, an afterthought.
“Do you hear voices”, as if that made sense.
“Of course I hear voices”, he wanted to scream. “How do you think I can hear you now? How does anybody hear voices? Don’t we all?”
But they never said the rest. It was assumed, unspoken, perhaps out of fear of raising the spirits. What they meant was “Do you hear voices of people who aren’t here?”
They didn’t care. All they knew was it was bad.
But they conveniently forgot about the prophets, the real ones. They heard voices too. Well, to be precise they heard a Voice, the Voice. The prophets were respected. Sometimes ostracized, but respected.
He didn’t want to admit it wasn’t one, though. There were hundreds. He listened to audiobooks to drown them out. Sometimes the voices joined in. Sometimes he couldn’t tell which characters were real, but he didn’t let on about this. It was best not to alarm people more than they already were.
He was an oddball. Everybody knew. There was no denying he stuck out, and yet he was invisible too. He was so unusual in his manner and looks that everybody walked around him, not engaging him, in case he was wild, or dangerous, or both.
They didn’t know why he felt so odd to them. It was the kind of oddness that you didn’t even notice, like bad feng shui, or the house that is always abandoned, or the business that always fails on that one particular corner.
He was like that, ill-fated, no blame to it, but there you go. It doesn’t matter whether there is blame or not to a car accident, either. The damage is the same.
They didn’t realize that their abandonment only worsened the symptoms, only made him sicker and stranger. It was a snake eating its own tail. It was a feedback loop producing only more and more noise.
Perhaps this was why psychiatrists used to be called “alienists” not very long ago. That sense of otherness, of being alone and lonely, of not fitting in, reinforced over the years by unthinking others, made him feel like he was an alien from another country, or planet. Never welcomed, never included, never brought in from the cold to warm by the fire, he drifted, cold, heartless and loveless.