Elvidarium | Kay Sexton
I’d never spoken to Ronita before we covered synesthesia in English class. To start with her name was weird, and she was weird. She always had chewed off nail varnish and how is that possible? There has to be a day when it’s perfect, surely?
I knew, from the moment Miss Perkins defined synaesthesia, which one of us was going to claim to have it. Magdalena Pike. Magdalena with the too-long fringe that she constantly brushed out of her eyes, the too-prominent Adam’s apple that was bound to raise questions in later life, the fluttery laugh with a hand pressed to her chest (the hand that wasn’t brushing hair out of her eyes). Magdalena would go on to become a hypnotherapist, to recover memories of past lives and end up suing an employer for discrimination because they wouldn’t let her bring in a six-foot pyramid to heal her clients’ endocrine systems.
Magdalena’s instantaneous acquisition of the ability to hear numbers and smell days of the week caused me to eye-roll inadvertently enough to catch Ronita’s attention, so when we paired up to write a piece, she tapped her pen on my desk. “You and me,” she said.
We wrote about the colors of emotions. Not the obvious red for anger stuff. Taupe was depression, peach was the hour before school ended on a Friday, and jade was the color of a walk with your pet dog early in the morning before the newspapers were delivered. It was okay. It was adequate. It was more fun than anything I’d ever done in English class before. That was how we began, giggling through our creative writing, asking Magdalena snarky questions about tasting numbers as we ran downstairs to our next class, skipping afternoon school without discussion, without guilt.
We played on swings like little kids, smoked cigarettes like grown-ups, talked like teenagers who’d never had a best friend before, which neither of us had. We became inseparable. But not for long. Three weeks after we first talked, on the peach hour of Friday, we were sprawled in the long grass behind the playing field, sharing a roll-up, when Ronita said, “You know when you wake up in the morning and turn over in bed and remember it’s Saturday and you don’t have to get up?”
“You know the color you see behind your closed eyelids at that moment?”
“That color…” she inhaled deeply. “That color is elvidarium.”
I remembered that conversation when I heard the news on Monday morning. Heard that she’d taken pills she’d filched from her grandmother’s house – the house her parents thought she was staying at because they were away for the weekend. Her grandmother thought she was at a friend’s house.
I knew I was that friend.
I knew she’d woken that Saturday morning, rolled over in bed, said elvidarium to herself and known it was never going to get any better.
About the Author:
Kay Sexton has been a finalist for several writing awards including the Sunday Times Short Story Award, the Willesden Herald Fiction Contest and winner of both the Fort William Festival Contest and the Wollongong Literary Festival Short Story Contest. In addition she has had two non-fiction books and one novel published.