Baltimore in Scarlet

I have synesthesia.

But, instead of seeing sound

or hearing color

-which results from cross-talk between

auditory and visual neurons-

…I see pain.


Through some accidental quirk of nature,

my right supramarginal gyrus,

the empathy “center” of the human brain,

has strong connections to my visual cortex.

When someone is in pain,

I see waves of iridescent crimson

radiating from the person.


When I was a boy,

a friend of mine fell off his bike,

and skinned his knee.

I tried to clean up the blood,

but it kept flowing,

in wave after sanguine wave.

It wasn’t until later,

at the neurologist,

I realized I was seeing more than the physical wound,

but the emotional trauma as well.



I walked through Baltimore.

I could barely see through the crimson haze.

Emanating from the chests

of those who marched

was a dull red, pulsing tired.

This hurt was not the sharp scarlet

of intense immediate pain-


This suffering ached ruby from years of being held inside.

This pain turned the air florid with anguish,

and suffused the very streets with vermillion.


I walked through a city in agony.

When I came home

and saw the riots on the news

(which I saw none of in the 10,000 strong protest downtown)

I saw the white pundits,

on their alabaster thrones,

cool and emerald in their calmness,

in their analgesic world,

piously decrying the  protestors-

citing damage to nerveless properties.

I wish I could show them Baltimore

through my eyes,

point out the rubies of torment in their hearts,

the aching ruddy hue painting the city.

I wish they could see all the shades of red

I see, when I look at Baltimore.



I start playing Elevate,

specifically the “Processing” game,

where words fall ever faster from the sky

and you try to train your brain to keep up.

Across from me, a man,

doubled over, opens his hand.

Pills of every color lie nestled within.

As if in a stupor, he nudges them,

gently, with his forefinger.

Then, with slow and deliberate movements,

he picks up a fallen white capsule.

Placing it amongst its brethren,

he tightens his fist around the pills once more,

bringing them close to his chest.

His head sags down,

mouth half-agape.

Suddenly, the train bursts

into afternoon sunlight

as we cross a bridge,

the Charles sparkling below.

I look at my hand,

my phone still reads