Thursday, 16 August 2012

Off Colour - Friday Flash




He was told in no uncertain terms that his language was off colour.

Not in the sense of turning the air blue with profanities. Like Lenny Bruce or Buddy Hackett. Those wilful kite flyers and lightning conductors sending up their crackling charge of forked tonguery. Straight down the spines of the audience who dare not credit what has just passed between their ears. Blushing red, immediately thawing the frisson of disbelief. Make no mistake, they know exactly what it was they heard. The language of obscenity was targeted with the precision of a heat seeking missile. And boy did it lock on to their respired vapour trails. So no, in that sense it couldn't really be said to be off colour. Or even blue.

Nor was it his flat and colourless talk once exhibited when sat with his wife at the kitchen table, dousing the last embers of their marriage. Head slumped between his hands, braced against the failure of their two worlds ever to collide any more. She enunciated her domestic burdens, while he dreamed of the exotic. Especially his lover who was no longer prepared to wait for him. She bemoaned the lack of real red letter days in their grubby little affair, as they skulked around in the grey world needing to blend in. His wife's face alternated between puce rage and puffy cerise when the tears absconded and burnished the skin channels they ploughed. Flat and wan his words may have been, but at least they followed faithful speech rhythms to preserve the shape of their meaning. Unlike those words of his wife shredded into sawn-off syllables and babbled phonemes. As determined by the serrated punctuation of her heaving sobs, or her welter of tidal emotion that swamped all utterance entirely.

Moreover it was totally removed from the condition when his sister had finally awoken from her coma. The lone persistent symptom was a loss of her colour perception. She viewed the world through monochrome, (so if there was any genetic predisposition, it didn't appear to be gendered). Nevertheless, her mind remembered how things looked. She still knew the words. Hues, tones and colours. And she felt a compunction to paint the world with those distantly remembered chromatics, trying to salvage the full register of her perceptions. But since they emerged from the wavelengths of her thoughts rather than those of light, more often than not they were impossibly inflated. She often obliterated objects behind an intensity of colouration. Her words were like the drawing book of a child who has shaded beyond the solid black borders of the image contained within. Her words lent pulsation to fixed objects and violence to still life ones. Spectrums of colour, narrow as they might have been within entities, were blown apart by her daubing of them with an all-consuming colourific tincture.

No. His words were now foundering upon a very different distortion. Like ships wrecked on littoral rocks, his words were breaking up from beneath him. His language was off colour, because it ceased to function as language at all. Bites of words, mangled and strangled morsels of sound, that had been split asunder from their host words and resutured together like Dr Moreau's teratologies. His words, making perfect sense inside his own head, were heard only as white noise in the ears of his listeners. The grand mal surges had plucked the wavelengths of his brain and sundered his ability to emit coherently. Some called him gaga, and though madness is a form of dropping completely off the known spectrum, he wasn't deranged, merely unable to express his sanity.


10 comments:

Helen said...

How hard that must be, when the words form in one's head and fail to come out of one's mouth. I can't begin to imagine the frustration that must be felt.

Alison Wells said...

Once again you've opened up new ideas through your close examination of the varieties of language. Clever phrases esp 'littoral rocks'. I'd like to see further exploration in the future of the frustrations of not being understood.

Nadine said...

I loved this piece. very hardcore. Something I think many people experience.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I have synaesthesia so I ascribe random colours to words anyone, so I could totally understand this.

Deanna Schrayer said...

Brilliant use of language, per usual Marc. There are so many wonderfully-turned phrases in here I can't choose a favorite. That said, I love "littoral rocks".
Though I don't have the same problem, I can be difficult to understand at times (when my brain is working faster than my mouth wants to allow), so I can certainly understand his frustration.

Richard Bon said...

Amazing how you walk us through difficult events in his lifetime in such small space, and then bring us to that final demise of his ability to express.

Steve Green said...

Brilliantly put together Marc.

One could only guess at the frustration and unhappiness his predicament would cause, possibly the insanity that people believe he is suffering from too.

Brinda said...

So beautifully written Marc. I liked the line '..dousing the last embers of their marriage'. You captured his tragedy so well.

Katherine Hajer said...

A great use of language, and a great example of the fate of the over-filtered.

Cindy Vaskova said...

Everyone has bits of insanity in them. But when trying to express your sanity and failing to do so, being off color, it is truly frustrating. It is just a voice inside.