The Colour of Pain

Each type of pain has its own special colour. I do not think I am the first one to have claimed that. And it is too clever clever for this to be a genuinely clever observation.

Well, the first person to define the colour of pain was someone whom I shall call by his alter ego’s name of Pain Threshold. His real name sounded like a real name, but this alter ego’s name sounded far too fabricated to be real. He was a pain therapist. Plain and simple. Not a doctor or psychiatrist, but a pain therapist. Dealing with pain at all levels and natures of being felt. Mind or Body. Mind AND Body. Mildly nagging pains to excruciating ones. And upon the entrance to his clinic were the words PAIN THRESHOLD above the lintel. Are you ready to be introduced to him? Just follow me…

The room’s walls are covered in framed certificates. In every style of calligraphy and quality and colour of parchment and paper, with flourished signatures and named academies galore as representatives of those who have accredited his ability to practise pain therapy. But your eye is soon drawn to the man sitting at the desk before us. Depending on the degree or position of your own pain, you hobble towards the seat that he has placed for you in an optimum position to catch his gracious gaze. Still, I have just remembered, you are following me, aren’t you, not me you. You will have to stand behind me as I, not you, take the seat for the consultation. In fact, Mr Threshold does not seem to see you at all. His eyes are only for me. As if he has already sensed the juicy pain which I have brought into his room for his diagnosis of such pain’s ecstatic or exquisite qualities. 

To suit his colourography, his first foray into the realms of your pain is simply to chart its artwork of various hues and shades, till homing in, via a gradually realised blend, towards a condensed single colour for his focus. 

My own focus, meanwhile, is upon him. He who is the pain centre in a grey suit, and a shaded face to match. He shows me all manner of colour charts, and their mix-and-match facilities, as if he is a domestic paint-blender in a do-it-yourself department store. Apparently pain can be assuaged by matching its colour with the colour of the medicine used to assuage it. At least that is what I understood from Mr Threshold. Until later.

It was at this point that you intervened on the concept of paint. You came from behind my chair, stepped forward and addressed Mr Threshold directly, as if you were about to halt a Monty Python sketch that had just got too silly to continue.

“Aren’t you confusing pain with paint?” you asked.

I had not even noticed, till now, following your question, that pain was only one letter short of paint. What else had I not noticed? That my pain had gone? I closed my eyes, and knew somehow it had indeed gone. And by closing my eyes, swirls of colours began to merge with the optic floaters, and as I squeezed my eyes even tighter, these turned into a configuration of shapes and forms, and once these latched into a certain picture of a potential peopled landscape or still-life, that picture eventually froze indeed into a painting, a hallucination of healing, a self-persuasion that I was cured, painless, so painless I was numb. Dreadfully numb. Almost unable to breathe. The pain had been part of me, a part that was now missing. A part that made me tick.

You and Mr Threshold spoke in unison as if in a single voice that surrounded me. Can you remember what you said? Yes, that’s right. What you said was, “Open your eyes.” Words that would have made more sense if they had been heard rather than seen. Said rather than written. Each of us usually has two eyes…

At least one of us was out of pain. The painting’s picture made sense. 

But the other one, you see, was colour blind. And the picture that formed no longer made sense. Just shades of amorphous grey with no demarcation lines to depict figures or trees or vases or fruit. We are no longer you and me, but only me. Not clever clever. Or maybe too clever by half.

The limbo of all pain thresholds forms the door to the room that you thought you entered, the door you did enter, just in time, below a descending lintel. But you were ever alone, after all. And offered a medicine bottle with only cloudy calligraphies of dream to drink. Dulled the hurting at least. But it never really dulls to nothing. Ever painted into a corner of pain.

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