A Creative Take on Sensory Processing: Part One2 min read

My family has a thing for knives. It all started when my Aunt chased her sister down the street with a butcher’s knife, a nat­ural reac­tion to news­paper theft. Her third grade teacher sent her home with a news­paper with a bizarre med­ical story she wanted her mother (a nurse) to read and give her opinion on, with explicit instruc­tions to return the paper in mint con­di­tion.

So, when her older sister grabbed the paper and joked that she was going to hide the news­paper at the neighbor’s house, she lost it. Her teacher was a grisly, griz­zled old lady who delighted in pun­ishing little kids. Fear often leads to scare tac­tics. 

I look for birthday cards from artists with ques­tion­able crop­ping skills so the car­toons will look like they’re missing a hand or a thumb, a nat­ural way to wish someone happy birthday. And I can’t walk past my aunt without her pan­tomiming stab­bing, a nat­ural way to greet a loved one.

I have always found it weird that a spat between two sis­ters decades before my birth would become my family’s biggest inside joke, and that that joke would take the shape of an imag­i­nary knife because I feel knives all the time.

I remember the first time I tried wine. My first sip of alcohol wasn’t even a sip. I dipped the edge of my tongue in a glass of Moscato and imme­di­ately retracted it. It had an acrid, elec­tric taste, and somehow left a burn on my tongue—not a heat burn, but the kind that comes from sudden phys­ical pain.

My senses deceive me every day. A warm embrace feels like the squeeze of a snake, the rip­ping of tape plows through my ears in a cannon of stri­dent sound, and wine splashes flesh sharper than the blade of a razor. 

Touch is a filet knife. It moves easily under the skin and catches you off guard. It’s supple yet jagged. A  sudden graze of the skin can send vio­lent shock­waves through the body, but it can also tit­il­late, while a firm grip can com­fort as easily at it suf­fo­cates.

Sound is a petty knife, where keen con­verges with del­i­cate. Precision becomes lost in a neu­ro­log­ical traffic jam, as sen­sory sig­nals fail to orga­nize into appro­priate responses. Volume is rel­a­tive. Everything seems larger than it actu­ally is.

My cochlea has a long list of sounds that the word hate doesn’t do jus­tice to. Sneezing, coughing, chewing, licking, blowing, bare feet peeling from hard­wood, and that god­damn faux rock band, the Lumineers, who will one day be greeted at the gates of Hell with a simple Ho Hey from the lips of Lucifer him­self.

Smell is a mincing knife that rocks me to my core. Two blades. Always par­allel. A slice through the nos­trils; a punch in the stomach. Nausea has been the most reli­able part of my life. But taste is the worst. Taste is a paring knife gone wrong. Layered and unas­suming, it skins the flesh. Flavors linger. They may burn, but they don’t stain. Yet, three years later, the wine left an imprint on my tongue I can’t wash away.

Click here to read Part 2 of this series.

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