I never noticed until he audibly gagged one night after watching a TV commercial for house painting services! It was the color of the fresh paint on the stucco, he says. It’s the same color of the river mud in southeastern Arizona. It happened again while his father described vinyl, and the manufacturing of these new, so-called-leather sofas. His father told him vinyl waste was made into a spray that when applied to fabric could replicate the look and feel of a genuine leather sofa. It was when his father began describing the way this vinyl material cracked with decay that he began dry heaving, uncontrollably. I watch the whites of his eyes turn red, and the blues fade behind tears.
I can remember when he lost his sense of smell; his sense of taste soon followed. It was when he could no longer be relied upon to rescue bread that I was notorious for abandoning in our toaster oven. It was also when I could no longer serve him a meal that was anything more than “Ehh,…..alright.”
When we returned to our bedroom after supper I ask him why colors and textures are making him sick. The memories conjuring up horror in his body. He opens his mouth to speak, but no sounds escape, and I wait patiently for him to settle. He says, “The colors and textures are almost like a flashback. I can smell and I remember things from my last job.”
The job he could never talk to me about. The job that still wakes him, and still haunts him.
He tells me about the color of the freshly painted stucco house in the commercial was the same colors made by the human body. The WORST of these colors were the ones that were made postmortem. He goes on to tell me that the texture of cracked vinyl too closely resembles that of decayed flesh. I notice that while he is speaking to me that his knuckles are white where he is gripping the edge of our bed, and I put my hand on the small of his back, and I tell him “It’s okay.”
I wonder what happened inside of his beautiful body. When sensory neurons died, and were tragically replaced with the haunting memories of the colors and textures that he can never escape.