Until 2006 I was colorblind. Show me a sunset and I saw shades of green. Hand me a pink shirt and I was sure it was grey. Before my first date with Lisa, my future wife, I gave her my address and described my house as the gray house on the corner. The only gray house on a corner anywhere in the neighborhood belonged to the local drug dealers, which she realized when they opened the door and called inside to see if there was a ‘Rob’ sprawled somewhere in the haze. Lisa said “Uh, sorry, I’ve got the wrong house,” backed up and found me in the blue house on the corner.
On February 8, 2006, I sat at home typing Dreamblade notes on my laptop computer while Lisa went to hear a National Geographic lecture with her mom. As usual, I had Windows Media Player humming along playing music. I liked having the Alchemy visualizer twirling colors around at the side of the screen while I worked. Suddenly the screen flashed orangecrimsonpinkpurplescarletblueviolet. I’d always thought of the program as a mix of flashing yellows and blues and some greens. Had the visualizer changed? No, it was the same program I always used. But these were actual colors! I sat and watched the full spectrum twisting for almost an hour.
I knew that I had a conclusive color vision test hanging on the wall across the living room from me. The day before I’d had my nose pressed to a landscape painting by Lisa’s brother, trying to see the pink in the sky that she said was the painting’s best feature. I hadn’t been able to see anything except some dark streaks. I pointed to them and said, “Is this the pink?” but Lisa just shook her head, saying that I might as well not try.
When I dared to set the computer aside and sneak up on the landscape, I was ecstatic to find that the sky wasn’t just a blue and gray wash. There was the pink. And those dark streaks I’d noticed the day before? They were beautiful orange.
Lisa came home and found me sitting in a pile of all our art and photo books, spread out on the floor, looking at colors and details I’d never seen. I was bawling. I was overwhelmed by the reality that this was how everyone else saw the world all the time. Lisa had to talk me into going to sleep, I was worried that I was going to wake up and it would all be gone.
Two years later, I still have color vision. I don’t have a medically verified explanation for how I regained colors, but with a prompt from a neurologist friend of Lee Moyer’s, I have put together a good guess. No one ever accused me of being colorblind until I was in fourth grade. I don’t remember having any trouble recognizing colors when I was younger and I didn’t have any trouble recognizing them when my color vision came back. But when I was in third grade I ran into a metal pole at a full downhill sprint. It was a serious head injury and it left me with symptoms that bothered me into my thirties. Those symptoms have all gradually gotten better or gone away. My guess is that I also lost the world’s colors to that metal pole.
After decades, something has reconnected. The tangled impulses composing my mind have agreed to show me colors again.