Acoustic Synesthesia, Verbal Qualia, and Phantom Pain

It was a typical Sunday in cold winter, the Sunday when I bought my first Avril Lavigne album in 2004, and the snow must had been newly fallen as I vividly remember the creaking sound I made every step I took on my way to extracurricular classes, which were scheduled on weekends to purposefully ruin a child’s playtime. I timed my paces and adjusted my gait, so as to match with the drumbeat of the music I was listening to, and with each “creak”, the densely packed multi-layered snow would send through my leg a faint quiver, negligibly but surely. It was a sensation too abstract to be adequately captured with words, yet the cheerful duet produced by my both feet that lingered within me would always make sure that such sensation can never slip away.

That is the most distant eidetic memory I can still evoke and relish, and anything beyond that point is mostly a blurry clutter. I don’t recall much details about that particular day except the sky was surprisingly clear, but the strangely satisfying sound of snow crunching beneath my feet and the music that helped it cement deep in my head had been woven together so tightly that till this day, I continue to couple the two as the perfect ensemble of my most cherished winter memory—the ensemble, which persists to crystalize in my head every time I reexperience the faint quiver. “Creak.”

For lack of better words, or, there just aren’t any in the existing lexicon, I can’t for the life of me seem to find the right combination to formulate a sentence and describe a feeling, such that a person who has never felt what I had could suddenly and vicariously experience it themselves. Even if I succeeded in assembling millions of billions of words in a miraculous order capable of propagating synesthesia, how would I know that on the receiving end such feeling would manifest itself precisely as I had envisioned?

A missing chapter in the tome of sensation; a lost piece in the puzzle of consciousness; an elusive stroke in the calligraphy of life; they all confine me in an arbitrary prison from reaching omniscience, which is not to say obtaining one thirds of divinity, but being unfettered from the shackles of the language—the unknown beyond the spoken realm. It is the qualia that, when simply explained, quibbles over my red from your red that binds me to a timeless struggle over true awareness.

Though the astounding intricacy of the mind ever so often concatenates certain synapses together to form an eccentric network of neurons responsible for leading event A to event B, severing them apart can be one of, if not the most agonizing task to accomplish, and failing to do so causes a grievous discrepancy between one’s reality and their mind. I walk the familiar earth beneath my feet and event A no longer takes me to event B; however, the mind holds on to its dear life and refuses to detach the mental projection of B from its real-life sibling A. How then, I genuinely ask, should one reconcile the bleak duality of A-B and A-B?

There is no how; not that I know of.

The mind has its own eeriness that treads on deep snow and leaves no trail behind, therefore I look back and there is nothing but a blanket of white, so white that it blinds me to tell from where and when my journey had begun. A visage that transcends time; a crescendo that brings me to; a rupture that… a rupture that… a puncture that constitutes phantom pain from that which I had neither had, nor lost.

My sense is dull, for it fails to translate my ethereal synesthesia into words that don’t yet exist on account of qualia, and my qualia remains palpable, so much so that for the first time in a long time phantom pain ceases to exist as a metaphysical notion, but an ache that has come to.

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