Car 1

Deirdre Hidderley

Outward appearance

Black crushed-velvet jacket under an open coat with a ring of fake fur round the hood. Wiry red hair pulled fiercely back. Round, pouting face like Shirley Temple. Headphones, a whisper of classical music. She opens her eyes, closes them, opens them.

Inside information

Arts/music student at Merley College . Lives with her parents in Stratford.

What she is doing or thinking

She is mourning the gradual loss of her synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is a medical condition in which one sense triggers a response in another. Until a month ago, Deirdre could see sound.

The opening of the tube doors used to send delicately coloured soap bubbles wafting through the carriage. The rattling smear outside the windows would trail floating oranges and melted-wax bobbles of purple. The sound of people talking evoked bright, jagged, jerking shapes of yellow, blue, green.

Deirdre's fear is that all of modern art has been derived from synaesthesia. Kandinsky was synaesthetic, she is sure, Auerbach, Bacon. She felt like a member of a secret society. Deirdre was never good at school (she is also mildly dyslexic). But she could sing and paint. She now fears that her talent will go, along with the thing that made her special. It is as though part of her had died.

Even music no longer works. She snaps off the Walkman. She begins to hum a tune. She becomes aware of it, something sad, graceful, expressing loss. Whose is it? It's modern, but it's not Part or Tavener or Glass.

It's hers. Emotion has been converted into music. She fumbles for a pen.

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