"So what does it look like to you?"
"What does what look like?"
"Everything. I mean is it always on? What does this room look like to you?"
She smiled. It was always like this when she told people what she saw. The questions. What does it look like? It looks normal. You try and describe what your world looks like, it looks like the way your world has always looked. But since she had been answering this question for so long she had ways to describe it that people would understand. They weren't exact. But they were good enough.
"You know that string art we would do in schools? Ojo de Dios? God's Eyes? Cat's Eyes? Whatever they called it in your school. The one where all the strings connect and make a pattern? That's what it looks like."
"Pretty much. But imagine the strings are like laser beams. Each a different color. And the colors shift depending on what is going on. But there is a string connecting each person you are talking to, or looking at, or sometimes not even apparently paying attention to, but if there is a connection there is a string."
"When did it start?"
"As far as I know from birth. There are home movies of me as a baby and I am waving my hands in the air and giggling, normal baby stuff, but when I look at it I can see that I was reaching for the lights. For the strings. And my hands would pass right through, like a sunbeam. When I was older I would talk about them, I didn't realize that no one else could see them until an older cousin of mine, who could see them as well, told me. He taught me to be careful about when I talked about them, and that sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut. He learned that when he mentioned the bright red string between his father and his father's secretary."
"So wait, are the strings different colors depending on relationships?"
"Yes and no. For instance the color between my mother and father is dark purple and the color from each of them to each of my siblings is a lighter purple and the color to their grand-kids is almost lilac. So if my mother is sitting in a room and I see a lilac string appear I know one of my nieces or nephews has just come in. But that doesn't mean that the color between your parents and their kids would be the same. Purple means family in my family, but in yours it could be blue. There are differences among people. Even if the relationship is the same it's not the same, see? "
He shook his head no and said, "Maybe? Like what color is between us?"
"Right now? It's varying. It's in the yellow orange spectrum though. You are trying to understand something I'm telling you so the color keeps changing. It gets darker as you listen to me, lighter as you try and figure out what it is I'm telling you. The color shifts as you try to piece together what I'm saying with other things you know."
"Woah...so you can tell if someone is really listening to you by the color of the string between you?"
"Why do you think I'm still single?" She laughed, but it wasn't really a joke. It was almost impossible to keep a relationship going if you knew how connected someone was feeling to you at every moment. If they were listening when you were talking. What their actual relationship was with the friend you just met. Trust was hard to come by if you knew that much about someone. We aren't designed to know everything about everyone all of the time. It was easier to live alone than with everyone else's strings.
"And you can never turn it off?"
"Not really. I can focus on what I am doing and sort of tune them out. They become background noise, but I can't just not see them at all."
"So you have no idea what everyone else sees?"
"No, I do. It's easy to imagine what it looks like to have them gone. They aren't in paintings or in most still pictures. Sometimes you get a haze, or an aura around someone, but for the most part they aren't there. And before HD cameras I couldn't see them in movies and TV shows. Now as the pictures gets clearer and clearer the lines are coming in. Which is horrible."
"Why is it horrible?"
"Because they don't match. Say there are two actors in a movie and they are married to each other, but the characters they play are married to other people. So what I see on the screen is the line between the two actually married people and a really faint line between the two that aren't. And that line fades in and out depending on how hard the actors are thinking about their character. It's like watching a show and the sound isn't syncing up. You know when the mouth is moving just ahead or just behind the lines? That's what it's like when the strings don't match. My brain is seeing one thing and trying to process another. It's annoying."
"Oh! So that's why you like old movies best!"
"Exactly. No strings. No distractions."
"So would you change if you could? Would you get rid of the strings?"
"Most days I would say no, absolutely not. They are part of me. I am not sure how to function in the world without them. It would be like losing any of my other senses. I would feel lost. But there have been times I would have gladly given them away. Times when seeing what no one else sees has been awful. Hurtful. Heartbreaking. But mostly it's been good. It's helped me in a lot of ways. I wouldn't have my job if it weren't for the strings."
"Is it genetic? You said you had a cousin who can see them? Is this like a family trait?"
"I don't know if it's genetic or not. If it is, it's really recessive. It's just the two of us that have the ability, as far as I know. I've met a few other people who can see them, but not a lot. There are people who have touches of it, like they can see auras, but not where those lead. I've met people who can see them in certain circumstances, like when they are drunk or under a lot of stress.
I've met people who pretend they can see them but don't really. After I first started speaking publicly about it I was invited to a lot of conferences and meetings with people who claimed all sorts of abilities like this one. For every 1000 who say they are psychic there are probably 2 who actually have something. After they figured out that lying has its own color string I wasn't invited to many more conferences."
"What is the hardest part? Is it the trust?"
She leaned back in her chair and thought for a minute. No one had ever asked her this question before. They had assumed the trust issues would be the hardest. But that wasn't it. That was something she just dealt with. It wasn't her favorite, but it wasn't the hardest. "The hardest part is seeing a cut string."
"A cut string?"
"That's what I call a string that only goes one way. Okay, see that couple over there? The older lady and the young man? They are having coffee in the corner there. What do you see?"
He took a little bit to watch them. "Grandmother and grandson maybe?'
"That would be my guess, that or great-grandson. They are attached to each other with a light pink string. It's very strong, thicker than normal. There is a strong connection happening. But she also has a very dark pink, almost in to red string that leaves her and then just fades away. A cut string. I would guess her husband, his grandfather, died within the past few months. She still has that string sending out to him, but he isn't there to pick up the other end. That's a cut string. A death. A divorce. A break up. A loss. Unreciprocated love. They all cause cut strings."
He picked up a napkin from the table and tried to subtly wipe the tear, "Oh wow. And you see that all the time? Even if she wasn't sitting with her grandson would that string be there?"
"Yes. Some people are nothing but cut strings. That's pretty much the hardest part."
She smiled, "Caught that did you? Yes, pretty much. The hardest part is meeting someone who has no strings at all. No connection to anyone. Ever."
"Yeah, wow. So that's what it looks like to me. How about you? What do you see?"
He looked around the coffee shop one more time. "Enough I think, just enough."