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One day, when you’re five years old and made out of fractured sunlight and mirror shards, you sit down on the bench of the MAX train. You’re dressed in your winter coat and boots that are too big and one of your parents has pulled your hat too close over your ears.

You’re sitting next to your mother, and on the other side is a man that smells like loneliness, something that you’ll later know as cigarettes and alcohol and homelessness. He’s crying quietly into the top of his jacket and you’re scared to look because you’ve never seen an adult cry.

The train ride goes on for five minutes, which is a long time to you, and eventually you sneak a look at the crying man who smells like Portland and loneliness, and he sees you. He leans down until you can see the red lines in his eyes and he whispers to you.

“Do you know the taste of the universe?”

And you look up at him with your little-girl eyes and shake your head because you can’t speak to strangers. And his smell is on your skin and in your nose so you shake your head and shake your head until you’re dizzy.

He nods at you and looks away, and in three minutes he’s crying again and you can finally swallow. And your teeth are dry, and your tongue is dry and finally this man gets up, still crying, and walks off the train into the dark.

And that’s that.

That question will keep you up for several nights, lying with your blanket all bunched up around your chin and your stuffed animal pressing into your spine.

Do you know the taste of the universe?

And that question will wrack you senseless and leave you broken the way children seldom are because you finally understand that you don’t. You don’t understand. A man who smelt like loneliness asked you a question and walked away and you don’t understand. You. Don’t. Understand.

A few days later you’ll be sitting on the playground looking at your hands and someone will ask you what you’re doing. And you’ll look up with those same little-girl eyes and you’ll say that you’re grieving. Because you know that word, even if they don’t, and you're grieving because you’re finally coming to grips with a universe where adults cry and loneliness is the sort of smell you taste on the back of your tongue.

That question will flick in and out of your brain like your heartbeat. One day when you’re ten some adult will ask you when you become a grown-up, and you’ll want to say that it’s the day when you taste the universe but you can’t. Because that’s a secret not-answer, because you don’t know what the universe tastes like and they don’t either.

By the time you’re eleven you’ll have the beginnings of insomnia because you’re always awake at night. Not because you’re busy, and not because you’re trying, but you’re getting to the point where the day isn’t long enough for all your thoughts and you’ll just think. And you’ll think and listen to your heartbeat and as the thoughts swirl and go down your spine like the water in a drain you’ll hear the smoky sound of the man’s breath. Do you know the taste of the universe?

And you’ll sit upright because you don’t. You. Don’t. Understand.

And one day when you’re fourteen someone you love and trust will betray you.  Your best friend will betray you. They’ll betray everything, what they said, what they promised, your friendship, your love.  And you’ll cry so hard that your throat will hurt and you’ll taste salt tears and the heavy, thick taste of despair. And somewhere in between that despair and the resignation you’ll think. Because you’re crying so hard you taste blood and that’s how you’ll know your heart is broken. You’ll think that this is it. The taste of the universe.

That must be why he asked it, because that day on the train he was tasting the universe and alcohol and cigarettes and there you were in the boots and the jacket thinking about Christmas. And of course he had to ask. Because you were there.

And you’ll ride the MAX train to Portland over the next few years and some days you’ll be alone. Because you’re coming back from school trips and you’re by yourself because you don’t have a place to be with friends. And you’ll taste the universe a little because of that, you’ll taste the echoes of that heartbreak and you’ll look for that man. You’ll look and you wait for him, because you need to tell him that you do. That you’ve tasted the universe and it tastes like heartbreak.

But you’ll never see him. And maybe that’s a blessing because you’re sure that if you tell him, if he knows that you know while you still have the remains of your little-girl eyes and childhood, he’d cry because that day he asked you he wanted the answer to be no. He wanted to know that there are still unbroken children in a world of broken hearts.

So you sit on the MAX and wait to go home and you’re almost sure you’re going to cry and you hope that a child doesn’t sit next to you because if they do, you’re going to ask them. Because what else can you do? And you’ll ask them and you’ll hand them that one last part of your heart that doesn’t know you. That doesn’t know you know. Because maybe then you can forget the taste of the universe for half a second. Because you’re so tired of thinking and thinking and you just want to be that little girl who shook her head so hard she was dizzy and didn’t know the taste of a broken heart.
This is a true story. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-05-24
~Synesthi, asked a powerful question in her youth, transforms her personal experiences throughout her life into wonderful second-person non-fiction to answer that very question: Do you know the taste of the universe? ( Featured by Nichrysalis )
:iconxxscarletrainxx:
xxScarletRainxx Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2015  Student General Artist
I first read this two years ago. Whenever I think of it, I just have to read it again. This is a truly heartbreaking piece. It's the written embodiment of the loss of innocence experienced by everyone in different ways. You really did a wonderful job on it. Thank you.
Reply
:icon52heartfilia:
52heartfilia Featured By Owner May 19, 2015  Student Writer
Wow. I definitely was not expecting that at all.
Reply
:iconceltic-lily:
Celtic-Lily Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2014
This is beautiful in some simple, delicate, poignant way I can't quite describe.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2014
Thank you very much. :)
Reply
:iconspiderwebwisher:
SpiderwebWisher Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Hello, I'm a contributor for LiteratureRoadtrip and you have been featured in this week's FRIDAY FEATURE! Thank you! :heart:
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014
Thank you! 
Reply
:iconspiderwebwisher:
SpiderwebWisher Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
It's been my pleasure, you deserve it! 5 seconds hug 
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
:wave: Hello!

I've used your awesome deviation as part of my #TheTitlePage project, found here: liliwrites.deviantart.com/art/…

Thanks for sharing your art with the community. :heart:
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013
That's such a cool project!

Thanks for using it. :)
Reply
:iconnahnia:
nahnia Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Student General Artist
This is heart breaking but so beautiful
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. 
Reply
:iconkbwood:
kbwood Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is great. I am speechless.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013
Speechless can be good, I suppose. Thank you. :)
Reply
:iconthelunalily:
TheLunaLily Featured By Owner May 29, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Absolutely wonderful. I had no idea this is your story and not a fictional one.
It's an amazing story and your writing is brilliant. :heart:
Now I can't stop thinking of when I first tasted the universe.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013
People are often surprised that it's a true story. I ran it by one of my best friends, and he wasn't sure. :P I think it's just the nature of the experience. A little bit surreal. A whole lot thought-provoking. :)
Reply
:iconbatmanwithbunnyears:
BatmanWithBunnyEars Featured By Owner May 29, 2013   General Artist
This was an amazingly poignant piece. It isn't too often an abstract work like this plays out so organically and believably. At the end, I was thoroughly convinced that the titular question was entirely coherent.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply! Thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked it.
Reply
:iconbatmanwithbunnyears:
BatmanWithBunnyEars Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2013   General Artist
I thought of something else after I commented. Since food is part of the universe, simply describing what various foods taste like would also be answering the question. (Although I admit, that sort of thing wouldn't be nearly as emotive as what you wrote.) :)
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2013
Certain types of food more then others, I imagine. Like staple foods. Mass populations depend on them for survival, therefore they have both a symbolic and nutritional value in their existence.
Reply
:iconkittycatisthat:
Kittycatisthat Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is beautiful.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 26, 2013
Thank you.
Reply
:icontaranjhook:
TaranJHook Featured By Owner May 25, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is amazing! Love how it all comes around full circle, even if it's a sad one. Very nicely done on this and congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 25, 2013
Thank you!
Reply
:icondaghrgenzeen:
Daghrgenzeen Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very thought-provoking, wonderfully written, and so emotional as well. Congrats on the well-deserved DD! :heart:
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thanks!
Reply
:iconstickmen-evolved:
Stickmen-Evolved Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Then one day you'll find it tastes a whole lot better than alcohol and cigarettes, and those are just unfortunate aftertastes once you stop drinking (for this metaphor, universe juice makes sense). :)
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
:D
Reply
:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
The center of the universe tastes like raspberries and smells like rum, according to astronomers, if that helps. :)
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
That's the best news I've heard all day! :D
Reply
:iconbear48:
bear48 Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Professional
deeply moving and thought provoking
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thanks!
Reply
:iconwolfgirl12556:
WolfGirl12556 Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Sometimes, I feel as if the universe hates me for no apparent reason. I'm tossed into this black hole where I relive all of my worst nightmares, experiences, or thoughts. It's scary. This piece helped me see that other people can be broken or destroyed. It is absolutely terrifying. But lovely work.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
I'm sorry that the universe isn't very nice to you. But I'm glad that this piece helped you some. :hug:
Reply
:iconwolfgirl12556:
WolfGirl12556 Featured By Owner May 25, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
It is a very good piece of literature. It helps.
Reply
:iconvery-stormy-skies:
Very-Stormy-Skies Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I absolutely love the descriptive language, and how you described taste to describe loneliness. Overall, great job. This was a well-earned and deserved Daily Deviation.

I believe the universe has many tastes, and one of them- the one that I feel should be most common- is hope.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
The universe has many tastes, specific to the individual and situations.

That being said, I'm glad you liked it. :)
Reply
:iconerpae:
erpae Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
OH mah gosh that is so sad. Im so sad now thats just a wonderful piece of literature though. I think that it is the best, deepest, most sincere thing I have ever read. Do you mind if I add it to my favorites? It is such a beautiful piece of work. I think I want to be as descriptive as you are with my writing. Thank you so much for sharing.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thank you!

I don't mind at all if you add this to your favorites. In fact, I would be flattered. :)
Reply
:iconerpae:
erpae Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I did anyways so... yeah.
Reply
:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Student General Artist
Holy moly. You have got an incredible sense of flow in this story, and the paragraphs hook you in.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!
Reply
:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner May 25, 2013  Student General Artist
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconsixteenbubbleheads:
sixteenbubbleheads Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
This is lovely and amazing.

That is all I can say.
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thanks!
Reply
:iconsixteenbubbleheads:
sixteenbubbleheads Featured By Owner May 25, 2013
Youre welcome
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
Thanks!
Reply
:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:iconflyingheartsplz::blowkiss::iconflyingheartsplz:
Reply
:iconandromeda:
andromeda Featured By Owner May 24, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Haunting. Beautiful. Your story made me think. I want my universe to taste like cotton candy, spinning circles in the sun with my bare feet on the warm sand, arms out like a 3 year old, laughing, dizzy, love, rainbows, the smell of aqua, dreams coming true, full of hope and a LIFE of LIVING!!
Reply
:iconsynesthi:
Synesthi Featured By Owner May 24, 2013
That sounds lovely. :)
Reply
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