You encounter a mysterious man offering you a magic potion that, once sipped, will make one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) super sharp — but dull the others. Will you sip it, and if so, what sense do you choose?
Tall, with a sharp face that bore no smile, he opened the oak-carved box with a small black text, ‘Pick one’.
“Could I have a tester?” I asked apprehensively.
He fumed, bewildered by such an unruly request. But as if possessed by a rare moment of kindness, he glanced briefly and nodded, “Only one, lasting only for a day – with a trade off on all other sense – also only for a day.”
I hesitated. I waved my fingers over the five bottles, to his irritation. I finally rested my hands on the blue bottle, and took a gulp. Words scrawled on the label read ‘Hear it clear.’
The effects were indescribable. It was like I had been hit by a wave in the ocean. A sudden clarity of sounds – even that of the old man’s breath. But as if drowning, my vision was no longer clear; my nose was stuffed from a strange salty smell. I listened harder, only to realise that the old man had stepped further away from me.
Stepping beyond the door, I began to wander into the streets, back to my usual cafe. What was the usual bustling sounds of the day were more than amplified today. The usually charming waiter was muttering almost inaudible frustrations; the intriguing lady who frequently sat by the window seats with her friends was breathing harder than usual. I could almost, almost hear her suppressed rage rising against their insensitive questions about her private life. I heard the boy nibbling carelessly on his brioche, with the crumbs falling softly onto the pages of his book – but this time, I could hear his grief as he swallowed each mouthful.
What a contradiction to the faces I saw each day. The waiter who greeted everyone most warmly; the lady who always smiled politely in utmost composure; the finely-dressed boy who appeared arrogant and indifferent to his surroundings. What a vast contrast to what I saw of them.
I soon felt suffocated by the loudness of reality blaring in my ears, and was quickly swept away by the ever-rising sound waves. Like a moment of disillusionment, I realised that the image of them was always more beautiful than who they really were…