What's It Like?
by Eden of @the.autisticats
I cower behind my mother. A strange woman is at the door, opening it for us to enter. She has blonde hair. Her dress is blue. I smell a pool nearby. Maybe it’s in the backyard. Is she rich? The woman smiles at me and says hi. I don’t smile back. I don’t speak. She looks at my mom, searching for an answer. My mom laughs nervously and ruffles my hair.
“Oh, she’s just shy.”
A girl comes up to me on the playground. She asks me what I’m looking at. I tell her I’m looking at a dragonfly’s eye. She’s intrigued. Awed, even. She asks me how I can see so close. I tell her I don’t know. She does not know that the sun is too bright. She does not know that the playground is too loud.
“I wish I could be you for a day”
I’m trying to put on tights for church but they’re getting tangled. My hands are stuck. Which side is the front? I cannot see where they begin. I cannot see where they end. They are white and it hurts my eyes. I try to put one leg on and the tag scratches me. My mom comes into my room. She asks me what’s taking so long. I tell her I don’t know how to put the tights on.
“What do you mean you don’t know how?”
I try my best to get up on time. I get dressed. I eat breakfast. I brush my teeth. I still have to pack my backpack. My limbs won’t move fast enough. I fumble with the zipper of my sweatshirt. I drop my binder on the floor. I still haven’t found my socks. My sister yells through the house.
“Hurry up, you’re so slow!”
There is a new girl. She is the daughter of my mom’s friend. She looks scary. I mean normal. She looks normal but it is scary. She is scary because I don’t know her. I don’t know anything about her. How do they expect me to play with her like I’ve known her my whole life? I only met her ten minutes ago.
“Yeah she’s fine, she just has trouble meeting new people sometimes.”
I ask for my dad to move over and make room for me on the couch. I say please. Maybe he doesn’t hear me say please, because when I say it again he gets agitated. He says no. I don’t understand why. I ask again, irritated. He says no. Why can’t I sit here? I said please. I wanted to be polite. I tried to be polite. Did I say something wrong? He tells me that my tone was rude. I didn’t know. I didn’t want to be rude. I try to tell him. It escalates and I yell because I don’t know what’s happening and it’s all too much. I’m stuck. Standing against the wall, slapping my thigh again and again and again and again and again until it stings, feels like it’s on fire.
“Quit acting like a two year old!”
I am on the playground. There is a tree. I love the tree. I learned about different religions yesterday, from a library book. It taught me how to leave an offering. I ask my mom for a quarter. She gives it to me. I put the quarter near the roots of the tree. It is for the tree. I leave. A boy runs over to the roots of the tree. He looks at me and smiles a devious smile. He takes the quarter and runs away. I chase after him, I yell at him to put it back. That’s the tree’s quarter, I tell him. You can’t take it. But he takes it anyway. He and his sister run to the top of the playscape. They laugh, looking down at me, taunting me. I scream and cry and I yell at them to put it back. My head hurts. My mom grabs my arm and drags me away. I hear the kid shouting.
“What’s wrong with you!?”
It is the superbowl. I am in the basement. I bounce my feet together, on top of each other. Over and over, bounce bounce bounce. Touch release touch fly back up, again again again. I cannot control this, but it feels nice, good. It makes me happy. My dad frowns at me.
“If you keep doing that you’re gonna have to leave.”
I get into the car. My head has pressure inside of it. A balloon is in my brain, it wants to pop my skull. I push down on my head. I toss my head back. I squeal. It’s the only thing that deflates the balloon. My sister scowls at me.
“Stop making that sound!”
I am at school. I am taking a math test. I breathe. X= 3b+2a. A loud shrill noise assaults my ears. It scares me, and I jump, leaping from my seat. It’s the fire alarm. It’s so loud, too loud. It blocks my thoughts it blocks my mind I can’t even see through the noise. I clap my hands over my ears. Please stop make it stop let me get out of here. Hurry, hurry the line is too slow the people around me are slow they are relaxed I want to run away from this. They are in my way I can’t escape the noise it drills holes in my head my ears are ringing. A friend is next to me.
“Why are your hands over your ears?”
I’m four years old. I can’t go to the grocery store right now. That’s not part of the routine. Nobody told me this would happen. Why doesn’t anyone understand? My mom tells me I have to go anyway. I will not allow it. Nobody else is home, she says, I have to take you. I scream because now is not when this happens. Not when this is supposed to happen. She picks me up, I kick and shout and cry. I try to get away. She holds my hand firmly and pulls me along the sidewalk, on the way to the car. I voluntarily flop to the ground, on top of the dirt. I wriggle to get away. She tries to pull me up off of the ground but I am dead weight. A neighbor walks by.
“Is she okay? Do you want me to call someone?”
The lunchroom is too loud. I cover my ears and stare at the table. It changes and inverts colors as my eyes stay focused for too long. I hear conversations three tables down. I smell all of the food, everywhere, from everywhere, at once. Tuna and peanut butter and squash and spring rolls and orange juice and spaghetti and pinto beans. They converge. It’s nauseating. Someone says something to me, I think. Maybe they didn’t. I don’t know. There it is again, my name.
“Is something wrong? Are you okay?”
Someone learns that I am autistic. They ask me,
“What’s it like?”
But how do I explain my entire existence?