I’m in a safe place, my jacket is warmly hugging me, my earplugs gentle and soften the auditory world, and still, I’m anxious. Tonight was the night that my brain twigged some things that I’d rather it hadn’t. First, it got me thinking about Julia Bascomb of Just Stimming’s writing about being outed as autistic.
Then, it teleported over to thinking about the word “autistic”. It was neither hard nor soft but tended more towards soft than hard, an odd combination of orange and beige, and it was distant. But distant wasn’t and isn’t really the right word. It’s too brown, and the T isn’t right. No, autistic is.. Seperated. That’s the right word. It’s even the same kind of colour. It’s seperated and faraway, but it feels like it’s right here, in me.
That, the idea of passing as neurotypical and my higher-than-usual theory of mind are making me understand that it’s seperated, and faraway, but still here, because it makes me seperated and faraway. From other people. Rather, not my being autistic, but their knowledge of it. And that makes people treat me differently. Not in the way that I like to be treated differently (quiet when I cringe and cover my ears, understanding when I flap my hands) but different to that, the bad kind of different, the kind of different that I don’t ask for and can’t see, will never see. But that different (need a new word, too brown) will go away if I pass. But that might be worse.
I might be cold and aloof instead of logic-based and socially awkward. I might just simply be someone who can’t do things instead of someone who works within specific parameters, which I picture as a line the colour of autistic being fired from a convex through the gaps of a city of enormous gray library shelves. I won’t know, I can’t tell, and so how can I decide?
Einstein or someone else like him (lauded as a genius, produced many quotes) once said something along the lines of knowledge just making you aware of how ignorant you really are. I never really understood what he meant until now, not the understanding that hits you with the raw, staggering force of emotions so unlike that of gentle, faraway, silent logic, who never makes you anxious in safe places.
I often imagine people pity my lack of understanding of these things, normally, but now, I should pity them. I don’t, I am afraid of them. What kind of creature survives this, thrives on it, enjoys it? This is terrifying. This turns my so-beloved slur of a confrontational self-identifier into a shelter, like that of my innocence, before I lost it. The shelter of being able to say that you are just a retard, you are a retard and you do not understand these things and emotions are pictured as being blasted into some huge dark metal wall by a furious geyser of water from a thrashing sea and won’t someone please make it stop because you can’t do it yourself?
Because when you understand it, the world is far more than a sensory assault when you venture outside, and people are more than logic puzzles to be convinced so you can live another day. The world is a place of invisible things that put soft, yielding pressure on you that you can’t feel, and if you do not heed that pressure, they will harden for the few seconds it takes to remove the cliff-edge from under you.
The world is the abyss staring into you without you even staring back, and the world is where you are nothing but your nickname from school, a stick insect, uncomprehending and so easily crushed. The world is terrifying, and you wish only to cringe away from it, under the wing of one of the people made to live in such an environment, one of the few who don’t loathe this retard, this changeling, this burden who cannot survive by itself.
But even they can kill you. Their loud voices and chewing and physical affection can crush you just enough that you struggle mindlessly to escape, and then they lock you away. They lock you away in a mental asylum, where you are crushed and crushed again, and reconfirm your imprisonment with each struggle. Because this is their world, and nobody will argue that it wasn’t okay for them to crush an insect like you as they stomped and shouted around in it, as is their birthright.
So you stare at the floor, your gaze weighted by the tears forming in your eyes, and you hope that one of them will want you. Like some abandoned child with no innocence left to delight adoptees with. But you will never grow up any further. You will never grow into one of those people you sometimes picture as hundreds upon hundreds of feet tall, towering over you. You will always need someone.
Sometimes you wonder how a world that pretends to civilisation could be so fundamentally unfair. You imagine just stopping some authority figure and asking them, (doctor, you see, I am a retard and…) but they don’t have an answer even in fantasy, and in real life, you dread the accusation that you view other people only as fulfilling a need, or that you’re worthless, or that you’re just lazy.
So, you just survive, awaiting your death and trying to enjoy your life before you meet it. Day by day, week by week, month by month, the patience of the persyn who brought you into this world without considering that you might be an insect counts down to the almighty zero that destroys your small world where you’ve avoided crushing until now. The moment of truth, where you go to the next persyn who wants you, or you go thudding to the surface of the street, not understanding the arcane rules of outside.
To be starving, cold and dying amid the bustle and the joy and the pretense that everyone gets a fair chance at life that saturates the world, a quiet revelation that nobody wants to hear, until you die. Sometimes, you wonder if before the end, you’ll find someone who looks like an authority figure and ask them that question.
Doctor, you see, I am a retard, and…