My mistake was that I made a remark about the mannequins. I had only a few sentences, and I remarked on the fact that two mannequins were decapitated for no apparent reason. And then we kept on. Through the mall, through the awful noise, past the coat I saw that I liked and wanted to look at and touch but couldn’t stay behind to appreciate, because I couldn’t talk to make the two people with me stay, and they would not look back to see if I was distracted by things so I could not stay without them lest I be lost.
There were stores, and noise, and delays. Always delays. Me, pressured to decide and panicking a little. The people with me, making suggestions and looking at things slowly. A child, dawdling down the stairs, blocking my emergency exit route. I wanted to go after 15 minutes, but I knew they would be angry if I did not buy anything or look at lots of things, and regardless, how am I to say that I want to go when I can’t find my way back, and they don’t check behind them, and I cannot speak? So, I went on.
I was reminded that people my age are terrifying when people who were probably cis girls walked past in a graceful manner so unlike my stiff, bouncy stride or that distracted, awkward stumble exhibited by me and people who are about to fall down and not get back up again, being loud in a way that I am not even when I can talk and lacking scars, blemishes, sore patches, wounds or fingernails trimmed far too short to chew them.
Having bought things that I wanted and thus avoided anger, I tried to say that I wanted to go back (I’m happy to wait in the car, it has misted up windows or an emergency book left by me), but people don’t seem to understand me standing twenty feet away by a clear view of the door, alternating my stare between it and them, returning only when called or motioned.
An hour more of stores, and trying various body language of mine in an attempt to find something they understood, (or even noticed) and I wanted to go enough that it was taking a fair deal of discipline for me to not start hitting myself in frustration. Finally, I found out that the correct body language for “This place is hurting me and I want to go back to the car while you finish” is covering my ears, closing my eyes and pretending nobody else exists.
That was my first experience with being.. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really non verbal. I honestly don’t feel like I have a right to claim it, because everyone else I’ve heard of simply couldn’t talk, and my statements that I can talk reliably are true. I can talk whenever I like. Sometimes, though, I just really, really hate it. I hate it enough that I’ll take all of that and more before I do. I’ll touch the insides of every pair of gloves in the store to confirm that they do indeed have that fuzzy shit they put in all of them that makes my skin crawl.
I’ll try on plainly female-aimed boots, in front of those terrifying people my own age. Occasionally, with great discomfort, I can force out a short sentence, but it’s never a useful one. I can barely think with all the damned noise that makes me not want to talk. But I could talk if you put a gun to my head, even if I blurted something useless. So I can’t really be non-verbal at those times, can I?
Edit: A day of thinking about it later, I’ve worked out that one can have difficulty communicating without being non-verbal.