I have work I should be doing, but I’m lethargic, misspelling everything, head drifting toward the keyboard, even as I type this.
I’m listening to my song, “Be Still” by The Killers, which both encourages me and sends me flashing back to “before.” I see the sunlight through the leafy branches of orange trees, smell the hint of citrus in spring air. In my past, Antoine is holding hands with the children and dancing in a circle. Right now, the queen is putting on very amateur pageants for a tiny audience. Forever, I am unbecomingly spinning around in the grass to make my son laugh.
Do you see? It’s never gone. It’s not even far away. Every experience I had is still with me. I don’t remember everything, but it’s stored somewhere inside me. And somewhere in my past, there was the ability to connect, to have such deep, meaningful, rewarding relationships with friends, family, etc. That is the mystery I’d really like to crack. I’ve mentioned before that I think autism, mine at least, was caused by past-life trauma. (For those of you unfamiliar with Marie Antoinette’s end, think various levels of prison, children torn away, show trial, very public execution.) And if I had to explain autism to a neurotypical, I’d probably first mention the lack of connection to other people.
Growing up, I knew something was wrong with me. As a child, I would watch people, whether friends or strangers, interact with one another with what seemed a near-alien ease, except I was actually the alien. I could almost see wispy threads connecting everyone else to everyone else, while I felt isolated and different. My parents and sisters would talk pleasantly to cashiers, hair stylists, people they passed on the street, and it seemed to have no effect on them. At my worst, every interaction involving talking, day of school, even friendly smile directed at me resulted in hours of solitary trembling or panic attacks. It seemed like other people looked at each other and saw something just like themselves. For me, people were like legged and walking paintings, objects off which my thoughts bounced, nothing I could relate to.
I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 25, and with autism, early diagnosis and intervention is the only way you can live anything like normally. I’m thinking of this now because I today got the news that nephew Jakey’s assessment results came back. He is autistic, like me. My mother, of course, always wanting drama, cried a little as she filled us in, though all in all she took it well, nodding when I reminded her that Jakey will have all the help that I didn’t, that it will be easier on him. “I want you to know,” she said sadly to me, “that we didn’t ignore the signs in you. We just didn’t know.”
I don’t resent my parents at all for my late diagnosis. Asperger’s syndrome didn’t have a name until I was nearly finished elementary school, it was mostly looked for in much younger kids, and girls are harder to diagnose. I passed for shy until the terror of people became too much and I isolated myself, and after that all the focus was on my depression, where I suppose it belonged.
Jakey is not like me. He’s a social butterfly, he wants to interact with people, he just has trouble doing it. Right now, my sister is juggling a whole team of specialists, all of whom are on board and determined to create a good school (and overall) environment for Jakey. And I get the slight satisfaction of “calling it,” because when Jakey was a toddler he went through a “flapping” phase, and I noticed. And it wasn’t just that. Maybe our shared diagnosis is part of why I’ve always been especially attached to Jake. I hope I’m able to help him with what I called in one of my books the name for the loneliness which we bear.
If the past is always occurring, that means the future must be too. I hope somewhere out in infinity Jake as an adult is accomplishing every dream he has. I hope I’m gazing forever at a sea of faces and forgiving every one. Against everything, against all reason, I hope.