I am running late. Again.
The emails I compose are all the same. I’m sorry for my delay in responding to you, I write. And then I stare at my screen, sometimes for two minutes, sometimes for two days, and try to remember my excuse. Why am I late? Which metaphorical crowbar wrenched its way into my mental machinery this time?
Lately, I conceive of my days as a series of perseverative loops. The new job, the new home, the new and utterly non-autistic community. I cannot pry myself from anything. One egg, one piece of toast, and one butter cookie for every single meal. I read each Facebook status update 47 times before and after posting. “Let’s do something together,” a new friend or a new colleague or a new frenemy will write. And then nine days pass, or 39 days pass, and I’m still working on a two-line email response. Perseverative loop. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I can’t remember the last time I ate a vegetable. I’m not distressed by this — I’m more distressed by other people’s distress. The jokes about anorexia throttle me into monologue mode, and I launch into impassioned rants — sometimes about disability studies, sometimes about feminism, and sometimes about how much I wish the F-word were a tangible object that I could lob at ableist, self-important hacks.
Oh, F-word. Materialize for me now. I repeat this line to myself. 47 times. 47 times.
The days are a blur. I cry most nights, wishing I were somewhere back in time, a time when I could wrench my fingers, rock my body, and speak without inflection. In a bookstore. In public. With half a dozen others who wrench their fingers, rock their bodies, and speak without inflection. I miss this autistic chorus.
There are shitty moments on repeat in my head. The colleague who berates me for asking her to repeat instructions. The potential therapist who calls me a “phenomenal woman” for having the “courage” to lead a disabled existence. The internet trolls, plural, who variously tell me that I’m not autistic, that I’m ungrateful, that I lack the capacity to have capacity. The Autism $peaks undergraduates who, in response to me telling them how hurtful they are, claim that I “cannot silence” their “love.”
Perseverative loops, cumulative loops.
What I consider accommodating, they consider unreasonable.
What I consider insulting, they consider complimentary.
What I consider hate, they consider love.
What I consider feeling and compassion and emotion and just plain being in the world, they consider pathology and blight and madness and something just plain worthy of extermination.
And I wake up in the morning, ride the bus, step into a classroom, feign attention with my flat mousy voice and unruly hands. There are lists to make, silences to repeat, latenesses to embrace, F-words to embody. I take this as a lesson in breathing.