I want you to ask me. Although you may not understand the answer…
Desolate. You are walking through streets of a desolate city that you have always lived in, and yet you don’t know your way around. It’s bright and dusty, and despite the sheer volume of things going on, it’s quiet and surprisingly bland. It’s what you might imagine a city would look like after a nuclear war.
As you walk around, you see people who are shuffling about, although you can’t tell where they are going or what they are trying to accomplish. And unfortunately, everyone’s faces look almost the same. There are people you have known your whole life, and yet when you look at them, their faces are so similar that sometimes it takes several seconds to tell one from the other.
One thing you do know about this place is that there are rituals, rules, and restrictions which seem (to you, at least), to be highly illogical. The unfortunate thing is that violations of this conglomeration of protocol can have highly detrimental consequences. But because the rules seem illogical, it’s difficult to predict what is and is not ok. The laws are easy to follow because regardless of the logic, they are clearly defined. It’s the unwritten rules which are almost scary, because violating them means losing a job, ruining a relationship, and ridicule.
They speak your language in this place, but that doesn’t mean communication comes easily. Many of the words still mean the same thing, but there are just enough differences that while you know misunderstandings are very possible, it’s difficult to know when the misunderstanding is actually occurring. Unfortunately, the people around you don’t know that these misunderstandings are possible, so although you are on alert, the other people around you are sure that you mean what they think you mean. And when you try to clarify, it only becomes more confusing to them. Add to this that the others are physically accustomed to the debris of the nuclear mess, but it makes you very sick. The others can’t understand why sometimes you have to wear a mask, so you are ridiculed for that, too. You may even lose your job for wearing it. (But you’ll also lose your job for being out sick from not wearing your mask.)
There are many beautiful dimensions to the strange world, but they need to be found. They are secret places that are hard to find. Like the colorful butterfly garden hidden in a warehouse, and the sunrise which you can only see with your blinder goggles on. There is grass between your toes, but only when your eyes are closed. There are things which you see in this place which you love, so you cling to them. When you see a blooming tree with pink blossoms, you spend many hours sitting under it because it shelters you from the blistering sun, distracts you from the others passing by, and calms you in a way that the others just don’t understand. But you cling to it nonetheless.
As you walk around the streets of this frightening place, you are pretty sure there are others like you. Although they, like you, are hiding. Some are hidden in nooks and crannies. Others like you congregate in pockets, but no one knows there whereabouts because once they go into their preferred pocket, they never come out again. In their pockets of people there is color and music and laughing. And it’s completely up to you to find them.
If your parents are like you they could have helped you learn about this odd place. But they aren’t, as they are like the rest of the others. They didn’t know how to help you, or even what you needed help with in the first place. So your life is like this, and your parents try to cope with helping you down the right street if you get lost. “BUT I NEED MORE HELP THAN THAT!!” you keep shouting. But as much as they love you, all they know how to do is point you down a different street, which may or may not get you where you are going at that moment. Or maybe they were like you. If they were, they taught you about this place, showed you where the pockets of people are, and how to hide your mask. They knew what you would need to know as you grow, so they knew how to help you. Maybe your parents were like the others but knew about people like you. So they did the best they could for you, with what they had. And for you, it was good enough. What happens when your parents die? You are alone in this place.
Imagine this was your world. Now ask me what it’s like to live a life as an adult with Aspergers. Although, you may not understand the answer.
Copyright © 2008 Lorin Neikirk
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