First-class autistic, second-class citizen

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 hours, sometimes for two months, 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. Their 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.

A protester holds a sign that reads PROMOTE SELF-ADVOCACY
This.

But I am here, not there. Autistics Speaking Day has come and gone, and here I am — still writing, still perseverating, still ensconced in my words and my tears and my veggie-less existence.┬áMy sense and use of time isn’t on par with the mythical norm. I am learning, or trying to learn, to take comfort in my lateness, to interpret my lateness as function without the dys, as function minus the –tio and n‘s. Fuc(k) function.

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.