“Autism” Speaks: Part 2

“Autism” Speaks: Part 2

Please read previous post for the first half of the story.

Jacob is one of the cool guys. He has a superpower, the power of invisibility. Walks through halls like he’s wearing the One Ring. Kids look through him, as if through cellophane. My problem? Jacob doesn’t want to be invisible anymore.

He spies three girls sitting at a table on his left flank.

“Abort!” I shout.

He refuses.

Girls are easier to talk to than boys. Their voices sound like a melody. Their words twinkle through the air like Christmas tree lights.

“I can’t do this,” he whispers.

It’s true, and why would he want to? They should want to talk to him. Ask me, he’s the only one with anything interesting to say.

“Is this seat taken?” he asks. Perfect neurotypical manners.

The girls barely register his presence.

He lines his utensils parallel to the tray and takes a bite of his sandwich. “Talk about their interests,” he thinks.

“I’d rather not,” I say.

He starts to rock. “I like your shirt,” he says to the girl wearing a tank top with the red lips logo of the Rolling Stones. “Which song is your favorite?”

She doesn’t answer.

“‘Paint It Black’ is considered an iconic Vietnam War—”

“Whatever,” she says.

Jacob might not understand what other kids say, but he can feel their meaning in his bones. He clears his throat. “In the combat novel, Doom Pussy, U.S. airmen listened to—”

“What’d you call me?”

Her two friends snap their heads around like synchronized swimmers. She smiles, but it doesn’t trip the muscles near her eyes. “Hold still,” she says, scooping a lump of potatoes onto her spoon and flinging it. “Get lost, pussy freak.”

White paste oozes down his face. The girls laugh. He picks up his tray and leaves.

“Storm’d at with shot and shell,”[1] I say.

I want to say, “I told you so,” but something happens I don’t understand. A thunderstorm explodes above me. Cold needles of rain pierce through me. The deluge pools behind Jacob’s eyes as he ducks under a desk in the chemistry lab.

That’s when I realize. I’m his liability. I try to protect him, but I’m the reason he’ll never have what he’s always wanted: a friend.

I live in the midbrain, where instinct saves lives. But now I’m drenched, and I long for the day when his courage wins out. When one kid, just one, calls, “Hey, Jacob! What’s up?”

To which he replies, “The sky.”

And the kid laughs and says, “Come sit by me.”

 

[1] Ibid, 22.

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