A Letter To A Friend

[NOTE : I thought long, and hard, about whether this note would ever see the light of day. If I’d even send it to my friend. But, I decided to go public with it. I’ll let it speak for itself.]

Friday morning, 30 November 2012.

Hi, Deb.

I just need to write. Need to talk about this. Don’t need answers. Not sure there really are any answers.

I’ve learned a great deal in the past two years. About me. About life. About everything. I can learn things, Deb. I can. You know that. But, part of what I’ve learned is very disturbing to me. Because of the implications.

According to the statistics of life (GRASP illustrates them very well), 80% to 85% of adults diagnosed with an Autisum Spectrum Disorder are unemployed. That number greatly disturbs me. It’s way out of line with the rest of the functional adult population. You think the number of unemployed is unacceptable when it’s 8 or 9 percent. Try 80% to 85%.

I know the truth about that number, Deb. From a different perspective. Because I AM employed. Most weeks I get better than 20 hours of work. A lot of weeks, I get over 30. I worked, for 28 years, full time, for Northrop Grumman.

What makes the difference? The label. “He has an ASD”. And suddenly, no one will touch you. I mean that. No one wants to deal with a “special case”, or “exception” to the rules. No one wants someone that, by their nature, has difficulty in a social environment, given that work is, more than anything else, a social environment.

85%, Deb. 85 out of every 100 of us can’t hold a job. Is unemployed.

That’s bad enough. But, I’m now running into the inevitable. Pat’s feeling the pinch of the changes to our income. I know that. And now, she’s brought up the topic twice. The topic being me, filing for partial disability.

My psychiatrist also brought that out.

I don’t want to go that way. I don’t. I’m trying to be patient. Trying to give myself time to find my way through all this. To find my way back to “life”, if that’s what you want to call it. I have days when all I can do is sit in the house. When I can’t write. When I can’t work on the dishes, or the laundry. When I can’t do anything. I’ve always had those days. But now, I notice them.

And they bother me. They hurt. I don’t like those days.

It’s hard, Deb. I still feel it when I drive to work during rush hour, or drive home during rush hour. Or when I work on Saturday or Sunday, or a holiday. I still feel like something’s wrong. Like everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Except me.

I’m still trying to come to terms with that. With the idea that my holding a part time job at Best Buy is OK. That I can do other things as a result. And it always comes back to the same problem.

85 out of every 100 is unemployed.

Dr. Lassiter knows the statistics. He knows I know them. He knows I’m not talking to him about the big nightmare sitting in the room when we talk. About me and work. About the 85 out of 100 of us that are out of work. About a society that very literally isolates us, and treats us like we’re defective, or broken. A society that acts to protect itself from us.

How do I talk about that? How do I deal with that? How can I say anything constructive about that?

I know. I know this is why Dr. Lassiter keeps talking to me about starting my own company. He knows I can do the work. He knows I’m employable. He knows there’s nothing “bad”, “defective”, or “broken” with me. I’m just different. I see things from a different perspective. I understand things in a different way. And as a result, I don’t always do things according to accepted social standards.

In the corporate world, that means I’m a headache. And headaches don’t get hired.

“Start your own company, Mark! There are people out there that need you! That need your skills, and abilities!”

This is my battle now, Deb. This is the “demon” I face. The nightmare I have to stare down. The fear I have to overcome.

How tough is it to be me? Or someone like me? I’m sitting here, in Dr. Dixon’s office. Pat’s at her doctor’s appointment. She said, “they want to put me on cholesterol medication, and I’m going to fight them.” So, I get to sit in the lobby. Surrounded by people I don’t know, and have never seen. I keep telling myself, “breathe, stupid. Breathe.” But, I find my hands shaking anyway. No one notices, really, ‘cause I’m typing this. So, everything looks OK to them.

It’s called, “hiding”, Deb. I do that a lot. Without the Aspire One, I’d be pacing. Or standing in a corner. Trying to blend with the wall. 8 people sitting in the chairs around me. Then another four people that work here over at the desk. I look around. I see people on the phone, reading magazines, talking to each other, sitting quietly, watching the TV. Being “normal”, Deb. Being normal.

And I’m sitting here hanging on to a fragile thread of stability, trying not to get up, walk out into the hall, and sit on the floor out there, leaning against the wall. I’m using all the things I’ve learned in the past 53 years to find a way to sit here. And wait. And not disturb the people around me.

It’s hard. Deb. You have no idea how hard this is for me to do. No idea at all.

I keep feeling like I should run. Get up, and just go. Anywhere. Anywhere but here. I don’t belong here. Like I should go, sit on the back bumper of the car in the parking garage. Where I know I’m OK.

I wish, oh, how I wish, I could find all the words to explain. So that someone other than a fellow person with an ASD would understand what it takes out of me to do something so very simple as this. So stupidly simple as sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office, waiting for my spouse to complete her doctor’s office visit, and come back out.

I know, I mean, I understand. This is something people do. They support each other. I’m here to be her friend. To show my support. To spend time with her. I know that. I understand that. But, she’s in an office room back behind a door somewhere. And I’m sitting here. Alone. Having to find a way to hang on, and cope with a situation I don’t understand. And environment I have never understood, and never will. Trying desperately to simulate normalcy well enough that no one thinks anything is going on.

Can you see why Pat brought up the disability claim option again? Why my psychiatrist brought it up. Why 85 out of every 100 of those of us that are diagnosed are unemployed?

Such a simple thing, Deb. Such a simple thing. And it’s so very hard to do. So very hard.

Monday. I visit my doc again. I’ll see if I can start finding a way to talk about the big nightmare sitting in the room that I’ve been avoiding talking about. I can’t promise anything. I can’t. Other than I’ll try.

Damn.

I need to go take a walk in the flowers. I really do. And I can’t. I don’t get that chance until Sunday, when I have the day off of work…

Breathe, Marcus. Breathe. Just breathe, damn you. Breathe…

Mark.

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#ThursThreads Week 48 – I Just Wanted To Be Sure

Samantha screamed. Jimmy dropped his DS3D on the sofa and raced into the kitchen. “What? What is it, Sam? What happened? Are you OK?” Samantha was standing on a kitchen chair, pointing at the floor. She was so terrified, she couldn’t speak. All she could do was point.

Jimmy looked where she was pointing. That’s when he saw it. A big, dark brown roach. He nearly laughed. Samantha and her fear of spiders and bugs. Especially bugs more than 1/4 inch long. He never would understand why she didn’t just step on them. Especially when she was wearing shoes.

“OK, Sam. OK. I’ll get it. I’ll take care of it.” Jimmy dashed across the kitchen and then stomped that roach flat. “There. It’s dead, Sam. I got it for you.” He helped her down from the chair. “You gonna be OK?”

Samantha nodded. “Yeah. I’ll be OK.” She gave Jimmy a hug. “Thanks.”

“Any time, Sam. Any time.”

Jimmy started back toward his DS3D on the sofa in the next room. As he did, he stopped and turned, because he heard Samantha stomping her foot several times. He looked at her, and at the totally destroyed, smeared on the floor, carcass of the roach. “Damn, Sam. What was that for?”

“I just wanted to be sure that little bastard was dead.”

Jimmy laughed so hard, his ribs hurt, and it took him 20 minutes before he could play his game again.

—–

I wrote this little tale for the 48th #ThursThreads, hosted by Cara Michaels. Please, go read all the other entries for this week. They are all well written.

#NaNoWriMo 2012 – Week 4 Clip – Dragon Knight

[My father wrote to me, after reading the chapter this clip came from. “I like Scream best of all.” How can I argue with that? So, I’m sharing a little clip with Scream in it. The last clip I’ll put up from NaNoWriMo 2012. Enjoy it in all its unedited glory.]

Scream heard Merlin’s words. “It’s time.” He knew what Merlin meant. The dragons had spread the word of the fairy Fauna’s death. Every dragon knew what the invaders had done. Every dragon knew of the loss of one of the White Witch’s daughters. Every dragon knew the end of the war was approaching. The White Witch would soon strike.

Every dragon knew it was time. Dragons everywhere turned away from defending towns and villages. They turned, and attacked the invaders and their landing ships. Dragons would fall in battle. It was the way of war. No dragon would fall without honor.

Scream looked to the sky. He screamed. His scream echoed across the Southern Plains. Before the echo faded, Scream took to the sky. His wings fully spread. Every fairy in the kingdom saw him leave. Every fairy  knew where he was headed.

Straight at the enemy. A dark gray streak across the pale blue sky. Before Scream reached the horizon, the fairies of the Castle Guard all stood, as one. Took up their swords, shields, bows and arrows. And lifted to the sky. They followed after Scream.

Scream was the Dragon Knight. He was one of them. He would not face the enemy alone.

NaNoWriMo 2012 – Week 3 Clip.

[This is the 3rd clip from my NaNoWriMo work in progress, in all its unedited, rough draft glory.]

Merlin closed his eyes for a moment. 60,000 invading troops. 60,000. Easily more than the fairies of the Southern Plains. More than all the villages of the Northern Forest put together. 60,000 invading troops.

It was his first true understanding of the danger the invaders posed to Cylinders. To his home.

Merlin became angry.

Black fire coursed through his blood. Smoke curled from his nostrils. His eyes ignited with red fire. He became visible. And he didn’t care. He would show the invaders what they were up against. Show them Cylinders was not a world that would roll over and play dead.

Merlin roared.

He watched the ship land. A tower of silver, black and gray in the center of the plateau. It was scorching hot. Merlin saw the waves of heat coming off it. He didn’t wait. He didn’t call for help. He didn’t inform anyone it had landed. Instead, he flew from where he was hidden, down to the plateau. He approached that troop ship. As he did, some of the protrusions on it turned, pointing at him.

Merlin stopped his flight. Looked at the ship. Knew its weapons were pointed at him. “Good. That’s what I want.” He spread his wings, looked to the ship, and roared. His roar was the sound of metal being crushed beneath tons of rock.

He spoke to the machines. Calling his black magic as he hadn’t in centuries.

He held his place in the sky. His wings whipping back and forth, always forward, toward that ship, and back away from it. Each time his wings whipped forward, streaks of black appeared. Like black spears. They raced through the sky, toward the ship. Hundreds of them. Carried by a linear wind that blew harder than Merlin had ever caused before. The wind reaching 200 miles per hour. The black spears raced toward the ship.

The ship’s energy shield shimmered. The first spears reached it. They were deflected. But the next spears weren’t. They passed through the energy field, as if it wasn’t there. Hundreds of black spears aimed right at that ship.

Driven by the will of Merlin. The black magic dragon. The deadliest, most powerful dragon of them all. The machines doing what he asked them to.

The spears collided with the ship. Slicing into it. Gashes appeared on its side. Other spears penetrating those gashes. Things inside the ship exploded. Merlin saw humans falling before the spears. He saw them thrown out of the ship by the explosions.

He held his place in the sky before the ship.

He roared.

Then he spoke.

“This is Cylinders. This is our home. You will not take it from us. Leave. Now. While you still can.”

With that, Merlin turned, and flew over the mountains surrounding the plateau. As he did, he screamed. His scream ripped the silence of the dawn. It echoed for miles. And he heard the screams of other dragons. The message was sent. The word was given.

The invaders had arrived.

The war had begun.

NaNoWriMo 2012, Week 2 Clip – From Chapter 12…

[The second week of NaNoWriMo 2012 has concluded. As with the first week, many of my writing friends are sharing snips of their NaNo Novels, in raw, unedited form. This is such a clip from my novel in progress. From Chapter 12 of the story, written on the 13th of November, 2012.]

After much discussion with Merlin, Sword, and her daughters, Mystica went to warn Eyela what was coming. She called on the machines that were everywhere. “I would talk with Eyela.” The machines heard her request. They set up a completely invisible data transmission network connecting Eyela and Mystica. Each could see the other. Each could hear the other.

To Eyela, this was magic. A few short weeks before, it had been magic to Mystica. Now, Mystica understood it wasn’t magic. It was technology. Technology so advanced it appeared to be magic.

“Eyela. We need to speak.”

“Mystica. Good to see you. How have you been?”

“I am fine. But things are not well.”

“Your daughters are having problems?”

“No. We are all fine. But things are not well.”

“What do you mean?”

“As I said. We need to speak.”

“As you wish, my friend. You know you are always welcome here.”

Mystica called on the machines once more. She thought of where she wished to go. Picturing it in her mind. Then, she spoke one word. “Now.” The machines responded again. In a fraction of a second, they wrapped around her. Capturing every detail of who she was. Identifying every molecule, atom, and sub-atomic particle. Identifying every neural pathway. They took that information, and using quantum mechanics, transferred all of it from where Mystica stood at the lake in the Northern Forest to a space in the room of the castle where Eyela stood. It was as if Mystica had stepped from the lake to the castle in one step. Just a few heartbeats. That’s all it took for the machines to use their technology to move from the lake to the castle.

Wishes : To Be Understood

[Originally Written on Saturday, 05 March 2011

NOTE : I’ve decided to re-post this one. Given what happened today. Given the truth that’s hidden in it. A truth too many people will never understand. A truth too many people simply can’t accept.]

There is a wish I have.
A wish I’ve always had.
A wish I’ve never spoken of.
A wish I’ve had to hide.

I have always wondered why.
Why don’t I understand
What I’ve done
When I’ve done something wrong.
What I’ve done
That scares someone.
Or upsets someone.
Or makes someone wish
I’d just go away.

I have always wondered why.
Why I always hide along the wall,
Or someplace out-of-the-way,
At a birthday party,
Or a wedding,
Or a lunch at work
When someone’s going to leave.
Or a social gathering,
Of any other kind.
Why I never speak
To anyone at all,
Unless they speak to me.
And even then
Why it’s so very hard
For me to say
Anything at all.

And always,
Why it seems
That everyone’s relieved
When I finish talking.
When I go silent
Once again.

I have always wondered why
No one believes
Anything I say.
Like this past Thursday.
When I told my boss,
“I’m a 51-year-old.
In a 51-year-old body.
With a 51-year-old intellect.
But I’m just a teenager
Emotionally.
And I don’t know
That I’ll ever get much further
Than that.”

And my boss,
He said to me,
“You will.”

And I told him
What I’d told my doctor,
And the Fit for Duty Examiner.
That I had no idea
When this whole thing started
What it was I’d done
That got me banned
From work.
That I didn’t understand at all.

And my boss,
He said to me,
“Yes. You did.
You just had never had to face
The consequences
Of the actions that you took.”

I told these things
To my doctor
The very next day.
And when I told him
I was just a teenager
Emotionally.
My doctor said to me,
“And you may never get
Beyond that stage.”

And when I told my doctor
That I didn’t know
In October,
What it was that I had done
That got me banned
From the land of work,
My doctor said to me,
“I know.
And after all this time,
With us having reviewed
What happened in those days.
Now you know
What got you banned.
And you know
What you won’t do again.”

Damn straight.
If you put your hand
On the burner
On the range,
While the burner’s glowing red,
It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

And I’ve learned
That if I do the things
That got me banned from work,
It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

No one ever told me
They were wrong.
No one ever explained.
And I had to learn things
The hard way
Once again.

So there is this wish I have.
That I’ve always had.
A simple wish, really.

All I wish for is to be
Understood.
Not punished.
Not abused.
Not bruised.
Not penalized.
Not ostracized.
Not locked away.
Not barred from life.

I just wish to be understood.
And I’ll know I am
When someone finally explains to me
All the things
That I don’t know.
All the things
That every one of them
Takes for granted.
And assumes
That everybody knows.

Because I don’t.
And I never have.

And no one save my family,
My lady
And my children.
And my doctors.
Have ever really understood
That I am this way.

And that I really
Just don’t know
All those secret things
That everyone assumes
That everybody knows.

Saturday, 05 March 2011

Wishes: To Be Understood

There is a wish I have.

A wish I’ve always had.

A wish I’ve never spoken of.

A wish I’ve had to hide.

I have always wondered why.

Why don’t I understand

What I’ve done

When I’ve done something wrong.

What I’ve done

That scares someone.

Or upsets someone.

Or makes someone wish

I’d just go away.

I have always wondered why.

Why I always hide along the wall,

Or someplace out of the way,

At a birthday party,

Or a wedding,

Or a lunch at work

When someone’s going to leave.

Or a social gathering,

Of any other kind.

Why I never speak

To anyone at all,

Unless they speak to me.

And even then

Why it’s so very hard

For me to say

Anything at all.

And always,

Why it seems

That everyone’s relieved

When I finish talking.

When I go silent

Once again.

I have always wondered why

No one believes

Anything I say.

Like this past Thursday.

When I told my boss,

“I’m a 51 year old.

In a 51 year old body.

With a 51 year old intellect.

But I’m just a teenager

Emotionally.

And I don’t know

That I’ll ever get much further

Than that.”

And my boss,

He said to me,

“You will.”

And I told him

What I’d told my doctor,

And the Fit for Duty Examiner.

That I had no idea

When this whole thing started

What it was I’d done

That got me banned

From work.

That I didn’t understand at all.

And my boss,

He said to me,

“Yes. You did.

You just had never had to face

The consequences

Of the actions that you took.”

I told these things

To my doctor

The very next day.

And when I told him

I was just a teenager

Emotionally.

My doctor said to me,

“And you may never get

Beyond that stage.”

And when I told my doctor

That I didn’t know

In October,

What it was that I had done

That got me banned

From the land of work,

My doctor said to me,

“I know.

And after all this time,

With us having reviewed

What happened in those days.

Now you know

What got you banned.

And you know

What you won’t do again.”

Damn straight.

If you put your hand

On the burner

On the range,

While the burner’s glowing red,

It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

And I’ve learned

That if I do the things

That got me banned from work,

It’s frakkin’ gonna’ hurt.

No one ever told me

They were wrong.

No one ever explained.

And I had to learn things

The hard way

Once again.

So there is this wish I have.

That I’ve always had.

A simple wish, really.

All I wish for is to be

Understood.

Not punished.

Not abused.

Not bruised.

Not penalized.

Not ostracized.

Not locked away.

Not barred from life.

I just wish to be understood.

And I’ll know I am

When someone finally explains to me

All the things

That I don’t know.

All the things

That everyone of them

Takes for granted.

And assumes

That everybody knows.

Because I don’t.

And I never have.

And no one save my family,

My lady

And my children.

And my doctors.

Have ever really understood

That I am this way.

And that I really

Just don’t know

All those secret things

That everyone assumes

That everybody knows.

A Snippet From NaNoWriMo 2012

Yes. It’s November of 2012.

Yes. I’m hard at work on my 2012 novel for NaNoWriMo.

That’s why I haven’t been posting much the past 7 days.

But, since a few of my NaNoWriMo friends are posting clips on a weekly basis, I figured I’d join in, and put up a small snip of what I’ve written so far. In all it’s unedited, raw glory. So here it is. A snip of the story of the world named Cylinders, and the black magic dragon named Merlin…

—–

Sword lead Rose to the entrance of one of the large castles. There, he stopped, turning to her, and kissing her gently once more. Gods, but he loved the taste of her lips. The touch of her lips against his. He felt so alive when he kissed her.

“We’re here.” He gently squeezed her hand. “What’s inside will change everything, Rose. It will change everything.”

“What’s inside, Sword? Please, tell me.”

“Someone I want you to meet.” He looked into her blue eyes again, having to close his own eyes to break free of hers. “They’re not like us, Rose. They’re different. From anyone you’ve ever met. Anyone you’ve ever known.”

“Is it safe to meet them?”

“Yes! Yes! It’s safe.” He smiled. “I’ve visited them several times. They’ve never been dangerous to me. They’ve always been kind.” He squeezed her hand once more. Feeling her delicate, graceful fingers press gently against his hand. He wished he would never forget that feeling. “You know I’ll never let anyone hurt you.”

Rose leaned forward, and gently kissed him. “I know.”

“You know I love you,” he’d never said the words until then.

“I know.” Rose smiled, and looked into his eyes. “I’ve always known.”

Sword’s heart raced in his chest. He wanted to take her away. Anywhere. Just the two of them. Where he could be alone with her. Show her how he felt toward her. But it wasn’t the time. It wasn’t the time.

He turned toward the castles entrance. He took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. It was time. Time to take Rose into the castle. Time for her to meet them. The machines.