Laura had met Jim in a small coffee shop she enjoyed. I have to stop meeting people at places I like, she thought to herself. She was unsure about him from the beginning, but people also take awhile to warm up to her, so she empathetically gave it a shot.
Jim was a tall sturdy man who was a bit intimidating to Laura when she first saw him. He looked like a guy who would pretend to like her and then make fun of her to his friends in high school. Laura wanted to be open minded and not judge books by their cover. She’d been wrong before.
She liked how honest he seemed and over time slowly fell in love with his smile, laugh, humor, and touch. He shared things (good and bad) with her and she listened. She felt she could start to relax and be herself.
“Well, that was a mistake” Laura said grimly looking up from her coffee.
Dee knew Laura had been crying. Her face was defeated and she looked like she hadn’t eaten for days.
“Why didn’t you call me when it happened?”
“That’s how people disappear” Laura monotoned.
“What people?” Dee asked feeling a little insulted.
“Boyfriends, family, friends . . .people. As an autistic person, I’m not allowed to have emotions like neurotypicals. They can hang up on you, but if you do the same to them, you don’t get forgiveness. You’re not worth it. “
Dee was concerned Laura was using the general “you” . . .she seemed to be trying to distance herself from it to not start crying again. She had to make herself cold enough to survive. That asshole Dee thought. She was just getting used to Laura being her silly, absurd, weird, and warm self again with the occasional bad day. With the way the world was turning, it’s tough to stay positive for anyone. Dee had her share of bad days. But her partner allowed her to be herself and experience her good and bad. She wondered if autistic women do have it worse in that they’re never given that chance. They’re told to mask and not let people see who they are. Who they are is unacceptable.
“Don’t be concerned, but I called the suicide hotline . . .I had no one to talk to.”
“Like I said, you could talk to me”
“I was pretty low and having a panic attack. I don’t want to frighten more people away. I learned that the hard way.”
“What about the therapist?” Dee was actually curious how that was helping.
“He canceled my appointment and never gave a new option.” Laura let out a desperate laugh. “Even therapists dump me.”
“Okay, let’s not have a pity party. Look at it this way, I think this guy was pretending to be something he’s not to get what he wanted and now you know the truth.”
“But I really liked him . . more than that even”
“You liked what he was pretending to be. He wanted you to listen to all his problem and feelings, but the moment you started sharing yours, he shut down. He doesn’t want a relationship . . He’s not ready for someone else to have a full range of emotions . . .He wants a therapist. I think you need to send him a bill by the hour.”
Laura laughed. But she did just want to talk to explain herself. That never seems to be an option for her. People don’t treat her like a normal person. She started to think of herself as a supervillain because of this pattern. Did she have powers that she didn’t know about . . .like turning men to stone when they look at her? Was she invisible? Why can’t people see her?
“Was he even real”. Laura said outloud. I think I manifested him. “I came up with this idea of a man in my head that would be close to ideal and he appeared.”
“Then he vanished” Dee interjected.
“Exactly . . .He never really existed.”
“You showed me a photo of him. The man exists.”
” I guess” . . .Laura sighed.
“I need to go for a run and think.” As Laura said that, she forgot that she had already gone for a run. It was pretty hot out, so she took a gummy and rode her bike with her radio blasting Tove Lo and Janelle Monae. Her new favorite songs were “Bitches,” “Lady Wood”, and “I like That.” After a while of riding with the light shining through the trees, away from most people and cars, she started to feel numb. She just blended into the trees and the heat.