Who am I?

They say I’m weird, that I’m not like them. I’m different, but not in a way they can understand. I’m strange and quirky, weird and quiet. I’m different and slow, but also too fast sometimes.
I stand at the school gates watching the other mums chatting to each other. I don’t understand how they know one another, maybe they grew up together.

I’m too new, I’ve only lived here for a few years. I see them looking at me like they can’t work out who I am, what I am.
I try to talk to them, moving closer and looking interested, but they don’t notice me, or they don’t want to notice me.

I watch them, standing, oh so very still, only moving occasionally as their unwritten social rules dictate. Those rules are alien to me, yet I’ve studied them a lot. They don’t make sense, they’re too demanding, so I ignore them.

I focus on their movements, or lack of compared to my own. My body sways back and forth, my feet wanting to move, to step or jiggle, but I try to stay still, I try not to draw too much attention.

I’m waiting.

My eyes dart to the school doors, then back to the other mums, then to the trees, watching as the wind blows the leaves in a mesmerising pattern. I’m the only one that sees.

I turn my gaze, watching everyone’s faces as they talk so passionately about something. I edge closer, interested. They see me, look at me, that look that means you’re too close, so I shuffle back, embarrassed. It’s enough though, I know what they’re saying, chatting about their kids and tea and television. The usual.

A bird hops along the grass on the field, I watch, my mind spinning stories about birds and adventure.

I smile.

I wonder if they ever think like this, if their minds can see the colour and movement, and feel the excitement and longing of adventure that grips my mind.

It occurs to me that I wouldn’t miss them, the other mums, if they weren’t here. Maybe it would be easier. I could move more, walk around in circles and tap my fingers fast against my legs. I could look at the trees, my head turned up to the sky and just watch, without worrying about what they say, thinking I’m weird. I could sniff, and cough, and sing and make high-pitched noises, no one would hear. I could even rub my top lip against the underside of my nose, the stim I only do in private because people don’t understand it.

They judge.

I’m weird, so I have to squash myself for them.
I’m too strange, so I have to hide myself from them.
I’m too slow, so I have to separate myself away from them.
I’m too fast, so I have to slow myself for them.

But why?

Why can’t I speak, why can’t I sing, why can’t I move, why can’t I watch, why can’t I stim.

I smile, a grin going wide, and they look at me, assessing me, judging me. My fingers move, tapping and rubbing and flicking. My feet move, stepping and tapping and jiggling. I turn my head up to watch the leaves, and I smile.

I hear noise, sense movement. I turn and see the children coming out of the doors, running this way. My children. My smile grows larger and I remember, I’m not here for the others, I’m here for my kids.

All of me, happy me, weird me, Autistic me.
That’s who I am.

Riko (they/them)

9 May 2021