Currently I’m staying at my best friend’s place in another state for New Year’s. They’re (they use they/them pronouns) having a big NYE party in their backyard, and considering we’ve been together for the past three new years, it was obvious that I was going to go to this one. I love this friend dearly—we’re extremely close—but man am I miserable, tired, and sad.
I just want to go home.
I’ll start off by saying this post has little to do with my autism. But perhaps because of my autism I am more sensitive to being left out and excluded, as it’s what happened to me as a child. I was othered because of my differences and as such being othered these days, as an adult, makes me feel terrible. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, I tend to pick up on it very easily.
This place—my friend’s house—is one such place where I feel very othered.
We went for a walk around the block yesterday to see the neighbourhood. I’m a horse fanatic—they’re one of my special interests and I’ve owned horses before—and as my friend lives in the country, there were plenty of horses to see. I couldn’t stop myself zipping over to fences (never through them; my trespassing days are long behind me) and whistling at the horses so I could pat them. We were walking down a long, gently sloping hill, when I saw three beautiful horses in a paddock, and crossed the road to try and pat them, whistling as I went.
What I couldn’t see, thanks to the trees on the other side of the road, was a woman in the paddock feeding the horses, with two big dogs next to her. The dogs caught sight of me and started barking, running towards me and slipping through the fence. I had come to a stop about a metre away from the fence and stood very, very still, so as not to antagonise the dogs any further. Perhaps I should have been scared; they were large dogs, clearly territorial, and barking very loudly and running towards me. But I wasn’t. The woman turned to glare at us without saying a word, and before I could apologise, my friend said “sorry, she’s a city slicker, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, she just wanted to see the horses.”
Stung, I backed away and we continued our walk, although I barely spoke for the rest of it.
In the evening, the three of us (friend, Boyfriend, and I) drive down to the lookout to take in the view of the city lights below us. There’s another car there, a 4wd, and soon after we settle onto a picnic bench, it starts inching towards us. A man gets out. He’s drunk and nursing a glass of rum. He tells us his life story; it’s sad.
My friend: “these two are city slickers, I’ve come up here to show them what we’ve got up here.”
I bite my tongue and turn away.
Boyfriend to me, later: I’m not even from the city. I grew up in the country. I’m not a city slicker…
This afternoon, it’s a stupidly hot day, the air rippling with the kind of dry heat that sucks all the air from your lungs. We go down to the bakery to get lunch and so my friend can pick up a package from the post office. I pull up in the post office parking lot, next to a big ute parked askew, and my friend mumbles something under their breath.
“No, what is it?”
“It’s just—we don’t park straight here, we park like that ute, on an angle,” my friend sighs.
“But that car is straight,” I say, pointing at another sedan to my right, parked arrow-straight.
“That’s different,” they insist.
“Okay, well—” I say, and go to put the car into reverse to fix my error, confused as to why it fucking matters seeing as there is no one else pulling in behind me.
“No, it doesn’t matter—it just—doesn’t matter,” my friend says, and, clearly exasperated at my apparent incompetence, gets out of the car.
I sit there for a second, cowed, hands clasping the wheel for dear life. I have done the wrong thing again, stepping over boundaries I didn’t realise were there. Never mind that there were no lines marked on the gravel to show at what angle one should park. Never mind that my friend could have told me before I got to the car park, to park on a 45 degree angle. I pulled in straight because I saw that car to my right that was parked straight. Does it even fucking matter?
I can never do the right thing when I am here. I am constantly the bumbling fool from the city, the idiot who doesn’t know shit about living in the country, the dumbass who asks simple questions that everyone should know the answer to. I am an embarrassment to my friend, making mistakes everywhere I go, and it brings back nasty memories of always being the odd one out in school. I hate it.
I have to look everyone in the eyes. I can’t stim (although yesterday I found a fun new one—playing with a hand fan, opening and closing it over and over again). I have to eat everything presented to me, even if the textures make me feel like white noise inside, I have to be social with people I barely know, I have to mask, I’m so tired. I’m so tired. I want to go home and I still have four more nights here.
Not to mention the NYE party tomorrow, which I’m dreading. What if I embarrass my friend in front of their friends? What if I say the wrong thing? The more I learn about my autism the more I realise that my apparent socialisation skills are a facade. I barely have any clue what I’m doing, and it always seems to be the wrong thing—only I don’t know what the right thing is, because neurotypicals just know and they aren’t about to explain it for my benefit!
I dunno, you guys. To think a week ago I was having a whine about Boyfriend’s sister and mother being here. I wish I was back there! I wish I was at home under my weighted blanket with my snake curled up in my hand. I feel so stifled and small here, so shamed.