Today is going to be a good day. I woke up on my left side facing the bookcase, giving me a clear view of my collection of model classic cars. They are still in their correct positions, all lined up in strict date order of manufacture—the Cadillac (1959), the Chevrolet Corvette (1963), the Lamborghini, the Triumph Spitfire, the Porsche Carrera, the Jaguar XJS, the Dodge Viper, and finishing with the Ferrari Modena (1999). Mentally, I double-checked the average brake horsepower of the eight models (2,274), checked my watch (5:52am), and lay still until the alarm went off. It’s never a good thing to put my feet on the floor before 6 o’clock. When I wake up facing the window, I feel unsettled—I don’t like the unpredictability of the dawn sky. Sometimes it is a soft pink, and that’s OK, but often it is a washed-out, dull, mushroom-y color, or an angry, foreboding, deep grey. On these occasions, I feel anxious about what the day will bring.
On a “good day,” if I don’t have school, Mum sometimes takes me into town. There are so many distractions on the drive, but Mum doesn’t even seem to notice — she drives with one hand on the steering wheel, idly chatting. I see road-signs, traffic lights, lamp posts, rubbish bins, hand rails, people with dogs, shopping trolleys, walking sticks, cracks in the pavement, logos on shirts, price labels in shop windows, street names, numbers on buses, colorful hoardings, advertisements, people with hats, umbrellas, newspapers, and bags—my mind whirrs. My senses are completely overwhelmed, so I sit in the car and memorize the number plates of any white car that passes while Mum does the shopping. If Mum is a long time, I count down backwards from 1,000 in 37. On the odd occasion when I do get out of the car to help Mum with the shopping, I keep my head down, don’t walk on any cracks, and always wear my favorite hoodie so that if I do accidentally bump into someone, I don’t actually feel their skin. In the supermarket aisles, I only look at items on the bottom shelf—I feel uncomfortable looking at people’s faces, and the overhead lights are too bright. Mum asks me to keep a tally of all the groceries she puts into the trolley, so that she doesn‘t go over our weekly budget; it keeps my mind busy on a useful task, and Mum calls me her “go-to numbers man,” which makes me feel good. I’m not completely sure what it means, but Mum smiles when she says it.
At home, she always makes me my favorite breakfast: boiled eggs cooked for 4 minutes and 40 seconds placed exactly in the center of two square slices of medium brown toast, no butter. My Mum has a round, fat face which she covers with make-up before she leaves the house, grey hair like my Dad, and she sighs every time she sits down. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. Dad says she has a heart of gold, which means she is very precious, but I don’t understand how a heart made of heavy metal can pump blood around her body. Dad says this is just a “saying,” a bit like when someone says “it’s raining cats and dogs,” or “Grandad is losing his marbles.” Dad also says that everyone is dealt a certain hand in life, and he calls me “quirky.” He tells me he loves me “heaps.” “Heaps of what?” I wish people wouldn’t speak in riddles.
Dad works in the bank and taught me to “high-five,” because I don’t like anyone to touch me. My face gets hot, and I start to panic. I know it makes Mum and Dad sad that I don’t want to hug them, so we touch fingers instead — just the very tips — a fleeting skin-on-skin moment, which should really be called a “high-four,” as we only have four fingers on each hand.
I don’t have many friends—this could be because I’m not very good at talking to them (I never know what to say), but I think it is more likely due to my height. I’m 1684mm high, and the average height for my class is only 1562mm if you include Mr. Rogers, my teacher. The kids at school call me weird, but I overheard Mum telling the neighbor that I was autistic, and to give me a break. The neighbor had been complaining about me bouncing a ball against the back fence for hours on end, but I know it was only for 23 minutes, and I only did 522 bounces. My Granddad just says I’m a little eccentric, and that 14-year-old boys do eccentricity exceedingly well. I like my Granddad—he talks softly, moves very slowly, and hasn’t got any hair, which makes the top of his head look a bit like an egg. Sometimes, when I go to visit, he says I am growing like a weed. I don’t like it when he says that — isn’t a weed just a plant growing in the wrong place?
Wendy Fisher is 56 years old and lives in Australia. Since taking an early retirement, she has been helping with Riding for the Disabled in Coffs Harbour for over four years and recently started creative writing classes. Finding that she particularly likes working with children with autism at the riding center, Wendy decided to challenge herself to write a short story from an autistic teenager’s perspective.
This article was featured in Issue 53 – Working Toward The Future