Fictional Interlude: Until Tomorrow, a Vignette

Story read, Othello pressed his lips softly to his daughter’s forehead. He moved away slowly, nose brushing hers in an Eskimo kiss and turned. The floorboards creaked softly under foot. He switched off the main light leaving the room lit only by the warm glow of the fire in its grate. Opening the door he looked back and said in a low whisper “until tomorrow little one.” He stepped backwards out of the door, closing it as he did.
Othello paused, hand resting on the smoothed doorknob, for a fraction of a second after the door quietly thumped its closing. Lilith would only be his little one for so many more tomorrows. His fingers lingered on the door, brushing it lightly and reluctant to move away. Move away he did, sock covered feet padding lightly across the hall to the kitchen. He filled the small copper kettle and lit the stove. For a moment he paused, arms around himself, looking back towards the closed wooden door. Lilith was eleven now. Soon she wouldn’t spend all her nights here with him. Soon she wouldn’t need him to tuck her in. Soon. But for now she was still his little one.
He rubbed his face, crossed their small kitchen pulled their cast iron teapot from where it was nestled amongst the washing up without a sound. He lifted the lid of a little black jar and fished out a teabag. Camomile, it was past eight. Dropping it into the teapot he leant back against the much stained wooden sideboard and his eyes once again settled on Lilith’s door as he waited for the kettle to boil. He traced the love heart shape cut into the doors panelling. The hours he had spent sanding it, smoothing out perfect curves while his tiny daughter slept back when his aunt Rosa had first let the move into the flat above the bookshop. It didn’t matter that for nearly the first year of her life Lilith had slept in a Moses basket beside his bed, that room had always been hers and he had wanted every bit of it to be beautiful.
The kettle whistled, a thin stream of steam issuing from its spout. Othello took it off the stove and made the tea. Carrying the kettle he crept back across the landing, pausing just for a moment outside that door to listen to the soft shuffling of sheets, the sounds of his daughter reading silently beneath the blankets. A slow smile curved his lips and he gently nudged open the door into his own small room. Edging through the narrow gap between bookshelf and bed, he set the teapot down on his desk, drew back his cushioned chair and sat. His sky blue mug, reasonably clean if slightly tea stained, was waiting beside the scrawled lists and neatly printed order forms.
He poured himself tea and took a slow sip. He wanted to at least make a start on the order forms for the shop before he picked up his own book and curled up with it in the inglenook for a few hours before bed. He drew the papers towards him and inked a pen setting his steaming mug back down. He cast a glance at the cracked open door, a habit from when Lilith had been younger and didn’t always sleep through the night. Tonight there was no shadow across the hall, no hesitant patter of feet and no quiet whisper of “daddy”. Othello sighed, now that she was older Lilith would read to herself for hours into the night rather than disturbing him for company. Soon she wouldn’t be his little one anymore.
Scratching his signature at the foot of an order form, he stretched, arching his back then topped up his camomile. He gathered mug and book in hand and crossed the room, making for their small sitting room and the warmth of the fire. Again he paused outside Lilith’s door, but this time the only sound that met his ears were her soft, snuffling breaths. She was coming down with another cold. He made a mental note to add blackcurrant juice to the shopping list knowing that as she coughed and sniffled her way through the next few days it would be all she wanted. For a while, when Lilith was a baby, he had been on edge, afraid to take his eyes off her every time her temperature rose a point of a degree too high or her tiny chest juddered with a cough. He’d waited on tenterhooks half expecting Michelle to come back, realising her mistake and take her daughter, hisdaughter, away. But she hadn’t and Lilith had been fine and Othello had learned that colds just meant blackcurrant juice, warm blankets and extra cuddles, nothing more.
Breaking his reverie, Othello carried on into the sitting room and picked his way around piles of stray books to climb into the cushioned inglenook beside the burner. Setting his mug down beside him and tucking his knees under himself in a manner he shared with his daughter, Othello opened his book and began to read.

He turned the page, absorbing the words hungrily, thinking that this would be another book he could pass on to Lilith. To share stories with her, stories he liked now, not just those he remembered from his childhood, was the best part of her growing up. The familiar sounds of crackling of the fire, his own slow breathing and the faint ticking of the clock on the far wall surrounded him. These were the sounds of his nights, this was the quiet of his alone time. The morning would bring with it creaking floorboards and whistling kettles, opening doors and quiet thoughtful words, the ringing of the shop bell and the thump of books on a counter, but for now all was peaceful. He turned another page. He wanted to know what Lilith would make of this story, but that would have to wait. Until tomorrow. 

Tidying the Living Room

I have spent much of this week in the living room. There have been moments, between hiding beneath my blanket or in a book, that I have looked up and taken in my surroundings.

It’s still odd, the concept of having a tomorrow. I can’t quite get my head around having a ‘now’. That isn’t only depression talking. When I was a child I knew that I wouldn’t grow up. By the time I was ten or twelve it wasn’t even in the romanticised Never Neverland sense either. I assumed, without having any reason to do so, that I would die before I even left school. I was utterly convinced that I wouldn’t see the other side of sixteen. I wasn’t afraid of dying, the actual moment of my death wasn’t something I gave much thought to, I just knew that one day, before I’d ever really lived, I would cease to exist. I didn’t belong here. It was a mistake.

Then of course my sixteenth birthday came and went. The time since then has felt like it isn’t really mine. Like it shouldn’t have happened. As though something somewhere along the line went wrong and I didn’t end when I was supposed to. The thread wasn’t cut but the pattern ended.

The living room floor is strewn with tangled thread. All the todays and tomorrows I never planned on having. It’s hard to look at it for long, there are so many knots and so many colours I don’t know what to do with it all. I don’t know where to start. It’s easier to hide. I have looked up this week, from time to time. I’ve picked at one thread or another. I’ve re-registered at university. I’ve been writing, even if it’s a paragraph at a time it’s something. I’ve been able to read a chunk of a science magazine without feeling panicked. I’ve even started working as a temporary lab technician.  

I have a to-do list. Things are slowly being ticked off. 

Dropping in a Skylight

There are some things that have to be learned more than once. Some things that have to be pointed out and then underlined repeatedly before they start to sink in. For me, patience with  myself is one of those things. I won’t go to bed and wake up in the morning suddenly able to function exactly as I would if I were my ideal self. I won’t wake up and find that every last trace of depression has been blown away in the wind leaving my mind clear and bright and so wide awake. It would be nice, it just isn’t realistic. Realistic means taking faery steps. Going out for a walk most days. Going out for a walk most days and doing something creative. Going out for a walk most days, doing something creative and doing chemistry, that’s the next goal.

I realised that I haven’t said much about the lighting in my snow globe cottage. For the most part it’s dim. There isn’t any electricity so most of the rooms are lit by candles or an oil lamp. That is how I have been able to crouch in the attic in a tiny circle of light and not look at anything outside of it. Until this week. This week a skylight was dropped into the attic roof and suddenly the room came into view. It’s dusty. There are cobwebs and I’m certain that some of the lurking spiders will be frighteningly huge. But it’s interesting too.

I finally got to move away from my sewing machine and the trap door. I got to edge across floorboards so thick with dust they no longer creak when stepped on. For a moment, standing under the skylight, I got to see possibilities. I wasn’t fenced in by what was in my lit circle of floor. There are boxes. Higgledy-piggledy, stacked up on top of one another. Most of them cardboard, some of them wooden, one or two heavy metal trunks. With the room lit up I could see all of them and at first there was an aching anxiety and a heavy sense of obligation. Now that I can see them I have to open them up. I have to look. I’m afraid of what I might find. Then I took a moment to breath, because no, I don’t have to look. I don’t have to open them. I can if I want to. If I want to open up a box and unpack it I can, but I can take all the time I want over it. If it turns out that I half empty a box and realise no, there are things in the bottom I don’t want to touch then I can close it again. I can look away and come back later. If I want to. Or not. There is no obligation. There is just possibility. It was with that thought that very slowly I did begin to open a box and bring out ink and paper. I cleaned up an old writing desk and then, tentatively, I started to listen to the characters in my head that I have spent so long silencing. 

Fictional Interlude

Through Asperger Eyes

I’m punching him in the face
I’m tearing it to shreds
I’m hiding under the desk

I’m running away. I don’t even know where to, I just want to be away from there. I want to go home, but I don’t know where home is. Because I don’t belong here, I’ve never belonged, I’m not like them. My feet pound the frosty tarmac, the roar of the traffic crashing over me, trying to crush me. I can’t see properly, because of the tears falling from my eyes, but I can’t stop. I have to get as far away from that place as I can. I’m never going back. Ever. I want to go home. My breath is coming in short sharp gasps, I’ve got a stitch but I can’t stop, the traffic lights are just ahead of me.

A complicated network of corridors, thousands of chattering, rumbling, deafening humans stampeding their way through them immune to the sound they create and the sheer crushing force they carry as a group. And me. Not immune, always walking in the opposite direction to the flow down these too narrow passages. I am squeezed, bumped and buffeted out of the way. I can’t control my speeding heart beat or how much I’m shaking, but I have to walk, head down, pretend that the noise isn’t drowning out my thoughts and damaging my sensitive ears. Because I can’t be late. If I’m late I won’t go in because if I do I’ll have to face the way people’s eyes swivel in an accusatory manner towards the door to stare at me, through me, as I take my seat. If I’m late I’ll go to hide. Then I’ll be in trouble for missing lessons, they’ll tell me off, they’ll send messages to my parents who will tell me off then ask me why. If I could make them all understand maybe it would be different. But I can’t, because I don’t have the words, not when I open my mouth, the words are all in my head but when I speak they don’t come out properly, because I’m an alien really. I’m not one of them.

I’m different.
I don’t belong here.
I’m not one of them.

I stand at the traffic lights and glance over my shoulder, then I press the button and watch, my arms crossing over my stomach. Taking deep breaths I count. Ten, twenty, thirty, fifty. The lights change, but I count another seven to fifty-seven, because I always do, before I cross the road, I have to. I look both ways even though the traffic is still and then I walk quickly between the cars. I hate feeling that exposed and open. Anything could happen when I’m out on my own like that. I wish everyone else would just disappear. I want the world, just for five minutes to be inhabited by people like me. People who don’t belong and who don’t know the difference between excitement and nervousness and nervous excitement.

She’s looking at me and she wants an answer. I know the answer, but my lips won’t move. My heart is racing again and people are looking. Why can’t they look away? Why do they all move together? My lips are pressed together and I look down at the table, pulling at blutac with my fingers. She, the teacher, repeats the question. I don’t look up, just shake my head. So she asks someone else. I wander if they think I can’t hear their whispers. ‘Why does she do that?’ or ‘she’s weird’ or ‘she’s such a retard’. Maybe they think I have bad hearing instead of super sensitive hearing. But more likely they think I am retarded, which I’m not, I’m top set for everything, I just don’t like answering their questions because I freeze up. I’m not like them because I like the things I like, orang-utans and chemistry and genetics, not the things I’m supposed to like, popular music and fashion for example. But it annoys me, being patronised and teased. The work I’m supposed to be doing finds its way between my hands.

On the other side of the road I start running, even though it’s downhill, the stitch is back. I don’t care. I don’t care that my legs are tired. I’m not going to stop, even if it’s hard to see because the tears have made my eyes go blurry I’ll carry on. I’ve had enough of them not listening. I’ve had enough of the laughing and bullying. I’ve had enough of the noisy, crowded corridors and the complicated social rules that everyone but me seems to be born knowing. I. Don’t. Care.

They think it’s funny I’m in the library all day. They tell me it’s ‘sad’. Well actually, I’m quite happy being there, so I’m not sure what they’re talking about. Maybe all I want to do is read about, write about and draw orang-utans, they’re special, they’re intelligent and they’re being threatened. I raised money for them once doing a sponsored silence. It wasn’t hard. But nobody else even cares, they’re too busy talking about some singers latest stupid song, or outfit, or hairstyle or whether or not they have anorexia. If they do then I don’t think everyone talking about it will help. If they don’t then all the rumours might well make them depressed. Either way I don’t see how it’s anyone else’s business. A squealing high pitch sound rings in my ears and reverberates around my brain sending piercing pains down the back of my spine which settle in my middle back, it’s the fire alarm. It rings and rings and I’m expected to leave the building and line up with everyone else. I nearly lose track of which person is me in the stampede to get out. Even when we do I have no idea which line I’m supposed to be in because we don’t have a strict order. Anywhere on the playground should do but whichever bit I pick will be wrong. I hover by the grass wishing everyone would stand still and be quiet and the alarm would stop. I wish it was a real fire. Sometimes I feel like starting one to shut the school and to give the stupid bell a reason to ring. But I won’t, because it’s wrong. I join the end of my classes’ line. Not in register order because I hate feeling trapped between people. The teacher’s not happy about that though, he comes and tells me to get in my proper place, so I do. I’m trapped and crying and I hate it. But all anyone who sees can say is ‘what a retard’. Sometimes I think I am one. I’m definitely not normal.

I’m definitely not normal.
I’m definitely not normal.

I’m nearly at my house now. I know my mum won’t be happy but I don’t think she’ll make me go back. She said she’d take me out of school at Christmas anyway. It’s November now but I can’t stand it any longer. Leaning forward and panting I drag my feet towards the front door, I can feel pangs going through my chest and I’m shaking.

The lesson after the fire drill is English. I try telling the office I have a headache, which I do, but they don’t believe me. They think I’m trying to skive. So I go to English. We’re doing poems and I hate it. I don’t know what all the silly metaphors mean, I don’t care either. I don’t see why a lawn would be bewildered or what the point in transferred epithet is. I don’t really see the point in this at all, I can read, but I don’t need to be able to do this. So I don’t. I sit and draw spirals and calm down and try to ignore the clamouring, pounding headache behind my eyeballs. I don’t know why they can’t just believe I’m ill and let me go home. We’re supposed to be working in a group. They put me in one and people turn round to talk to me. I don’t look up. “You can’t just do nothing” they tell me. ‘Watch me’, I think. So they tell the teacher. She comes and bends down in front of me “what’s the matter?” She’s talking in that soft voice and her bottom lip is poking out. She probably thinks I’m a retard too. “Come on, you can do this verse.” She points to a number of lines all talking about something stupid and not saying what they mean. I shake my head but she just says “have a go” and leaves me to it. The rest of the group I’m supposed to be in are muttering. I’ve had enough. The tension threatening to break loose does, I feel like my head might explode. I want to hit them. I want to hurt them. Between my fingers the work is torn in half with a loud rrrrrrrriiiiip. Then again and again into smaller and smaller pieces. Then I stand up and leave. I’m going home.

I hover on the doorstep, but there’s no point in just standing here. I open it, the door’s on the latch. Shouting ensues, mainly mum at me about the dangers of crossing a busy road in temper. Then a little of me at her. But mainly I just cry. Then she and I sit and talk, she makes me hot chocolate and we dip in biscuits. Then, finally, she tells me I don’t have to go back. But that doesn’t stop me being an alien, it just makes me wonder if I’ve won or lost.

Stitches in the Attic

The past week has woken me to an interesting new problem: I need another coloured square for my patchwork. If white is those days where I literally do nothing and grey is those days where I drift along, look after myself physically but do nothing of importance to me and coloured squares are for days when I do the things I wanted to, I need another specific colour. I need a colour for days that are essentially the opposite of grey days. I need a colour for the days where I get so fixated on one thing that everything else vanishes and I forget the mundane things that I meant to do. A colour for days when perhaps I didn’t leave my bed, but I achieved so much while snuggled beneath my covers. White is the wrong colour for those days because I have done something, I have just neglected myself physically and socially in the process. I think those days will be red days. Because they are good, they just aren’t sustainable.

I have been sitting in my corner of the attic with my sewing machine. For the first time in three years I hyper-focused. The fear, the commitments, the time of day, everything vanished because I had a ragdoll faery I was making and a story to listen to. I felt like the ten-year-old child I once was had been resurrected. I didn’t think that I could do that anymore. I was beginning to believe that being able to focus to the expense of everything else was something I had dreamed up. That it was something I had never really been able to do, that my memories were rose tinted. It is real though and when I am hyper-focused, it is less that the snow globe disappears and more that I simply lose awareness of it.

Of course, it would have been convenient if I could tap into hyper focus whenever I so chose and channelled it into Chemistry, but now at least I can hope that one day I will. For the last few days something has mattered not because it should matter, not because I want it to matter, it has quite simply just mattered. I have been invested in it without any kind of barrier. I am coming out of the dark.