Hope and Resilience, Two Vignettes

1.

Every Sunday, Adrian goes to pick up doughnuts — two apiece — for us to eat on our veranda, Reko and Ladu perched next to us like plump little birds, their keen eyes watching for falling crumbs to peck*. This week, I decided that instead of a plain glazed cake doughnut, I wanted a chocolate glazed yeast one. I still wanted my usual Homer doughnut and didn’t care if it came in cake or yeast form.

Are you with me still?

In my attempt at being as clear as possible, I utterly confused my husband to the degree that he had no idea what to get me.  I tried again, drying dishes as he made coffee.

“This week, I want the Homer, it doesn’t matter if it is cake or yeast, and instead of a cake, I would like a yeast.”

Nope, not any better.

In addition to generally being very particular about my food, I am vegan, so there is always an element of anxiety for both of us when Adrian picks up our takeaway orders. Of course, the easy solution is that I pick up the food, but the process is much smoother and quicker when he does it. My sensory sensitivity and topographical disorientation and routine require quite a bit of planning for me to comfortably leave the house.

Is it any wonder that I cook almost all of our meals?

After about two more circular discussions, mostly involving whether I want cake or yeast donuts, forget the whole Homer-plain-chocolate puzzle, I finally said, “Whatever is easiest for you is fine with me.”

hate when I do that. I literally threw the towel I was holding down and just gave up. Talking can be so hard. There is no such thing as a simple instruction. My tongue feels huge and cumbersome in my mouth and I just don’t want to speak anymore.

In a quiet voice, Adrian said, “Okay.” He remained sitting, his hands clasped.

I whirled around, deciding to take the risk. This is one of the greatest benefits of discovering that I have autism: my husband and I understand each other better … even if we don’t always understand what the other is saying. Because of that, I am willing to take big, scary emotional risks, like trying again to speak.

“Adrian, what am I saying that is so confusing? I am trying my best to be clear.”

“I just can’t tell what you want. You are saying you don’t care if it is yeast or cake and then you ask for yeast because you don’t want cake.”

I wanted to laugh at how absurd this scenario was. We were both so serious and we were talking about donuts. But we weren’t, really, talking about donuts. We were talking about talking. We were talking about communicating.

I started to cry, covering my face with my apron. “I am not mad, though it seems like I am. I am just frustrated. This may not happen to you often, but it happens to me all the time. I can’t even put in a food order without bewilderment and misunderstanding. Every conversation is confusing. It makes me want to not talk to anyone.”

Adrian said, “Oh, honey, I am sorry that this is so hard.”

“I’m sorry for making this so complicated.”

I tried again and fifteen minutes later, we were eating our donuts. Adrian read the news and sipped black coffee while I savored my chewy, yeasty, and airy Homer and chocolate glazed donuts with a big mug of green tea.

* Reko and Ladu always watch for spills, staring intently at the ground, our hands, and our mouths. I assure you, however, that they do not get table scraps and that includes donut crumbs!

2.

The other day, I spent almost two hours searching for a song. This song, which was quite popular a couple of years ago, had several variations of a melody that gave me the greatest pleasure sensations. Listening to it was like eating a piece of dark chocolate sprinkled with smoked sea salt, surprising and decadent.

I couldn’t remember the name, any of the lyrics (or if it even had lyrics), the band, the year it was released … nothing … except that it was a dance song with a horn instrument. I searched everywhere, mining reddit posts that asked if “anyone knows that song that has a dance beat?” or “can you tell me which song has a trumpet playing ‘dum dum duh duh’ in it?” I checked Billboard top 100 for the past five years.

I should have been working.

I suddenly recalled that the song was featured in a commercial with yellow animated creatures. A mobile phone commercial, I thought. Yellow animated creatures? Sometime in the last two or three years? “Minions!” I exclaimed, and began Googling.

Why can’t I just start working? I wondered, as I typed. Come on, I urged. You can do it. Switch tasks. Here you go …

The Minions have been in a lot of commercials. I watched a YouTube video that was almost ten minutes long and played every commercial they had been in, domestic and international. No song.

Hmmmmm, I thought. Maybe they aren’t Minions.

I had my own variations of a search that included “yellow characters”, “dance song”, “commercial” “phone” “horns” … and voilà!

I found it! I played it eleven times, swinging my hips, tapping my foot, snapping my fingers, wagging my head. I sang along with the variations, playing the drums on my dogs, kissing them to the beat. I twirled around and clapped my hands. I squinted my eyes so my room became a swirl of colors.

And then, I played it eleven more times.

I am playing it as I type this and see colors exploding in my head, soaring up and sliding down. My muscles are tightening and releasing, lips pursing and relaxing. I feel as though I am floating and roller skating and swimming and climbing a tree and lying perfectly still.

I am free, the sunlight on my face, wind lifting me up up up.

And when I sit down to work, I can hear the music playing in my head like a secret security blanket.

© 2017 Saraswati Chand

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