Categories > Original > Drama2 Reviews
A glimpse into the mind of a child with Asperger's Syndrome.
Penelope was dawdling as she talked, perfectly unaware of my clammy palms and trembling limbs. She never had trouble making friends: she knew what to say to people, how to laugh and smile and make eye contact. All the things that eluded me came quite naturally to her. I couldn’t meet her eyes – didn’t think to try – so I fixed my gaze on her shoes. They were plain black leather with a silver buckle, scuffed at the toe – a rebellious personal statement in our conservative girls school. My shoes were highly polished Clarks, school standard and wildly out of proportion to my skinny ankles.
“What are you doing this weekend?” An innocent question, pitched in a casual, friendly tone.
What to say? I was actually planning to go out into the garage and grind up some more rocks to put in the shallow bowl I’d carved out of an old plank of wood. The dust would be food for my dogs (I didn’t have any dogs). If I finished that, I’d probably start making another bowl so that the dogs didn’t have to share. Penelope didn’t need to hear that, though. She might think I was strange – or worse, want to join in.
“Nothing.” Yes, short answers – they stopped me saying stupid things. If I didn’t say much, Penelope could talk about things she wanted to talk about, which would make her think I was a good friend. Once she realised we were friends, perhaps she’d go away a bit and I wouldn’t have to worry. It would be a long time yet before the concept of reciprocal questions was explained to me; before a new set of rules would be laid out for me to follow. As far as I knew, this was good conversation. I badly wanted to have good conversation with Penelope.
“You should come over sometime. I can show you my farm,” she offered. Casual, off-hand. Perhaps this was the important part, the part I had to get right. Or perhaps she didn’t mean it and I was reading the situation wrong.
“Yeah.” That was a good answer. I carefully kept my face impassive in case she knew how happy I was. I held my arms stiff and imagined what it would be like at the farm. We’d play great games, and she’d really like me. It might even make me her best friend. We could sit together at lunch, share our cookies, and play handball on the same team.
“Well, I’ll see you later,” she said, in a tone that was difficult for me to identify. I nodded vaguely, glancing to the side. An appropriate gesture: I wanted her to know that I liked her, but not to betray any hint of emotion that might betray me and spoil things.
I watched as she skipped ahead to the flock, leaving me alone so I could relax a bit. She linked arms with another girl. With a pang of bitter clarity, I suddenly realised that there would be no visit to her farm. That, once again, I had gotten it wrong.
I sighed, and mentally reached out to my dogs for comfort.