Monday, November 18, 2013

Memory of a First Encounter

The first time I saw someone like me, I knew. I knew in the deepest pit of my stomach that that man, sitting four benches away at the bus station,  rocking quickly, deeply, back and forth, back and forth, his rocking growing in intensity as each bus pulled up, braked loudly, disgorged its passengers, a teaming, stinking, babbling mess of people, that this man was me, and I was him.

I knew as I began to rock gently in response to too much, too much, too much. I knew as I realized that our rocking was in time. I knew as he looked my direction, briefly, before looking up and away and rolling his head on his shoulders. I knew as my friend, sitting by me, grabbed my backpack and made me sit still. I knew as she looked past me, looked at this man, laughed. "God," she said, loud enough that I know he hears. "Look at the retard. Doesn't he know he shouldn't do that in public?"

I knew as I struggled to sit still. I knew as I kept looking his direction as his rocking increased to a frenetic pace as each bus arrived and departed in a havoc of noise and reek.

I knew as sirens wailed in the distance. I knew as I broke free of the constraining hand, and set to a rocking pace to match this man, covering my ears as he did, rolling my head to get the noise to leave as ambulance and firetruck screamed past.

I knew as he turned, looked at me, locked faces. I knew as I felt our simultaneous rocking slow, and his face, twisted with pain and overstim, relax. I knew as I felt my own face follow his, easing creases I hadn't known until that moment were etched there. I knew as his jaw opened wide, worked silently, closed again. I knew as our rocking became easier, slower, more musical and less frantic. I knew, but had no words for my knowing. You are me. I am you. We are us. He smiled at me, eyes locking then flitting away. I smiled back, fleeting, and my hand fluttered at my side, and I knew that he knew, as his hands flew up to flutter around his face, his rocking, still deep, now more rhythmic and gentle.

"Stop it! You'll make people stare! You're acting like the retard!" The hand on my pack was back, and now that the sirens had passed, my need to rock had slowed and I could feel the restraint again.

"Don't call him that." I muttered it, looking away from her, and I doubt she hears. "Don't call me that." I doubt she has heard yet. I wanted to get up, to walk away, to go sit next to the rocking man and begin rocking in time with him, but I did not. She had her hand on my pack again, doing her best to restrain me, to guide me into her normality, and I knew.

I knew that I wanted none of it.

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