An Autistic Cinderella, if you will, Part II
by Jennifer E.B.
I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age seventeen. At age sixteen, I left the special school after getting into a private school for the arts. My teachers were very proud of me, as were my family. Everyone was telling me how I would find people as articulate as me there, people who were more accepting and shared my interests. I, of course, was skeptical but still open to finally finding a place to belong.
Art school was certainly very different from public school. You could wear anything you wanted, as long as it wasn't blatantly offensive, people called teachers by their first names, you could eat in class - you had alot more freedom. My very first day was absolutely amazing. Although it would take some adjustment for me not to address the staff by Mister or Mrs, people were much friendlier than where I had previously come from. In my orientation group, there were three girls who talked to me and asked me questions. I was a bit rough, because I've never been great at making small talk, but it didn't go so bad. In fact, I was absolutely stunned later in the day when they said they had been looking for me during lunch - these people actually sought me out! And one boy complimented my skirt, while at my old school, I was only called ugly. And another girl from auditions introduced me to a friend. I couldn't wait to come back the next day!
Sadly, it did not last. I spent the majority of my time alone. In a place where eccentrics seemed to blossom, it took me a year just to find someone to eat lunch with. Within the first few months, I watched other new students find their way as I only sunk more into the background.
I took sign language, where I found that person. Penelope was another quiet girl, reserved yet pleasant and very imaginative. She was one of those typical "nice-girls" who would look out for me, yet never was a friend. I was absolutely terrible at ASL, as well as math, and whenever I got stuck, or messed up, she would always smile and give me a pat on the back, which I didn't really like but I knew meant comfort. I came to find that people at art school were supportive but unloving of me. I still struggled to connect.
My troubles with ASL would turn into a benefit, believe it or not. Because of my constant screw-ups, Penelope and I had inside-jokes. It was nice to have someone to laugh with. On the last day of my first year, she gave me a hug good-bye.
My second year I got the guts to ask if I could eat with her. Things were often quiet and rather awkward, but in time, things did get better. Our jokes turned into stories, and at about mid year, we began to write them down. They were absolutely ridiculous, but neither of us cared. They were very funny stories, and make us laugh, and also brought us closer together.
At the same time, I started liking a boy. His name was Alexander. I was completely disturbed by my attraction to him - it had not been since middle school that I had met a boy, one who at the time I was very fond of. I told myself that I only wanted to be his friend, though I always knew better - I had a crush on him.
Our meeting was absolutely embarrassing. Alexander was popular at school, a very talented comedian with social abilities that I envied. The day we met, I was walking through the hallways on my own. Class was in session, not to mention that I never bothered to talk to others informally. As I made my way, I heard a hello. And there he was, Alexander, and I was so nervous that I had a so-called meltdown. Right then and there, in front of him. I stuttered and stared at the floor, and immediately withdrew. I failed to see he was still walking beside me, and when
I realised this, managed to say to him, "Oh, you're still there."
Alexander was a very intimidating person. Six feet tall, a bit on the heavy side, with long brown locks like Roger Daltrey. He had a loud personality and a clique of core friends, a bit geeky in his hobbies, but not lame, unlike the stereotype. He also seemed alot friendlier than some other popular kids, where even after our horrid meeting, he still said hello to me a week later and even stopped to tell me a joke at the school's Halloween party. It really wasn't a big deal at all, because he was a rather outgoing person, but anyone from my old school would never have been so cool about what had happened.
As Penelope and I continued to bond, and my grades continued to plummet, I kept my eye on Alexander. We had no classes together, and did not even speak. But I was curious, and took a dare, signing up for one of the weekly lunch clubs, one I knew that he was in. I was the only girl in the group, and did not really fit in, but I was proud of myself for trying. Even though my affections weren't returned, at least he was nice to look at...
My uncle got me into the Talking Heads, one of my now favorite bands, and after resenting being hidden behind a piano, the instrument I came to school to master, I decided to try the electric bass, just like Tina Weymouth. I asked my mother to get one as an early Christmas present, and to my fortune, I received one early in November.
A few kids in the music department, none of which I typically talked to, would make a little small-talk regarding my new hobby. Yet, to my absolute surprise, none made as much of a fuss as did Alexander. I had occupied an empty classroom, practicing the Heads cover of Take Me To The River, when in he came, yelling at me. I didn't know where the joke had come from, but he shouted at me, asking when I had started playing. Then he told me that he was a bassist himself, and though I knew that it was just his odd humor, he said that we should start a band someday.
Which happened in the spring. He wanted to start a cover band of some stupid eighties group, and although I disliked the music, of course would never turn down a chance to spend time with him. Spring semester we had one class together, and about a month in, when I received his invitation, we started sitting together in class, along with two other people. The first day the four us sat together, I literally had to hold back tears, trying to keep myself from crying. Even though it was impersonal, and none of us really talked much to each other, I had a clique. Even just for American History. This time, it was tears of joy I shed in school. I knew the situation wouldn't mean much to anyone else. But it meant alot to me.
Our band ended up a failure, constantly breaking plans to practice and only meeting up once, during which I was away for a family occasion.
I missed him terribly during the summer, going into bouts of starvation, hardly even eating, which was totally out of character. And despite my hatred for the music I had practiced, just for him, I constantly listened to the albums, daydreaming about him.
He had a summer romance, a girl who never liked me, who I can now understand why. I never expected to get the guy. I was a very quiet girl and dressed a bit like a tomboy. She was very outgoing and wore sexy clothes. She had had alot of boyfriends. I was eighteen-years-old and had never been kissed.
Continue to: An Autistic Cinderella, if you will, Part III
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