Is anyone ever really on your side. I wanted someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and they did not. They took a position removed from my own. They were not diametrically opposed but they I didn’t feel that they had my back.
In this world we are all alone. At any time the sensations we experience are processed separately and each of us had a unique perception of the world around them. Sharing is at best a compromise of ideas and at worst a complete subjugation of the self. I have known for a long time that we all die alone but it is living alone with everyone else that is slowly killing me.
I’m not talking about solitude. That lovely place is where I am right now, alone with my thoughts and lost in the most beautiful place I have ever been, the inside of my own mind. It’s the feeling of being alone that others bring with them and unpack as thoughtlessly as some tuna sandwiches on a plate at summer picnic. People laugh and smile and every foray into the light soufflé of society leaves me pancake flat as if there is no air in those cheerful places. The hail-fellow-well-met brigade offer a hearty superficiality that is not concrete enough to lean on.
I want someone on my side. Someone who thinks I am great and supports me with unconditional love. They need to travel with me on the Asperger Path and hold my hand.
Given that it cannot be anyone else I will learn to love myself. Now where is that Whitney Houston CD?
I don’t know quite how to say this. “Fuck off” doesn’t seem too subtle and even “go away” seems much too direct. I want to avoid being Greta Garbo about it but, you know, she had a point.
I have given it some thought. Well, actually I have spent nights and nights analysing the situation and dissecting every interaction. I have even analysed the amount of analysis I have done. By the way it might be too much, but I need to look at that again before I can be absolutely sure. Can I get back to you on that? Or maybe I shouldn’t given what my findings are.
I am digressing. Even mentioning digression makes my digression worse. Or is my digression bigger or perhaps wider. What would be the best comparative to use with digression. I’ll have a think about that. At what point does a digression become a meander rather than a moment straying from the path. Damn that is interesting but unfortunately we are half way through something else.
Now where was I. This situation we have. I am autistic. You feel hurt and overlooked. You say I don’t think about other people. You think I get lost in my head. You think our friendship needs to change. You have needs that I don’t meet. You are right. It is true. So I have analysed, or possibly over analysed, the situation and I have found out what the problem is.
It’s not so much that one conversation can entirely change the course of my life. At fifty I am probably no longer open to that sense of immediacy and change. However, as I travel languidly through life, I meet people and there is a connection and it’s like a fresh breeze blowing through my cognitive cobwebs.
On the Asperger Path my small talk is rarely small. The little social niceties are often over looked as I dive headlong into conversations. I enjoy people with something to say and love an evening happily squandered over food and beer sharing thoughts about the thorny issues of life, love, death and god.
I would love to say I am open minded enough to share my table with the full range of human ideology. I am not. I like to discuss things with people who may have similar core beliefs but see the world from another perspective. I find it best when my core foundations are left stable but questions are poised that make me question what I have been constructing.
My life is simple. I don’t believe in much except myself. And it is this simplicity which becomes complex. To build a moral framework from scratch without the church, party or the state offering you a blueprint. So I would like to thank the architects and the engineers, the thinkers and the dreamers who have shared their time and thoughts with me. I am who I am today because of a thousand big conversations and no small talk .
Sitting in a café with Karen Carpenter on the radio and the rain falling my mind drifts and it’s yesterday once more. For a moment it is hard to believe I’m not back in Swindon town.
How did I get here. That boy with the bad highlights, a French horn and Clarks shoes is a long way from that tatty terrace on the hill. I never dreamed of going to Cambodia though I have a dim and distant memory of raising money for Kampuchea with a school fete.
I am not quite sure why but just for a day I became Madame Pasta Macaroni with horoscopes cut out of my gran’s copy of The Woman’s Realm. I read palms and told tall tales of dark strangers at ten pence a pop. A plump thirteen year old in drag raising money for a country I had barely heard of and certainly couldn’t place on a map.
Now I’m here. Swindon is definitely yesterday . I no longer need look to the stars for my fortune because tall tales of dark strangers are no longer just a fantasy.
Cambodians smile a lot. It’s one of the most wonderful things about living here. There is almost no situation where a smile is not appropriate. Unfortunately the smile had dropped from this Cambodian face.
He wasn’t very happy and he seemed very anxious for me, the source of his anguish, to share in his misery. I had tendered my resignation and he thought that telling me I was a bad person and how I had acted wrongly would make me reconsider and stay. There was nothing positive evolving and in the end I left the room. I had tried to do what I perceived to be the right thing, but it wasn’t being well received.
Outside, I spoke to a kind and helpful colleague. He always smiles and is a delightful man. I was trying to rebalance the situation. Even on the Asperger Path I like to leave avenues open though I seldom return. In the course of the conversation I made a comparison with England. Like a bullet from a rifle, the angry man charged from his office to chastise me for talking to his subordinate. You’re not in England now he shouted, this is Cambodia. He was right, but this Cambodia was rough and angry and not like the land of gentle harmony I have seen so far.
I have a month’s notice period to work. It feels like it might be tough. I have a plan though. I will take a gentle path and wear a Cambodian smile. After all there is almost no situation where it’s not appropriate.
The Kingdom of Wonder is how Cambodia promotes itself. My friend calls it the kingdom of blunder while I generally opt for the kingdom of wondering. One thing is certain, life isn’t predictable.
Today is certainly not going quite to plan. All that was supposed to be happening is not. That’s usually a red rag to my inner bull. Yet the china is intact in the shop. So here I am in limbo and goodness knows I’m not built for that kind of flexibility.
My flat isn’t ready just yet so I cannot move in. Until then I have to live across the hall. All my dreams of spending my Saturday making my new home look just a little bit less unloved and a bit more ‘me’ have been shelved.
So here I am in the empty old flat cleaning what I have left because I can clean what I am going to. The bathroom has a baking soda freshness it never had when I lived it and surfaces are so free of dust that I realise my flat wasn’t subtly grey and was just a bit grubby. I move in, I clean then I do the same when I move out. In between the dirt that live in is mine and I am happy in that.
So here I am limboing like I have a flexibility many would confirm I haven’t possessed when under duress in the past. Life isn’t quite going to plan. I haven’t lost my temper or shouted at anyone. In Cambodia, even I have become unpredictable
I have no plans, no bucket list and no aspirations. For now, I am living in Cambodia and teaching grade 1 English. That might change tomorrow or next week but I have a roof over my head and there is food on the table. Often that table is shared with friends so life is pretty sweet.
I have no partner to consider so, for now, I walk the Asperger Path alone. That could change but I feel there is potential for hurt and loneliness in loving someone like me. As I travel through life I try to change myself for the better. Small changes mostly because they can be easily implemented and maintained. However, I find that my love affairs, and some of my friendships, seem to boil dry so I still have work to do to minimise my negative inpact on others. Expectation is a hard task master and failure has been a constant companion in days past.
Although I travel a path both physically and spiritually, I am not getting there because I am living here. I won’t be here forever. So I am just going to live for now, for now.
Once upon a time I would have said that friendship was a magical connection that was made so rarely that it should be treasured and nurtured. I had a tight inner circle as sacrosanct as that of Arthur’s knights.
My well organised life was full of lovely people and I categorised them into a bewilderingly bizarre, teetering hierarchy. ‘Friend’ was the highest accolade and few made it to those dizzying heights. There were more mundane positions which were easier to fulfill such as ‘people I know’ or ‘people I like’ and even ‘people I like to say hello to’. ‘Nice ladies in shops’ were good for a quick chat as were ‘bus stop people’. I defined my relationships and used these distinctions to keep people at a distance despite being essentially quite lonely. I rarely allowed movement as I was a fan of my slightly melancholy status quo. I left that ivory tower life and jumped headlong into the unknown.
Have I become more breezy. Is it possible that I am easy going. I doubt it. The Asperger Path will always be a challenging route . However, now that I am travelling there is no status quo for me to protect from would be friends and so my relationships do need to be scrutinised into the calcified classifications of before. This means that my use of the word friend has become more generic and as result my life feels a little less complex. I’m still awkward, clumsy and inept and I avoid some situations but I no longer bestow friendship like some coveted prize to be earned like a knight’s spurs. These days I have more friends and my relationships are governed as much by proximity as any other factor.
So if you’re in Battambang, are not a racist, like to laugh and have a reasonable level of intelligence chances are I see you as friend. It is as simple as that.
I took a moment the other day to look at the pond skaters living on the surface of the water. I should have been concentrating on the sun slowly rising over the ancient Angkorian temple but the Asperger Path often gets diverted. My Syndrome give me an ability to focus but also makes that focal point quite random.
I am, of course, digressing.
The pond skaters were there and I was pondering. I watched them whizzing about on the surface and creating magical patterns on the solemnly still waters of the pool. I was captivated and hadn’t even thought to look deeper. The fish were pointed out to me and then I saw them in the shadowy depths. Solid and sturdy, these creatures barely moved while above, their ethereal neighbours performed a showy cabaret.
Here in Cambodia I feel like a pond skater skimming the surface of a culture that is too deep for me to comprehend. Look at me I want to cry out I’m in the water! I have come to make a difference to the pond. As I skate around, making a big performance, real life carries on beneath me, oblivious and untouched by my presence. I am living on the surface. One day I will fly away from this kingdom but the fish will still be there quietly living and flourishing in the deep wonders of the Khmer culture.
Today I walked the tourist trail rather than the Asperger Path. I got up, more early than bright, and headed off with two strangers for a rather ambitious full-on day of marvelling at the ancient culture that both my companion and our driver are descended from.
Just when I thought the sun would not appear it rose triumphant like it has for nearly a thousand years over the ancient temple. I saw the dark stones slowly reveal themselves and the true wonder of the Kingdom I live in was revealed. The temple did not fail to keep me gasping as level upon level was explored. I came away feeling that my day could not improve.
I was wrong. The tuk tuk driver suggested that we head to the most northerly point of our trip next and I assured him that as long as there was a coffee on the way that would be great. The long awaited sun was already making its presence felt but the forty or so kilometres were covered with ease, breeze and an interesting conversation. My companion give me an insight into ancient Khmer culture and growing up in a country scarred by the tragedy of it’s recent history. Our steep ascent to see waterfalls and lingas was testing as the heat rose but being greeted by Vishnu hanging out with Ananta, Lakshmi and Brahma was a delight I was happy to share.
As we slowly headed back wonder upon wonder was revealed. Each different and yet linked which created a sense of uniform splendour surrounding these amazing early architects with mathematical precision and an ability to see divine inspiration in three dimensions.
The real joy of my day though was its ease. I was comfortable with strangers in intense heat and following a physically demanding itinerary. I accepted help graciously and was not worried about time or schedules. I was as lost in the landscape as those temples once were. I was asked why I kept smiling and I was able to answer that I just felt happy. That in itself is a wonder. I forgot who I was and in doing so found myself in receipt of a wonderful day.