I reach deep inside myself and find there is nothing. I fear my lurking superficiality, for it might reveal all I lack to the world. My mind is shingle grey like the beaches I once called home. I shroud myself in the dull hues of strand, sea and sky that wash into each other until I am almost drowning in monotony.
Other days when I reach inside myself it's like a jungle. My mind has been overgrown with mysterious half formed shapes, but everything is covered in moss and trailing creepers. The good and the bad grow side by side. The indiscriminate fecundity is almost nauseating and I choke on the sweet aroma of life feeding on death. I disgust myself.
I dream of being an artist, so, arid or rotten, I strip myself bare and swing dizzyingly on the trapeze of my emotion. Below me no one watches with bated breath. I take my life, so private in its living, and thrust it into the public lap to be virtually ignored. I am just an imitator. Life is a cabaret and this artiste shows twice nightly.
Everybody should have people that they share their life with. Someone who is there for the journey that we ponderously take through life. Some are lucky enough to find a partner and best friend rolled into one. Others have a close circle of friends or a band of brothers or sisters. I, well I have you.
Dear reader, you get my sleeve and I wear my heart on it. I pour out line after line and, stoically, you are there. Ours is a special bond. One that does not suffocate or stifle me. You never intrude or interrupt. You do not judge or censure me. Some would say our relationship lacks intimacy but I feel like you know me and I could tell you anything.
One sided as it may seem, you have entered into this willingly. I did not coerce you, though I'll admit I try to tempt you in. I embellish the bare bones of my life more than a little whilst tidying my sprawling details into tiny bite size pieces for your delectation.
I had a best friend once but I lost him. He got misplaced at a juncture and I travelled on alone. If I am honest, looking back at the Asperger Path, it is littered with misplaced people that haven't kept up with me. Unfulfilled and unfulfilling relationships that grew messily complex. Each was easier to grieve than to bring back from the dead
So here I am, writing to you. The iPhone writer who carves his intimate but disposable thoughts into the soft, shifting sands of the Internet. A man like so many others, overboard in the teeming sea of electric solitude.
A year ago, with the ink still drying on my autism diagnosis, I waved goodbye to the ugly face of blatant, corporate discrimination. Someone had decided I didn't fit and my professional life became a living hell. I was good at my job and wanted to continue there. I was assured that obtaining this diagnosis would ease the situation and protect me. It did not. After fighting and losing the battle to keep my job, I gave up. I gave up the round hole life I had been living.
I am no stranger to starting again. I have had to do it before. I was once a teacher, possibly a good one. However, I battled homophobia every day in the classrooms and the corridors of London. After a few incidents outside of school too, I decided I couldn't take any more. I lost that fight but preserved my sanity. Years before that, I lost my job in a local authority up north. My boss decided I didn't fit in. She made it clear that she could find no fault with my work. It was me that was a problem. I was a square peg.
I may lose jobs but I am not a loser. Life can be unkind because I am a gay man with cerebral palsy and Asperger's Syndrome. However hidden beneath the labels and the isms, I am just another human being. I may not fit in but that is because I no longer choose to. I am a lover of life and a seeker of happiness. I am a pacifist but will go bare knuckle to fight my corner.
That life I love is now the Asperger Path. Since I set off a year ago I have seen and done things I never thought I'd do. I am travelling very slowly and stopping to look at life along the way. I am exploring whatever I choose. Writing is one way I explore the world. It has become very important to me and I make time to write every day. My thoughts and my poetry will never change the universe, but they are changing my perception of the world and my place in it. It's my way of squaring the circle.
In Britain I was expected to be so much more than just a teacher. A social worker, counsellor, parent, friend, mentor, big brother and psychologist. A multitasking miracle worker who would whizz into a room and create a positive learning environment from whatever I found. With Pavlovian conditioning, I could change tack with every tolling bell, ploughing through a long day where breaks and lunch evaporated and needs were met, anticipated and dealt with. The gifted were stretched, the less motivated were encouraged and the hungry were fed. Sometimes even clean clothing was appropriated. I made a difference. London’s schools were challenging and dynamic, and not for the fainthearted.
Cambodia is no place for the fainthearted either. Grinding poverty, years of internal corruption, and searing heat bring their own challenges. However, like many foreigners work in elite, private settings with students who are relatively wealthy. The library has precious few books and the school feels under resourced but the parents all have big four wheel drive cars.
I set a task and my class of students do it. I have never taught students like this before. They are respectful and engaged, no matter what. Are we doing something creative and engaging right now. Not particularly. In fact, we are doing peer and self assessment of paragraph writing with a final draft to be produced by the end of the lesson. Deathly dull if you ask me, and I am theoretically a writer.
In addition to having no real classroom management issues, I am not expected to analyse or deep dive data. I do not produce reports or graphs highlighting student underachievement nor am I expected to contact parents and build home school relationships.
I come to class. I teach. I assess. I grade papers. I give feedback. However, this generation will be pivotal in the the changes that are need to happen in this country so I might be just a teacher but, like all teachers, I can still make a difference.
I am the artist and creator of my life. I have pictures that line the long hallway of my life. Some of these artistic renditions are masterpieces. I have beautiful detailed memories that are vivid and bright, executed clearly and framed exquisitely. Some are sketches or maybe just sketchy. Brief line drawings that capture the shadow of a moment.
As curator, I have applied no reason or rhyme to the collection. Some of the memories that are the most golden seem to be attached to events that were quite unremarkable at the time. Other major moments or seemingly key times have been ruthlessly archived into dark recesses and held under lock and key. The curation has been highly selective and very subjective.
The memories that hang, easily retrieved, paint no accurate picture of the path I have walked through life. My mind has edited and refined my collection. Every now and then I see an oil painting that seems to have a rather unusual perspective. Some paintings have been rendered so sympathetically I am not sure I was ever truly there.
So here I am with my hallway of memories . A random and diverse set of paintings that portray my life with no more or less accuracy than I apply to this, my writing. For I am the artist and this life I put out on display, is merely a creation.
The time to write
A poem down for you
So for now
It’s just a note
And that will have to do
It’s been a while since I put thumb to phone to tap out a metronomic message to put in my bottle. Life has taken me and carried me down a dizzyingly bizarre route. However far I have travelled I’m still here. My backwater life has had a few up and downs but the journey has been an internal one.
The twists and turns, at times almost Machiavellian, havr surprised me but they have failed to knife me and I have walked away, unscathed and unscarred. I have a new and, for me, more interesting job. I got called professor the other day and when I checked irony was not lurking in the corner. I am falling in love with my teaching. Adults and small groups seem deliciously simple after the dramas and joys of teaching my large grade 1 classes. However easy the management might be however, the content is challenging and my skills are being sharpened. My mind is tingling in ways I thought were long lost. It’s a privilege to be teaching teachers and seeing colleagues introduced to new concepts and ideas.
So, backwater Battambang will be home for a while longer. There’s a contentment in lingering yet still knowing that, a year from now, I’ll be elsewhere. The Asperger Path is moving slowly and the restless motion of my thumb taps a reminder to live each moment and let each moment pass.
Today is just an ordinary day. The sun rose and an hour or so later, so did I. My mornings are remarkably similar. I potter through the news and messages and intersperse my updates with word games and brain training.
I lead a charming, charmed life. Here I am now sitting on comfy chair composing poems that few people read and writing this blog, that apart from you, I am uncertain ever gets read. Life is sweet and simple.
I could defame the government, blaspheme expletives onto the page or indulge in amateur auto pornography. I don’t think my readership would rise. Though I suspect your eyebrow might. However I am not feeling provocative or provoked so this blog will also carry on in its ordinary fashion. I will write words and wonder who reads them and why.
So here I am in Cambodia. Gratefully reporting that all is well. For that is surely what ordinariness is. It is not only the absence of anything unusually good but also the continuation of the fact that nothing particularly bad has happened. Now that is surely something to celebrate.
My life is lived in a virtual world of distant communication with friends and strangers. This sentence will be read by a few people I know and most likely quite a few more that I do not. My presence on the internet is great in terms of time. However I am aware that I am a minnow in a vast ocean. My words might as well be stuffed into bottles and cast on the open sea. I blog and write poetry and pretend that views and likes and comments don’t matter. This is art and I don’t need an audience but when a bottle washes up on my beach I open it with genuine interest.
As well as writing I have my Facebook world. A happy legion of friends who would have been long abandoned by my itinerant lifestyle but are netted and subjected to my poetry, pictures and prose. This audience, captive and silent, may follow or me not. The different levels of Facebook friendship form a hierarchy that I am not savvy enough to comprehend or intrigued enough to engage with. The social niceties of these subtly nuanced distinctions are lost on me. On the Asperger Path you are either a friend or not a friend.
Then there’s gay life. A dazzling array of apps that promise beefy masculine men that will change your life and bring you, dazed but beautiful out into the neon lit world over the rainbow. This Friend of Dorothy surrendered long ago and knows how dessicated those encounters can be. I am too fat, too out there or too gay for half of the gay community. I am also not enough of something else for a sizeable minority. Worst of all I am blanked, blocked or ignored in ways that make the harsh memories of early gay life seem like a rosy pink kindergarten.
So here is my message in a bottle. I am virtually lost. I’m on the line and I’m on line. I’m out there, somewhere. Will you come and find me?
I have a hundred thousand words in my head. They jostle noisily each keen to escape the obscurity of my mind and land in the spotlight. Fame and glamour will follow once they escape into the world. What an anticlimax they must feel. The leap made faithfully to discover a regimented place in the ether. There were thoughts of vellum, iridescent inks and golden nibs forging an italic masterpiece. Instead they have become row after technological row of evenly spaced semantic units like some dull but well planned suburban housing project. All hopes dashed, aspiration extinguished, as the dreadful realisation hardens like a concrete pavement. They have jumped headfirst into a blog. The last hopeful thought, a successful blog, is crushed.
These words will never know Caxton’s machine or the loving labours of a brotherly illumination. The beautifully artisanal imperfection of times past is not their destiny. Modernity has taken the life of the word and made it quite proletarian. They were not even mused over by a consumptive with a candle in a draughty vicarage. My words, more touched than pressed, are entered silently into a phone and then set adrift. Lost in an enormous blogosphere, they will sit awkwardly awaiting hits that will be single digit in volume before disappearing wordlessly into the void of the archive. My apologies words, for you are on the straight and narrow asperger path and, despite the absence of forks, there can be no doubt that is the road less travelled.