I always feel like I am somehow letting someone down.
I say no again to a friend asking me out for a meal, just to have a little chat and eat some yummy food because I can’t bear what goes with it. Awkward silences. The noise of people talking, babies crying, a knife and fork scratching across a plate, doors opening, doors shutting, the pop music playing loudly. The bright lights. Eating. Wondering if I’m eating right. Trying not to get more food on my shirt than in my mouth. Picking what a neurotypical person would eat instead of the same meal I’ve been eating for three weeks in a row.
So I say no.
And then it’s almost like I can hear their disappointed sigh behind the perky “okay, that’s fine! Maybe some other time?” even though we both know there will be no “other time”.
Part of me understands that these expectations are just as developed and encouraged in my own head as they are by other people. A lifetime of repressing every trait down to the flapping of my happy hands turned into nothing but an unhappy soul and saying “no”.
I might cross someone in the street wearing a Doctor Who shirt and, with a smile on their face over finding another Whovian, might even try to start conversation. My heart will race. My chest will hurt. My breathing will increase. I could feel my face turn red. The sweat on my palms already uncomfortable, like they’re about to drip, but of course they’re not there yet. My head whirs with pictures of what they’re saying and the appropriate words I should say in response that don’t sound like anything, they just sound like noise.
So I say nothing.
Sometimes, the response is someone who doesn’t understand. Who doesn’t understand why I didn’t respond. Who looks hurt, and walks away. Guilt threatens to take over. Other times, the response is understanding. A friendly smile, a nod of understanding, and they take charge. They ramble away anyway. They talk about Rose Tyler and Donna Noble. The 9th, the 10th, the 11th. They chatter away and this comfort makes me calm. The noise stops. The pictures in my head form into something I can understand and I might even be able to speak. Not form an in depth conversation. No, perhaps not. But a little understanding can go a long way.
All it takes is just one person here and there holding out their hand and to help temporarily guide my way on a planet in which I am lost