Barb is a wonderful director. Here’s an example of yesterday’s adventures and challenges for this verbal, literal-minded, non Autistic as I did my best to embody Barb in all her mischievous, non verbal, antics as described on page 56 of her book, I might be you. This passage took me more than thirty minutes to get right: ”Freedom. But the mission is far from complete. No middle-class chain-link fence to hop and then pay dirt. No, Sir, our musty mansion sits on acres of green, rocky earth dramatically sloping to the Tennessee River. I take ever caution to avoid a tumbling fate. Even the most mischievous princesses don’t swim in dirty water – Southern daddy saviors or not. I assume my most stable forty-five-degree stance and horizontally hike to the neighbors’ inviting castle, remove restricting PJs, and let the fun begin.
”I think, Wow! The water is so cold it may make my heart stop. This sure beats picking or rocking stimulation. I consider holding off on my 3:00 a.m. phone call-evoking mimicry because I fancy enjoying a longer prerescue soak. Alas, my scrawny self control fails me again and I sound off with a loud medley of “”you are not going,” “You can’t get in the mail truck,” It’s a fire,” and other such bizarre phrases the sleeping wealthy find disturbing when emanating from their private estate.”
This isn’t a silly story about some southern belle with far too much time on her hands who is up to no good because she’s bored and wants to piss Mom and Dad off. No, this is a description of Barb’s elopement in the middle of the night to skinny dip in a neighbor’s pool. It’s funny, but it’s also not funny. It’s poignant and powerful and yet it says as much about us “normals” as Barb describes those who are not Autistic, as it does about Barb. Straddling that precarious razor-sharp edge of self-deprecating humor while not holding back any punches is what Barb does best, but say these lines out loud without the right balance of self-reflection, honesty, desperation and rage as well as humor and all those beautiful words Barb painstakingly wrote are lost.
So after each sentence I would glance up waiting for Lois to give me the thumbs up signal before moving on. On that particular passage there were no thumbs up. Instead I could see Barb’s bent head as she madly typed things like, “AZ you’re doing great. But you have to give this more power.” or “okay AZ you’re taking it too literally, you need to loosen up.” or “Again. Not so monotone.” And so I would do it again. And again. And again. And again. At one point I had the thought – I’m not going to be able to get this. But then I looked over at Barb rapid fire pointing at the letter board and I thought, Damn it. I will get this. I have to. For Barb. I have to get this right for Barb. And then I’d take a deep breath and try again. Because she has trusted me with her words. She has given me the greatest privilege a person could give another, she has asked me to be her voice. And that. That is the single biggest compliment I have ever received from another human being. And I’ll be damned if I don’t do her words justice.
As a quick aside, y’all (that’s for you, Barb) will be pleased to know I whipped through Chapter 7, which is entitled: Autistic Sex: For a Terrible Time, Call. Because when the words are raunchy that whole upper crust, uptight, WASPY thing works beautifully and it’s funny just because the two are a perfect blend of lewd and classy, which is… funny.
Em shows Lois how to jump on a pogo-stick