Loud Hands, or — Why Can’t My Adulthood Be Valid to You Because I’m Autistic?
She came into my room while I was sobbing.
My hands shook, my head filled with static, my lip curled and uncurled.
The dams of my tear ducts broke and I sniffled over and over.
She asked me to calm down. She said she’d need to make the decisions for me if I wasn’t capable.
I sobbed. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t articulate myself.
Use your words.
Since when do words need to be verbal? Spoken?
Why can’t my actions speak when my throat turns dry?
Why can’t you listen to my hands — shaking, trembling, flapping, tapping, running through my hair, across sheets, over my legs?
Act like an adult.
Since when is my adulthood negated by panic?
Is there an acceptable type of panic? An “adult” type of panic? A type of panic where I don’t cry, don’t flap, don’t stutter out vocalizations that sound more like the sounds a kicked puppy makes than the words I type?
I’m not a child, and I haven’t been for a few years, and I’m not sure I ever was one — wasn’t allowed to be one is all I know for sure.
There’s no time to be a child when you have to teach yourself how to read, how to write, how to do multivariable calculus
and then how to swallow down the sobbing when your classmates make fun of you because the calculus bonus question was a joke, and what kind of nerd, freak, weirdo would actually pull out a book to figure it out?
I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what you need.
But I am telling you. I’m crying, I’m shaking, I’m running my hands over oily hair and thin leggings, I’m cracking knuckles, I’m wiping tears and spit and snot from my face.
This is fear, this is anger, this is twenty-something years of trauma and loss and isolation and misunderstanding.
Do I need to write an essay for you? A thesis? Am I not articulate enough?
People always talk about how “actions speak louder than words”, but, apparently, if you’re autistic, it doesn’t count.
Flapping is disruptive, distracting, immature — whisper “quiet hands” and drop them to your sides, clench them if you have to, just don’t dare fucking move. Don’t touch the fuzzy fabric in the store. Don’t reach out to pet the dog. Don’t run your hands along the brick wall. Don’t flap.
Actions speak louder than words, but don’t use your hands to speak. You’re an adult. Use your words. Don’t whimper and whine and sob. Calm down. Grow up.
You were speaking just fine yesterday, so you can speak right now. Why can’t you talk? No, don’t text, don’t write an e-mail, don’t open that text-to-speech app. Talk to me. No one cares that your throat is burning.
If I can’t control my vocal volume, I’m immature, I’m confrontational, I’m acting like a child, I need to grow up.
If you raise your voice at me, I deserve it — you’re articulate. Someone has to make me see reason, right?