He felt the urge to flip directions in his bed; he felt them peering in at him through frost bordered windows.
Ever since he met his upstairs neighbors, he knew they followed his steps. Everywhere h(more)e went in his apartment, the neighbors followed the exact same path.
He'd had a meeting with the neighbors upstairs and the apartment manager. His VA case worker was there too. He wanted to break his lease, but they thought he was nuts; they thought that his shell shock (or PTSD, or battle fatigue or whatever they wanted to call it) was to blame.
I'm not going insane. He thought
He hated the pills they had him take. They were hard to swallow and felt chalky in his throat, like they were always stuck.
The Korangal Valley in Afghanistan was where things really happened. You wouldn't think it was anywhere else but rural upstate New York, but you were quickly reminded otherwise.
He hurt from what he saw. Not physically...he was alright in that way, but the things he did and the things he saw hurt him deep.
War is bad for the soul. He thought to himself. No shit.
Every night, they followed him, his every step, peering in at him through the frost bordered windows.
'My name is Dalton Byrd. I am not normal.' Those were the first words I typed when they decided to put me in front of a computer. Fifteen years of little speech left me with much to say, and now my fingers began to tremble as I forced(more) them to move from key to key.
There was a stunned silence as they watched in disbelief. They thought I was less than a person, a feeble-minded thing who did not understand when they said things like, 'She had a good day today- no fits. The new sensory therapy seems to be working.'
The therapy /was/ working and for that I was grateful. What they called "fits" were the moments my skin felt like it was being bitten by thousands of fire ants. What else could I do but thrash around to relieve the pain?
My heart raced as my eyes picked out the individual letters of the keyboard. They were not in proper order, a mixed-up alphabet.
"Keep going, Dalton," my therapist encouraged me. "You are doing great."
I could see shadows dancing on the computer screen; the movement of my therapist standing behind me and her aid. The word "normal" seemed to expand and grow, a shadow in itself. I shook my head and closed my eyes, an effort to keep the visions away, but behind the darkness of my eyelids I saw the letters of my affliction like a slideshow; a memory of the video my parents watched while I sat silently beside them at three years of age.
"That's okay, Dalton. We can try again tomorrow."
I opened my eyes and looked back at the white letters of the keyboard. "I have autism," I typed, "and now I can speak when my tongue won't let me."
There are only so many chances
to see the dance of the shadows
perhaps in the embers of dying love
or the blank canvas of solitude
the stirring of leaves in the gutters
crunching, scratching the cement
(more) looking for a way out (less)