For me, the thing which lingers most in my mind, my memories, is the look in their eyes.
How can I describe to you what it is their eyes have told me? Eyes which have told me stories of buried pain, deeply blurred aches of long years of being relentlessly misunderstood, overwhelmed by their own bodies, minds, senses. Eyes telling stories of deep scars of undeserved traumas and yet wondrously — holding present a boldness, a furious presence of hope. In those eyes I’ve seen unconditioned, unredeemed stories of truth. Truths I encounter every day in guiding autistic adults, as I labor to untangle them, liberate them from the pathway of cruel damages thrown upon them by today’s culture.
Aubrey. They told her she was intellectually disabled. She’d heard it said for many years, and now she repeated it back to others as a kind of shield against expectations of being anything but pitied. Her label. They looked upon her as simple minded. The simple mind of a girl-woman who would never know the feeling of doing anything in her life without the constant care of others. Young, autistic and adrift, tossed about in the bargain bin narrative of deficits. We’d only known each other for a short time when I caught a glimpse of it in the deep wells of her eyes. A hidden other. A voracious collector of wisdom, she’d carefully guarded her secret from all. Philosophers, poets, writers of old graced her mind with profound knowledge. And yet, she played dumb before a dumb world, dancing unseen behind the scenes of her mind, a mind cleverly hidden behind curtains away from the observations of normal folk.
Evan. I sat for just over an hour in a quiet, darkened hallway outside of his bedroom door before I caught a glimpse of his eyes. His first words to me were a spoken barricade against intrusion. He told me in rasping urgency to read, read the letters he’d left on the kitchen counter. Handwritten. Four pages of a letter detailing how he didn’t need anyone’s help, how he was “fine” and then he’d closed the ink trail with a heart wrenching portrait of a man hanging suspended over a bottomless canyon of loneliness. With deep set eyes peering out from under long, stringy hair, upon a face unshaven for months, he looked out at me sitting in his hallway in puzzlement, wonderment of my continuing presence on his self imposed island of abandonment.