Saturday, May 5, 2007

Empathy Part Three

Max backs up from me with his hands in his pockets and nods at me. I guess he did hear about the screaming, pottymouthed madwoman at his party.

“I’m not crazy,” I blurt out feebly. “I’m not. It’s a physical thing.”

“What’s it called?”


“Look, Sarah, I like you a lot. And I want to kiss you again, but not if it’s going to be some sort of drama for you every time.”

“It might be a drama for me every time.”

He cocks his head, squints at me and turns around, his foot stamping in a pivot on the concrete. I feel so bad for him, but I don’t know what to say. I feel like I’m being selfish somehow, or dishonest, but I swore to myself that I would let it happen next time, that I wouldn’t let the next one just leave. Besides, suddenly the thought of Max being with anyone else ever again is the worst thing I’ve ever wondered. I close my eyes, trying like I have since I first read about it, think that maybe I can control things too. “Max will not leave,” I think. “Max will understand.” I reach out in front of me to touch his arm, see if it worked, but I open my eyes and he’s gone.

Stage one: Sure that Sarah will admit she’s lying or exaggerating and wait for it.
Stage two: Sure that Sarah is insane even though she seems so normal.

Only my parents have gotten past these two stages. Not even doctors believe me. I should know by now. But this is different now. I’m different now.

Max nods a curt hello at the beginning of class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next two weeks. I do my best in each class to act sane. Very smart people are often insane, so I keep my responses to the professor’s questions simple and shallow. Insane people don’t blink or blink too much. I guard my blinking. Insane people obsessively toy with their hair or their pens. I keep notes with mild interest and leave my fingers against the desk.

When we’re forced to be in a study group together, our desks pushed against each other, the square of void between the four of us tangible, our legs swinging under it, he leans his leg on my ankle for a few seconds, one, schadenfreude, two, guilt, three, sex, four, concern, five self-righteousness. I move my leg. He apologizes, says he thought it was the leg of my chair. I think about giving him a sarcastic look, but control myself. He’s not doing anything wrong, or even un-called for. I wish he could see that I’m being honest, that this was a transmitter as well as receiver, but I’ve had more than enough time to get used to that.




I’m not crazy. (I put down my drink as I’m writing, drunken emailing almost more acceptable than drunken dialing, and besides, I don’t have his phone number.) Full disclosure.

When I was a small kid, I couldn’t stand letting anyone touch me and my parents took me to the doctor. He did some tests on me and declared that even though I don’t show any of the physical signs of it, or many of the mental ones, that I must have some sort of autism. I was left in normal schools in normal classes, but had no friends and very little physical contact with anyone. (I take another sip, and consider what I’m doing. Better to say something. Take advantage of the drinks.) When I turned thirteen I began to spend all of my time on the internet, and even though I have a lot of friends, none of them know what’s wrong with me. When talk turns to sex, I sit back and watch. I think they think I’m just a prude, or scared of men, or a lesbian. I assure you I’m not. Sometimes I want to touch so bad I could die, but I don’t. I haven’t until that one night.

You have no idea what that night means to me.

I’m scaring you, but I’ve never taken a chance like this before because I never thought it was worth it before. Do you know what I mean?

Anyway, I’m different than I was in high school now. I different than I was a month and a half ago. You changed me. I thought you should know. I’m not scared of you. I don’t think you’re scared of me. If you like me, you should know that I can do this with you. If you’ve decided I’m crazy, or at least not worth it, then let me just thank you. Thanks for the hope. I didn’t think it was there before. (I take a deep swig. I’m really drunk. I’m beginning to cry.)

Thank you.


I press send before I can change my mind about it, and leave it for the inevitable embarrassment of tomorrow. I am my own drunk friend, daring myself.

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