Where Is My Mind?

This is a short story I wrote in early 2015, but I still really love it. I wrote it while listening to Where Is My Mind (oddly enough), the version from Suckerpunch, although I’ve since developed a fondness for the Pixies’ original version. I hope you enjoy!

Why are these places always green? And not a nice green, that insipid spearmint colour. Seriously, it’s like the most depressing colour in the universe and they think it’s a good idea to use it in a building full of crazy people. Just proves my point that the people running these places are idiots.

Note to self: don’t say that out loud. Calling your doctors idiots never ends well.

There’s a fricking analogue clock on the wall over there. The only people who use analogue clocks now are hipsters and those weirdos who think steam could be used to power the universe. And they think I’m crazy. Of course, they still teach you how to read analogue clocks in school for some reason, so I know it’s exactly sixteen minutes and forty seven seconds past eleven. Sixteen minutes and forty seven seconds late. My doctor is always running late. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him within twenty three minutes of my actual appointment time.

Note to self: don’t complain about him running late again. If he uses the word ‘confrontational’ one more time I’m going to punch him in the nose and then I’ll really be in trouble.

. . .

Note to self: don’t punch the doctor in the nose.

God, the sooner they put this fricking implant in my head, the better. Then I won’t have these damn appointments all the time. You’d think, once they figured out what was wrong with me, they’d be able to just plonk the thing in there, but no, they have to calibrate it or some shit. They’re a bunch of sadists, the lot of them. I think they just like prodding the crazies, like we’re a bunch of monkeys in a lab or something.

Note to self: don’t compare yourself to a monkey in a lab, even as a joke. This doctor’s sense of humour is set at zero. He’ll probably think it’s a symptom of some new and interesting psychosis and then they’ll have to do more calibrating.

Oh good, the nurse is back. No, she’s sitting down and pretending to do something very important. Wonderful. I forgot my book, too, and they make sure you can’t miss the sign about turning off all mobile devices. I guess I’ll just sit here then.

That girl over there definitely hasn’t been here before. She’s sitting on the edge of her seat like she’s about to jump up and run away. I felt like that the first time. I thought they’d knock me out as soon as they figured out what was wrong with me and shove the metal in my head. It sounded pretty scary at the time. Of course, she could be one of those paranoid types. They must get them in here all the time. I might be nuts, but at least I know it. Those crazies have all kinds of weird ideas and half the time they don’t even know there’s anything wrong with them.

Note to self: don’t use the word ‘crazies’ in front of this nurse. She thinks political correctness is next to godliness. As though being referred to by my proper term will make the fact that I’m officially insane better somehow.

Note to self: don’t use the phrase ‘officially insane’ in front of anyone. They never get the joke.

Note to self: stop checking the time every thirty seconds. He’s not going to hurry up just because you know how late he’s running.

Twenty four minutes and thirteen seconds. Oh damn, I did it again. That girl is actually pretty cute. Pity we’re both nuts. If I could be sure she wasn’t a potential axe murderer I might ask her out. If I didn’t have trouble talking to actual real people I might be able to ask her out. Ugh, I am so sick of being crazy.

Oops, she’s looking at me. I should probably smile or something, but my subconscious is suddenly really interested in my sneakers. They’re pretty great sneakers, I have to admit, but if you’re going to offer me a choice between smiling at a cute girl and looking at my shoes… Yeah, okay, so I’ll choose the shoes every time because I’m literally incapable of making eye contact with anyone.

Note to self: don’t tell the doctor you prefer looking at your shoes to looking at cute girls. This is something that will only make sense to another nutter.

I wonder what Doctor Needles would think if I told him I was interested in girls. Well, looking at girls from a distance. It’s a 50/50 chance he’d decide I’m an obsessive weirdo and lock me up. Heaven forbid I act like a normal human being in any respect whatsoever.

Note to self: don’t call him Doctor Needles. Again. He didn’t like it the first time. That will not have changed.

Twenty seven minutes and three seconds. How good is my peripheral vision?

Pretty damn good is how good. She’s still sitting there, right on the edge of that seat. They’re real bastards, these chairs. If she shifts her weight wrong it’s going to go right over on her and she’ll end up on the floor. Of course, a normal person would warn her about that. Or at least offer to help her up when she fell. Hey, it’s the perfect excuse to start a conversation right? Pass on the word about the dangerous furniture…

Note to self: don’t try and start conversations about the dangers of furniture. She already knows you’re nuts, don’t make it worse.

But since she’s here because she’s nuts, surely she wouldn’t be so bothered by my being nuts? I mean, it’s not like I’m a Fringe or anything. We’re all here to get fixed, right, so I’m obviously not going to be nuts for much longer.

Note to self: logic is not your strong suit today.

Her gloves have little bows on them and no fingers. I always wondered what the point of those are, because when I wear gloves, it’s so my fingers don’t get cold. She has bright blue nails. I wonder what my nails would look like that colour. I do like blue.

I could ask her where she got it.

Note to self: do not ask the cute girl where she got her nail polish. Dangerous furniture would be a better conversation starter than that.

If this doctor does not hurry up, I am going to do something desperate.

Like sit here until he tells me to come in.

Damn.

Thirty two minutes and twenty eight seconds. Oh look, here he comes. Finally.

You’d think it wouldn’t take this long just to stop being crazy.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2015

 

Labels

TW: This story contains metaphorical images of self harm that may trigger some people. They are fictional and very brief, but please proceed with care.

At six I was labelled, put in a little box with big black lettering that said ‘Strange. Handle With Care’. The box was taped shut over my small, pony-tailed head, and no matter what shape I contorted myself into, I couldn’t get out. There were other labels on the box, some smaller (scrawny, knobbly knees), some brightly-coloured (bright, excellent reader), some hastily scribbled and almost illegible, easily erased (Year One), and some branded into the side so they could never be removed, only papered over: GIRL.

At eight the bright colours were covered with an official stamp: INTELLIGENT. With it came others, scrawled over every surface in clumsy red letters: NERD. GEEK. LOSER. I scratched desperately at the red bleeding through the cardboard, but it was there, in permanent marker, indelible and invulnerable. I turned my back on them, and poked a hole in GIRL. For a moment, I felt hope. Until the brand came down again, burning the label over and over into every side of my little prison. I stopped poking. I feared that if I didn’t, the label would be branded right into my skin.

Each year the box changed, some labels rubbed away or written over, some refreshed with new lettering. I tried to decipher them, tried to discern where they came from, but no matter how hard I stared, no matter how hard I scratched at them or studied them, they remained insoluble, indecipherable. I looked at the labels on food packages, so clear and neat, telling buyers what was inside, and how much, and where it came from. Where were my ingredients? STRANGE was not an ingredient. Nor was FREAK or LOSER or GIRL. So why were they plastered over my packaging for everyone to see? I started to search for my Nutritional Information, but there was no Google then. I did the best I could.

At fifteen, I found a clue. Asperger’s. I couldn’t find a full list of ingredients, but what I did find looked like mine, looked like me. Asperger’s had the same labels slapped over its box as well, but underneath, there were other words, words that explained who I was. For the first time, I started to peel the tape off my box. I freed an arm, enough to start ripping at the labels on the side. I mentioned it to my parents. They said I couldn’t have those ingredients. I crawled back into my box and shut the lid behind me.

At sixteen, I read through all the labels I’d accrued. I read GIRL, NERD, WEAK, ATTENTION-SEEKER, PATHETIC, LOSER. I read CREATIVE, LAZY, INTELLIGENT, INTROVERT. I decided they must be true. I learned what they meant. I started to paint them onto my skin, until I was so covered in words I couldn’t see myself any more. The marker bled into my pores, the words leeching into my blood until I could no longer tell what was me and what was words. I let it happen. My ingredients were wrong. I needed new ones.

There was darkness, for a long time. My blood became ink, saturating me in the words of other people, telling me who I was, who I should be, until I was buried under the weight of the words. Yet there was still a Me, a tiny golden core that refused to absorb the words, that rejected the inky contagion. It cried in agony as I tried desperately to drown it. Its pain was my pain, and I couldn’t ignore it.

At twenty-seven, I took a knife and cut open my box. I burned the words from my skin with acid, I opened my veins and bled ink onto the floor until there was only blood left. I thought I would bleed to death. I thought the pain would burn me whole. But I didn’t care if it killed me, if I could be free.

At twenty-eight I said the word again. Autism. At twenty-eight I said the word for the first time. Transgender. At twenty-eight I embraced the truth. Pansexual. I was told, “You don’t need to label everything”. I roared in frustration. As if I hadn’t been tagged and labelled and categorised since the moment of my birth. As if I didn’t bear the scars of those labels on every inch of my skin, in my heart, in my mind. As if the world didn’t keep throwing them at me, trying to make them stick. I pasted on my own labels, and wore them as proudly as my scars. These are MY ingredients.

This is part of a selection of works for Autism Awareness Month. Please remember this is my experience only, and not intended to speak for all autistic people. Please also remember that this story relates the difficulties caused by ableism, and not autism. It is not intended to paint autism as a tragedy in any way. I love being autistic, and am proud of who I am. What has made my life difficult is people’s attitude toward autism, and that is what this story is intended to convey. Thank you for reading.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Please acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

Image from: http://www.staples-3p.com/s7/is/image/Staples/s0537785_sc7?$splssku$