Wednesday, 9 January 2013

They Thought I was Normal


(inspired by reading the Loud Hands Anthology)

They thought I was normal. I wasn’t.

See the little girl, watch how she jumps up and down and flaps her hands when she’s excited or upset, rising up onto her toes; or how she twists and jiggles her whole body when she doesn’t understand. How she runs her fingers over the rim of a glass, the handle of a door, the smooth roundness of a stone. How she becomes absorbed in the ribs of a blade of grass, the delicate inside of a flower, the clouds ribbing the sky. See her explore her world through her fingers and her eyes, express her joy or fear or sadness through her hands, and let it out through her whole body.

See how she’s told to ‘sit quietly, keep still, don’t fidget, don’t touch you might break it, don’t get so excited, what are you jiggling for, have you got ants in your pants?”

See the adolescent girl, how she still jiggles and twists or flaps sometimes, how she likes to suck the collars of her clothes, chew her fingernails, fiddle with objects, wiggle her toes or tug at her ears, or ‘doodle’ in her schoolbooks. Watch how she likes to lie awake at night, huddling into the safe cocoon of her bed, staring out the window, and how sometimes she reaches her hands up, clasping and unclasping as though she could touch the stars.

See how she’s sniggered at, how she’s told ‘leave that alone for heaven’s sake, pay attention, God you look weird when you do that, what’s with the dance?’

See the young woman, socially inept and bumbling, trying to find her place in the world. Observe how she doesn’t need others now to tell her to be still - increasingly as the years go by, she hides her ‘weirdness’, stills her hands, her feet, her whole body. See how she only lets herself move properly when alone. Watch how she slowly develops chronic pain and stiffness in her neck, back and shoulders. And how sometimes, in the lonely night, she still stretches her hands out into the dark, as though reaching for all that eludes her.

See the ‘mature’ woman, how well she can behave, the social skills she possesses, the polished fa├žade she presents. Observe how she seems to navigate the ‘normal’ world so easily. Disabled? Not her, surely.

But if you look closely, you can see the little signs. The times she stutters, or uses the wrong ‘script’ under pressure. The deep reserve, as though she is continually holding herself back, for fear no-one will understand. The shift from one foot to the other, or the sudden jiggle or shrug of her shoulders. Or the twitch of the hands by her sides, like she’s flexing cramped fingers. Even now, she cannot entirely quiet her hands.

And if you could see her when she’s absolutely sure no-one’s looking, especially when her mind is busy but her hands aren’t, you would see how sometimes she does a sort of flap-twist-shake of her hands, pushing at the air as though shoving away personal demons, the memories of all those who demanded she be something she intrinsically isn’t.

They think I’m normal.

I’m not.