Winner

The Lid and the Jar

You held my eyes from the back of Advanced Studies of Dramatic Literature as if you were a tousled debauchee from an unrated foreign film, the kind with a sophisticated plot line, sure, but also plenty of straps, leather, and velvet.

Years after our son’s autism diagnosis and days after your own, we sit at a bar and laugh over your inappropriately long eye contact which we now understand was a result of A.S.D. (Autism Spectrum Disorder), and not the titillating smolder I perceived.

He’s, like, my Henry Miller, I journaled, and said out loud to an indeterminate amount of friends, all hip English majors who would appreciate that kind of thing.

That’s not to say our sex, when we finally indulged, was humdrum. Quite the opposite. This is just to say it was never the point.

“I think there was a lot misunderstanding,” you say to my laughter. “With a lot of people.”

“God, how classic,” I wipe away a tear. “Here I was, naive and nervous. So eager to please everyone I came across. You seemed so bold! Uninhibited.”

“Yeah,” you say. I realize you aren’t laughing. “I guess I kind of was.”

Come to think of it, maybe I was the only one laughing. Here I am, the supposed authority on social cues and I can’t tell whether you’re going to cry, laugh, or chuck your pint glass at the bartender whose nasally “Can I get you anything else?” pitches against the low ceiling like a trapped gull. I agree, her voice is kind of annoying, but I find myself smiling at her anyway, encouraging even, as compensation for your irritated side eye.

We are here because we’ve scheduled a difficult conversation. We don’t usually schedule conversations. Usually we wing them, scream and shout them, but we are trying something new, and I’m hopeful. Today’s topic: your diagnosis.

He’s, like, my misunderstood human, I think, because I’m out of literary comparisons.

Although our son received his diagnosis three years ago, the word autism feels new, and I pass it to you like a verbal hot potato, afraid I might say something that offends. How could we have known? You don’t stim. You speak with inflection. You’re nothing like that guy on Community.

From the beginning, one of your most attractive qualities was your perceptiveness. Your observations resembled intricate line drawings. Portraits with painstaking details. At first I didn’t miss the confusion of color or shading. I admired your clarity until your clarity hurt. Until your clarity seemed misguided, especially when you aimed it at me.

A month ago, our marriage counselor told us to give up. I don’t recall what we argued about, but I remember the argument felt routine. Perhaps we argued about the kids or finances or our competing desires to spend more personal time outside of the home. You want to engage in interests such as fishing and biking and I seek leisure time with friends. By then we had normalized dysfunction. The mind numbing loop de loops of disagreement around which our small issues escalated quickly and without resolution.

We were a neurodiverse couple wielding tools developed for a neurohomogenious pair. We used I-feel statements. I described my perspective, but your mind blindness would not allow my perspective to stay whole. You appeared like a narcissist as you fell through my accounts to the fractured details you could more easily observe.

Not even our counselor understood, although she worked with us for over a year. I sensed her increasing impatience and worried that we irritated her with our noxious back and forth.

Alone, I felt outnumbered, your convictions are so steely and unencumbered by nuance. As the benchmark of a year came and went, we’d done little to quell our disorienting anecdotes and competing perspectives.

“I think it’s time to consider separation,” she interrupted. “Sometimes you just can’t make it work. It’s like you’re living different experiences.” These remarks left me stunned. Distressed. Even so, I admired her ease setting the boundary. So clear and gentle, as if she revealed an inevitable end and not a finish line, she herself, had laid down. She advised we seek separate therapists, and I understood she was relieved to see us, as a couple, go.

It’s no secret I’ve considered separation. To be honest, I still sometimes do. Despite a decade of beautiful moments, earnest moments, and two children whom you father so well. Despite how I see you trying. How hard I’m trying. Our lives are entwined, and now, we sit at a bar and it feels like your diagnosis is a punch line to a joke that sweeps its ringleader arm across our relationship. Thirteen years’ worth of hurt feelings suddenly illuminated. Ah ha!

That time I suggested ice cream and you agreed, then sat empty handed at the picnic table perfectly content to watch me eat my waffle cone, alone. That time trick-or-treating when you took E’s hand and ditched our friend group. You charged several houses ahead, impatient with our friends’ slower pace. That time, every time I ask you to—excitedly, right now—check out this cool picture, this line from a poem, this song, or funny meme, stress runs rampant across your face.

The bar is crowded for a Wednesday afternoon. Across from us, a television streams a barrage of YouTube fails. A man overturns his jet skis. A woman bounces off a tightrope and dangles two inches from the ground. I worry the television will distract you. Really, the bar is too loud. But you don’t seem to see or hear any of it.

You are deep inside yourself now, moving backward outside of our relationship’s timeline, because, of course, your ringleader arm keeps sweeping, roving backward to indicate previous rooms and previous relationships, a lifetime’s worth of misunderstandings, all places I cannot go. Still I struggle to imagine them anyway because that’s what I’m programmed to do.

 

Our youngest son takes a bath. I can hear him through the wall.  He prefers baths because he has yet to master enough bilateral cooperation to wash and rinse his hair. He is ten, whip smart, but needs the bathwater to help him loose the suds, which he must be doing now, because I can hear the water chop against the acrylic, light waves. He sings off key, but his voice is lilting and sweet.

My body, my body
it fills me with stress
it is too confusing
too confusing
too confusing.

Although he was diagnosed with autism three years ago, I resisted the label A.S.D., afraid D for disorder might separate our son from himself. I believed there was nothing disordered about him, so I chose to withhold the word. Although I whispered the diagnosis in the fluorescent hallways of pediatrician offices and schools, I viewed the term autism as a power tool that might, in the hands of my child, cause damage before he understood how it worked.

I first encountered Lulu Miller’s essay “The Eleventh Word” months ago, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab. In the essay, Miller’s infant son learns the word “fish” and Miller mourns her son’s expanding vocabulary as loss. She suggests that language might actually distance us from our experiences rather than stitch us to them, and as I considered the label “autistic” and its relationship with my family, my heart ached to agree. She writes:

…the word “fish” is symptomatic of our human inability to see the world as expansively as it is. In short, scientists recently discovered that many of the creatures we typically think of as “fish” are in fact more closely related to us than to each other. And when you accept this fact you will see that the category of “fish” is a bum category—an act of gerrymandering we perform over nature to make it line up with our intuition. But it’s a lie, this category of “fish” a mistake, a meaningless group that hides incredible nuance and complexity.

Of course, each word performs an act of gerrymandering, and the DSM’s evolving editions reveal a shifting map. Insiders quip, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” but most people seek patterns based on their previous experiences—which, when it comes to autism, occur mostly by way of movies and conversations misinformed by stereotypes. And there are so many stereotypes.

Hear me out, because it’s true, most often, our expectations lead us forward. Not only do we get what we expect from ourselves, but from others, as well, and we wanted E to develop unencumbered from that. I wanted people to see E and not a word.

But here’s the complication: labels can also be balm. Miller cites the Zeigarnik effect, which suggests that “unlabeled things gnaw and tug at you with more vigor, their parts and powers somehow more alive when they are left to roam wild, outside of the confines of our words”.  Miller celebrates the raw immediacy of an unlabeled life, but it became clear that the things we left unnamed gnawed at E with increasing vigor and this vigor pained him. At ten, E’s classmates related to one another with accumulating complexity and unspoken rules.

“Am I weird?” He asked us, daily.

“Do you want to be?” we replied. “Because I love being weird,” I insisted.

Weeks after our conversation at the bar, I about face. Your diagnosis transubstantiates the label into something more concrete, more consequential, and I conclude that E, too, needs the organizing name, a larger explanation for his off-beat step; for why he’s always the last kid out of the classroom or needs charts to help him change from sneakers to snow pants and boots. For why he drools when excited and his classmates seem to shout and the clipboards seem to slam and kids’ faces crumple and the invites rarely come.

And I realize—you don’t have to tell me—that I’ve compiled a list of bad things, but I don’t want an explanation for what’s good. Not yet. I selfishly want those attributes, his humor, intelligence, his spark to roam wild, outside of the confines of the word. Miller writes, “With the name comes a kind of dormancy. The name, in this metaphor, is a trap. It’s the lid on the jar that extinguishes the firefly.” But what if the name traps a whole person? What of the fireflies then?

Take you, for example. You are still reeling. You resist the jar and the lid, but this evening I took charge and charged ahead, and offered E his diagnosis after I picked him up from theater. He collapsed into the car, COVID mask drooly and askew. “A kid kept pointing at me. He asked why I flapped my hands.”

At first, E tongued the word autistic like piney fruit. I didn’t mention you, because I wanted you to mention yourself. I think it will help him feel less alone.

“You’re like a super hero,” I insisted. “You’ve got super hearing. You’re super good at telling the truth! And your imagination?” I gestured with a chef’s kiss. “Seriously, your brain is perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Just before E’s bath, I find him on my computer drafting a story. He calls it, “Warning This is not a Fairy Tale.”

He turns to address me. “It’s about a ukulele named E.”

“E?”

“After the E string.”

“I see.”

“But he gets turned into a human.”

“Interesting.” I watch his face closely. “That’s fun.” At the top of the screen, in curling font: Chapter 3.

“But he doesn’t want to be human. He doesn’t fit in.” Again, I assess his face.  He peers frankly back at mine.

“I see.”

“A mean witch did it, but he wants to turn back.”

“Into a ukulele?”

“Yeah.”

“Does he figure it out?”

“Nope.” He looks almost triumphant. “He’s stuck.”

I lean closer and read over his shoulder, Welt, he just found out with Google that humans can live up to 125, sooooooooo here comes a very long life.

“You want a bath? I think you could use a bath,” I say, and wonder briefly where you are. In the basement, fixing something that needs repair, perhaps. Or indulging your mushrooms, the Lion’s Mane you recently learned how to grow. I worried the word “autism” might swallow E up, but instead, it swallowed you. This morning, I watched you squint in the mirror as if to recognize yourself underneath. Still, I wish you were the one to tell him, because who am I to understand?

 

While your undergraduate peers painted landscapes and nudes, you painted laundry: flowered sheets striped in sunlight. A paisley towel. A red and white scarf. You made details erotic. A frayed sweater cuff. The ridge along one corduroy knee.

You were that guy from American Beauty filming a plastic bag caught in the breeze, but you weren’t a jackass about it. You were the real deal.

I, on the other hand, spoke too quickly. I blushed often. I abandoned myself at the drop of a hat in order to please, indiscriminately so: A polite smile for the man leering from the other side of the pump, a silent exit from the woman at the table who made an offensive joke, a nervous laugh for the boss who slapped my rear end as he passed.

But you, darling, are the real deal, and that’s precisely why things are so hard. It’s hard to run a household. To raise our voices over the kids’ bickering to negotiate who needs to pick up whom and when. It’s difficult to spontaneously change anything, rules, plans, the direction of an argument, once it’s been had. The details are less erotic and more annoying, now. You are overly suspicious of inconsistencies. You misunderstand what I’m trying to say.

I confront you while the kids are at school. “I think you should tell them about your autism.” You work at the kitchen table, and I’ve only come for water. The conversation is unplanned. “Not only for E, but so the kids can better understand our relationship. They’ve heard us argue before. I’m sure they’ve felt the tension, and we can tell them about our neurodiversity, how it’s made things difficult and how we’re figuring it out.”

I like the term neurodiversity because it takes the stress off of you. The problem isn’t autism. The problem is the difference between the ways we perceive. And communicate. And prioritize. And need.

“So our problems are my fault because I’m autistic?” You tear your gaze away from your laptop, your cursor blinks half way through a line of code.

“No, I just think it helps to explain a lot of things. It’s a good way to reframe our relationship. Like, we had these problems, but we’re figuring them out.”

“That’s not fair to present our problems like they’re my fault, because of my autism, because that’s what your saying, right? When you talk about neurodiversity. We don’t talk about your brain and its problems.”

I flush. “My brain has problems. I mean, we can talk about my social anxiety. I just think it’s important to tell them about your brain. Maybe it would help them understand things a little better.”

“Like our arguing. You said they’ve heard us argue. So basically you’re saying I’m the reason why we argue?”

I suffer my withering intentions. “No,” I insist, still trying. “It’s the differences! You’re not the problem! I love your brain. I’m talking about differences. Like we see things differently. Neither one of us is objectively right.”

“Yeah, but your objective truth wins out.”

“Well, if you’re talking rudely, you’re talking rudely.”

“Maybe you’re too sensitive. Should we tell them about that, too?”

A flare of temper, and I tell you your vision is ugly, a cold and dry parody of what’s real. “I was being hopeful!” I shout. “Hopeful!” I scream.

You say, “You don’t have to tell me. I know, I’m a monster,” and I throw my glass against the floor. Glass shatters ridges in the wood and patters like sand into the far reaches of the room. You exit, and I remain with your laptop, your unintelligible code. I heave long breaths. I feel despair for the fireflies we will have to extinguish just to prove they are there.

“Your hair smells like shampoo,” you told me when we first started hanging out. Shampoo! I assumed you were making a sensual statement about consumerism and self care, but you were just telling me the truth.

E asks for books. He asks for movies, Youtube. He asks for TED. He wants all things autism all of the time, so I order a pile of literature from the library we carry home in cloth bags. We snuggle on the couch and select a benign picture book from the top: All my Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism.

Zane Zebra returns home from school distraught over a terrible day made worse by his autism stripe, and I love the book immediately. The hulking word, “autism”, reduced to a single stripe! Each page details an incident caused by Zane’s sensory and social processing. My voice thickens as Zane’s mother reminds the little zebra of his many other stripes: his curiosity, his memory, his creativity. I read the last line, triumphant: “I love each stripe because without them I wouldn’t be me!” And we stare down at the illustration, drawn from a low angle, a beaming Zane runs through a field of flowers. His mother looks on with a smile.

E asks that I flip to a page toward the beginning of the book, in which Zane hides beneath his desk during a fire drill. The zebra recounts that his classmates filed out of the room quietly as he cowered, covered his ears, and screamed.

“That’s a little morbid,” E says. “Because it had to be an actual fire because he says there’s firefighters there and he’s under a desk! This is a horror book, not a kid’s book!” He’s laughing at the absurd situation. I laugh too.

I point, “But on the next page he’s still at school. Remember, he has trouble initiating a conversation about video games.”

“Yeah, but the firefighters were there, and look at the walls, they’re all red. The class just left him!” Indeed, Zane appears panicked, hooves pressed tight to his head, while red rages around him.

“And where are his teachers?” We continue to laugh. “You’d think they’d do a head count! They should have at least called home to tell mom!”

Our laughter feels like relief and E flips the book over and reads the back flap. I wait for him to finish.

“The author doesn’t have an autistic brain. How does she know what it’s like?”

“She’s a professional.” I look too.

“I want books written by autistic people,” E says. “They’re the only one’s that really know.”

“Fair enough, but I think the book is pretty wise. Autism is just a small part of who you are. Like a stripe.” I kiss him, stand, and file quietly out of the room. I wish you had read the book, too.

I actually believe things went well, until, the next evening when I come home from work. You wash dishes while I transfer the leftovers to the fridge. The kids escape for their nightly screen time, and you mention E had an incident at school.

“Apparently recess was too loud, so he decided to skip and hide beneath a table.” Your voice remains casual, although you frown at a bit of oatmeal dried hard onto a bowl. You know nothing about Zane or his fire. “Nobody noticed him, I guess, so he sat there for a while until he got bored and wandered into another classroom.”

“Are you serious? Did anyone call?”

You shake your head, “Not a word. We had a talk, though. He said he won’t do it again.”

I tell you about the book, and we look at each other with what feels like astonishment. I’ve always loved your eye contact, especially when you smile like this, half-cocked and in earnest. You are looking for me rather than looking at me, and this is how you make space for me to crawl in. I believe that you see me. I look back.

“What can you do?” I shrug. “I sure as hell don’t know.”

You shake your head. “Me neither.”

“You need to talk to him,” I say, my voice lower.

You return your attention to the sink. “I just want to wrap my head around it better. I hate this. I hate the whole situation, and I don’t want to transmit those bad feelings.”

I don’t want you to transmit bad feelings, either, so I let the subject drop.

Later, when I ask E what happened, I notice his smile, like the preflash of a camera, before his blush and remorseful frown.

Our new marriage counselor assigns us a class on neurodiversity.

“You are literally in different worlds,” she repeats.

“Isn’t everyone in different worlds?” I say, whimsically.

“He can’t feel your love. Like how you can just feel that you can trust someone or you feel that someone loves you. He doesn’t feel that. He observes it. It’s different.”

I wouldn’t believe her if she wasn’t autistic, too. Autistic and brilliant with a driving authority that feels kind. She holds her dog in her lap, a Yorkshire Terrier she lifts to the screen so we might wave hello. The dog’s dewy eyes diffuse the tension. Its pink tongue lops sideways and endears us.

“I cannot stress how different you are,” she repeats, and I think about occasions when I believed I could trust someone, when I felt as though someone loved me and was wrong.

This clean vision of yours. There’s truth in black and white, but there’s also loss. My irrational statements. Every time I misspeak, you get stuck. How can I shout that I hate you and expect you to believe in my love? How do we come back from that? The contradictions imprison you, contaminate everything, meanwhile, I barrel ahead, distracted perhaps by the larger feeling in the air, whatever that feeling might be.

You found her online, this counselor. You, who for years refused to see a professional. You, who is understandably exhausted after agreeing to see two previous counselors who misunderstood you. Still, you give this woman your trust, and I love her for this.
The class is online and a montage of couples fills our screen. One after the other, couples appear to tell the same story arc: a marriage accumulates problems like burrs, always another problem sticking. An otherwise loving partner appears remote, controlling, or rude. The neurotypical partner might question their sanity as they struggle to make sense of their partner’s unpredictable reactions, the circling conversations, the meltdowns.

I wonder but do not ask if you’ve had a laugh at my expense, your own aha moment over my neurotypicalness. That time I spent two hundred dollars on a pair of fancy jeans. My irrational need for someone to bless me when I sneeze. How I might believe in something but bite my tongue because I’m afraid of what the stranger might think. The fact that I won’t stick around long enough to learn how pretty much anything works: the car, the garage door, the broiler, the computer. You, on the other hand, learn to understand them all so you might fix them.  And you do.

But these couples on the laptop roam wild through years of dysfunction and misunderstanding until someone watches a show or reads a book and the magic eye emerges. The diagnosis brings relief. The diagnosis brings grieving. The diagnosis captures the confusion, a jar of fireflies around which the relationship attempts to rebuild.

A wife beams, “It made such a difference to understand that our perceptions were literally different. We reset our expectations and listen harder for each other.  It’s the only way.”

This makes me think of Adrienne Rich, and I pause the lecture to look up the quote. You wait while I lean over your lap to scroll through the page. I read out loud, “Love is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved.” My voice elevates. “It is a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.” I place a hand on your leg, “Let’s go the hard way,” but you’re looking at the screen, stress rampant on your face.

“Thanks, honey, but can we just finish the video?”

“Yeah, I just thought it was a nice quote.”

“It is, but we’re in the middle of this video,” you say. “Like I’m not the only problem here.”

“It’s different,” I say and remove my hand, very much convinced that you are the problem.

 

“You’re perfect the way you are,” I whisper into my son’s ear. “Your brain is beautiful.” “Don’t ever change,” I whisper. “I love you,” I plead.

“I timed him,” E’s first grade teacher once asserted. “After rug time, to see how long it would take him to realize rug time was over and the rest of the class had returned to their seats.” We crowded around a small table at the primary school office: E’s physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, social worker, caseworker, assistant teacher, and the special education director. You were absent. Those first two years of I.E.P. meetings, it never occurred to you to come, and it took me two years before it occurred to me to ask.

“He sat there all alone, and you know how long he stayed? I actually watched the clock.” The teacher paused, an instinctive attempt at drama. “Five and a half minutes.”

I gave a quick nod, and she leaned back in her chair. I pictured the scene, E marooned on the alphabet rug, enfolded in solitude save for his imaginary world unaware that his peers had uncrossed their legs and clamored to their feet. I could have cried, but instead, I smiled at her. I smiled at everyone there, the therapists and social workers and teachers.

When I reflect on this now, your childhood face overlaps with the image, the loose curls I’ve seen only in pictures. I wonder on which rugs you washed ashore. You never had that assembly, flawed though we were around the table. You figured things out on your own. Each conclusion you made was your own.

Accommodations:
Accept the misunderstandings.
Address one issue at a time.
Ask for needs clearly, directly.
Avoid over-talking emotion.

I use your mind as whetstone to hone my sentences. Direct: I want help with the kids at bedtime. Clear: I need to be spontaneous.

I shed the smile, patient girl, the long hope that someone will catch on to my sweetness and save me without my having to ask.

But that’s not accurate. My impatience, a glass against the floor. I’ve called you a monster. I’ve demanded divorce. In the heat of emotion, I fling the meanest of words. I struggle to set my own boundaries.

Direct. Clear. I am neurotypical, which of course I resent because I’m anything but typical. My brain has architecture, too. I look out from my brain through the windows and doors my limited outlook affords me. I perceive differently. I conclude.

When I was a kid, I sat alone on the bus. I huddled with chalk during recess and wished for the bell. My eyes felt too big, my skin too raw. I sought affirmation in authority, and I gave everyone authority, including my peers. I nursed hurt feelings when a dog nipped my hand. I gave the dog authority.

I developed an eating disorder in high school. I played stupid to get by. I wanted, always, to be liked. I avoided asking for things. I was liked. I didn’t want the responsibility of playing witness to myself. I wanted to put that on you.

Throughout our lives, we taped up our conclusions and stored them away, but now, we seek to unpack what we’ve done. You and I. We point. We use labels. We are occasionally cruel.

These days you cry often. You ask for direction. You verbalize emotion and ask about mine.

“The worst thing you can tell an autistic person is to be themselves,” says the autistic Youtuber I watch while I jog.

But when E shares with his theater class that he is autistic, everyone shouts at once. A competition of voices declares other diagnoses: A.D.H.D! Anxiety Disorder! Another boy has autism, too! E covers his ears. It’s too much. I am there when he runs out of the room.

 

There is a wounded child in your AS partner the YouTube video states, and I think about my own wounded child hiking up her pants. Who are we when we abandon each other? And who will we be if we don’t?

Weeks later, I find you across from E at the dining room table, your back to me, a riot of marker and loose paper spread between. You doodle together and have been at it for a while, judging from the sprawl of odd creatures, a pink octopus, a gnarly three-headed dog, an orange boot with a wide purple grin.

You begin another round of the game. Each loops nonsense onto a blank sheet of paper, a line that curls in and out of itself, at times jagged, unrecognizable shapes. You trade scribbles. Your new task—to make sense of each other’s lines. You may color and add lines but you cannot take away, and I watch silent from the kitchen while E turns his sheet this way and that.

His teacher recently reported that something important has settled in E and he seems more present, more determined than ever to know himself.

Your head tilts. A squirrely bit of your neck needs a shave. Your fingers reach, then flex over the markers. You select blue and connect two loops.

E decides on a landscape orientation and uncaps a green marker.

“I don’t like to say I have autism, because it sounds like I have a disease,” his young voice pitches sudden in the room. He continues to color, and a dragon emerges. First, the fierce teeth. Then a tail.

“What do you like to say?” I ask, and your shoulders tense. You are surprised to find me behind you.

“That I have an autistic brain.”

“I think it’s great you’re aware of your words,” I say and wonder if I’ve walked in on your sharing. If you’ve just shared your diagnosis with E.

“Words are powerful,” I say and think it’s possible, the way you lean close, and here I am interjecting myself into your feeling of camaraderie, the piled scribbles already made whole. It occurs to me I misplaced myself into the scene.

In “The Eleventh Word,” Lulu Miller challenges the belief that a named thing is a known thing, and as she witnesses, even aids her son’s language acquisition in the midst of a pandemic, climate change, and social upheaval, she suggests that perhaps our terror does not arise from the unknown, but rather from the false belief that things can be known in the first place.

She writes: “I would like to stay here. In the wordless place. After all these years looking closely at words, I have come to mistrust them. So often they are used as the sober blades to scale selves away from the group—its protection, its warmth, its assurances of justice. But something desperate in me still wants to hurl a handful of them out into the air, still believing that they could catch and tame a terrible thing.”

From where I’m standing, I can’t tell what you plan to make of E’s scribble. Your shoulder blocks my view of the paper and your elbow rests still on the table.

“That’s really good, E,” you say after a beat. “You make me one proud dad.”

E inflates then sinks deeper into his work. He trades his green marker for an orange and fire blazes across the sheet.

Dad, I think. Another word. Husband. A lid and a jar. Autism. I think. Autistic. I move through each word, and there you are, your elbow still, your marker presumably poised.

 

 

Works Cited

Miller, Lulu. “The Eleventh Word.” The Paris Review, 5 Oct. 2020, https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2020/10/05/the-eleventh-word/.
Rich, Adrienne. On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978. Revised ed., W.W. Norton & Company. 1995.
Rudolph, Shaina and Royer, Danielle. All My Stripes. Magination Press. 2002.

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