Autism is a funny little bird. He hopped in through a window I hadn’t meant to open. When I turned around, he was looking at me with unsmiling eyes.
I was so afraid.
I tried to shoo him away, asked him to leave 400 times. I was stern. I was pretty fucking rude. But he wouldn’t leave. He didn’t know how to fly. I prayed to the sky, looming gray above the roof of my house for that little bird to leave. I made deals with voices I shouldn’t have heard, voices that spoke in tongues I didn’t understand.
But the little bird still stayed. He flapped around the rooms of my house, made sounds like a screeching owl and fluttered around my head fast like hummingbird wings. He made his nest near my boy and settled in for a long stay.
The bird was horrible at first. He asked me to do things I did not think I could do, things I would not have ever wanted to do. He did not care if I was tired or hurting. You, the collective you, would laugh when I brought it with me to the supermarket. You weren’t being mean, but it was funny to see me chasing my bird around the store. Sometimes I admit, I laughed too. I sat right down on the dirty floor in the cereal aisle and I laughed. Like a mad woman laughs at the gnomes that dance on her back porch. I laughed because my bird was strange and devastatingly beautiful. I laughed because I was broken up on the inside and you were staring at me and the bird was chirping for cookies in his little autistic chirps. I laughed to suffocate the sobs that were climbing up my throat.
The bird stayed. He grew up in fits and spurts with my boy and I tried to teach him to fly (and ride a bicycle and eat with chopsticks) but he didn’t seem to really want to learn. He didn’t ask for much. I fed him cookies and he chirped happy chirps and I figured out how to make him smile. I decided not to suffocate the sobs when they came and when I did, I found they came less and less.
The bird stays. He stays and I still wish he would go. I wish I could see a boy without a bird nearby. I wish it like you, the collective you, wishes for a million dollars to fall from the sky. I wish it less and less though.
The bird stays. He stays because he can’t fly and even though he never may—it’s up to me to help him try.