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No Thanks, I’m Just Looking

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by Luna Lindsey

I need a dress for a wedding

It is a custom I don’t understand

And endure for the sake of friendship.

My heart burns in my clenched chest

as I browse the bright colors

Not finding the color I need.

I consciously draw breath, in, out, in

Keep breathing, air like water

to wash away the stain of terror.

There is always more fear to replace what I exhale.

The employee, well-dressed, blond,

intense red lipstick crisp on her pristine face,

above her fashionable clothes,

and accessories,

asks:

“May I help you?”

Unaware, she ignites my red-pain anxiety into a new inferno.

I smile.

I pretend.

“No thanks, just looking. “

I repeat the pat line,

An uncomfortable lie,

Just to make her go away.

I really mean:

“I don’t belong here,

“No one can help me look normal…

like you.

I will never feel normal…

like you.”

My fears are illusions
I know they are illusions

I tell myself they aren’t real—

If only I were a credible witness.

I am almost forty.

Shopping still feels

like I am marching to my death,

like I am fighting for my life,

like my insides are burning,

like my skin sloughs off, charred and liquid

like they are judging me,

laughing.

I am in the wrong place,

doing the wrong thing,

looking at the wrong products.

I am too fat for this section,

Too thin for that,

Too old,

Not cool enough,

Too geek, too punk,

Ten-years out of date,

So five minutes ago,

No dresses here,

Sportswear over there.

And they know.

Who am I to be here?

I have no right.

A pretender

trying to disguise myself in their clothes,

lipstick, perfume, pastels in spring,

lace and sequins and belts and 2013 styles

They are all the rage.

So they say…

They also tell me you cannot find silver dresses

This late in the season.

Customs that seem so arbitrary,

Unimportant

Except to the millions who participate

Everyone but me.

I try so hard to not care.

Yet my Asperger’s mind only possesses one social instinct–

You are doing it wrong.”

It shouts and I cannot ignore it.

No relief will come

Because no instinct will tell me what to do right

Or maybe the doing-it-wrong mechanism is misfiring.

Maybe I’m just fine.

Maybe no one is judging me

Maybe I’m succeeding,

pulling off the artifice

of “normal”

I will never know.

No one will tell me.

And I need to be told.

I am upper class by the numbers,

But inside I am of a caste lower,

more reviled,

less worthy,

than any on Earth.

A caste with a different brain

An imposter species,

outwardly identical,

who has to consciously try to make eye contact

at the precise time,

laugh at the exact moment,

Say hello, goodbye, pleased to meet you,

But not too early, or too late,

I cannot reveal the hesitation I feel

The unasked question:

“Am I still doing it wrong?”

I can never diverge from the track of known rules

Lest I make some unknown mistake.

And be thrown out

out of the store

out of friendships

out of social circles

out of society

like I have no right to live inside.

Like a leper,

I have a social disease which is not contagious.

It cannot spread.

Yet it disgusts all the same.

As if my fingers rotted.

As if my face were pocked and swollen.

My nostrils red.

My eyes falling out.

As if my heart were an open, seeping wound.

Step back, you normal person.

Or you might catch it.

To distract myself, I compose this poem

in my head.

I note that it is just a long series of tweets.

Too many to remember.

If I stop to write it, surely,

It will break some law I do not know.

“Thou shalt not write poetry in the mall.”

It must be written on the walls for all to see

In the finger of a neurotypical god

Glowing in letters only a neurotypical can read.

Each person I pass has a head full of rules

I cannot read.

There are more rules I do not know

than there are unsilver dresses at Macy’s.

I leave the store

Empty handed.

I still have no dress

In the right color,

In the right cut,

For the right occasion.

Unique

yet just the same

as the other three bridesmaid dresses.

Moving to the next shop

I begin the ordeal again.

Luna Lindsey (link: http://www.lunalinsey.com) is an indie author of speculative fiction. Her blog covers many topics, including books, writing, feminism, humor, geek culture, political philosophy, weird photos, and random musings.



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