I have lived long years of endurance.
Long, long years of loud rooms full of people I never learned to like, who couldn’t be bothered to learn to like me either. Long years of being at parties but not part of them, dreading the part of the night where the group splits into smaller groups that head to different places, not having enough of a link to any moiety to make any path make sense, too determined to have “life experience” to give up right then.
Long, long years of being only minimally able to care what I was wearing, because none of it seemed worth excitement. Long years of burying myself in oversized Hawaiian shirts and their kin with East-Asian-inspired prints and jeans that just barely fit into the rough, unkempt aesthetic of the 1990s. Long years of intensive patterns and cycles maintained because as long as I maintained them, I never had to think of what might replace them, never had to face the yawning, perfumed void over which they stretched, never had to know why.
Long, long years of holding a beloved pet behind a locked door and weeping softly, without knowing why.
Endless years of every decision my mother didn’t like having supposedly been undertaken for the direct task of making her sad. Endless years of the confusion and energy of my autism being used, without their name, to justify the dire necessity of my being constantly nearby.
Years of being promised that I’d finally reached the part of my education where the challenge wasn’t in volume but in quality and then bringing home enough homework to keep me busy for most of the night and then some more during breakfast. Years of my bachelor’s degree being the first point in my life where they weren’t lying.
Long, long years of feeling constantly too big. Years of my family telling me to bring my shoulders back and my back straight. Years of curling in on myself in crowds and buses and everywhere else, even more than overweight backpacks demanded. Years of feeling too big yet being smaller than all of my male friends and many of the others, offering the wishful motto “I fit everywhere” when it was time to crowd into cars. Years of feeling like my body was something my brain regretfully had to drag wherever it went, unwanted and unwelcome.
Years of being temporary, precarious, and limited.
Years and years and long, endless years of the one thing I practiced more than anything else being endurance.
A lifetime of knowing that simply being able to tolerate the whirlwind of discomfort that is a world not made for me is cheaper and easier and more compatible with ever having other humans willingly around me than making the slightest attempt to get the world to change for me.
A lifetime of the negative responses to my existence being me being so predictable and so constant that the only recourse was to endure. A lifetime of such a flood that I could not take the time to recognize any of its droplets as deserved and learn to grow until I first learned to let it wash over and past me, unimpeded, so I could breathe. A lifetime of being the steel, the rock, the bulwark against which people could heap their derision with impunity.
A lifetime of the clanging vibrations of their disgust being stored in a flywheel down below, and of the accumulated venom being so potent that it made them fear me all the more.
A lifetime of the path before me being laden with so many hazards and obstacles that the only way forward was endurance, because moving or fighting them remains an overwhelming task that no one deserves.
A lifetime of the people around me telling me to take up more space, whether because I was too meek and terrified as a “man” or because women are done letting men do all the space-occupying. A lifetime of wanting smallness and watching it always belong to someone else. A lifetime of my long-sought cozy refuge being someone else’s prison, no matter what, and enduring.
A lifetime of wanting, constantly, to disappear.
An eternity of steel. A dream of satin.