Conspicuous Silence


Conspicuous silence


Disability, etymologically speaking an invention circa. 1570 meaning want
of ability. Dis- + ability. I do not like disclosing mine, preferring instead to focus
on the latter without the prefix,
its socially connotative incapacity,
limitation, lack, and impotence. I mask,
conceal my body’s stim singing, thrumming fingers.
Fears of discrimination conflict
against a drive to be honest. To be
honest, I have autism. Confirmed
by several diagnoses; I listen
as people call it a fad,
distinguish ‘real serious’ from ‘special snowflake syndrome,’
call us disruptive,
objects to enact sympathy on
not agents in our own right.
I live with it
in every thought and action,
even if these actions are self-aware attempts to hide
it. Traumatised young, caught in repetitions
mistaken for the disability’s constant returns. High functioning, obsessions with animals and books
(anime a teenage setback that made me
‘too weird’), my female manifestation
and choice of interests
make it easier to veil.
Under Tourette tremors, body jerking electricity, stuck
re-enacting phrases ‘I love my friends, I love my friends, I love—
until they become meaningless
and love is always inappropriate. The veil
scratches against my jolting skin, like a record
rewinding my confident performance, texture unpleasant
with my high sensitivity. These metaphors are a hard social fabric
for me to pull off, my coordination has always been conspicuous
in its lack. Abstract thought
allegedly, a symptom, until I got to work studying, my obsession
with books a help, learning sociality and language beauty
even if mine is stilted, notably trained over natural, until this idiosyncrasy
becomes my natural. But my brutal honesty is appalled: I feel like I’m lying
every time I evade
telling my friends outright ‘what’s wrong’
with me, why my hands shake, why I go
to my room when people are over (so they don’t see me
trembling, social anxiety hitting me as I hit myself
in failure, a melt-down my body-pot buckles under), why I
have such odd ways of doing thing, why I get overwhelmed, why I am so
but mostly they leave
me alone. To myself
I write goals of what I want to achieve daily, which behaviours I want
quashed. It is a stringent, slow process, effacing myself
action by action, thought by thought. I do not want any setbacks.
Can’t ask for help
Without feeling a hindrance.
People do not see this effort; it is contained in my room and my head
beside the social
behaviours it is trying to kill; strange-bedfellows. When I do try
to tell someone about my condition, they brush it off
like a bad lie:
‘You can’t have autism, you’re too nice.’
‘You function too well.’
‘You’re too self-aware.’
‘You have no flat affect.’
You’re unaware
I modulate my pitch, mirroring theirs,
practicing to myself to fill the silence, to distract
myself from the self-loathing.
My silence hides my performance of normalcy.
Tired performance. I do not think I could take on another role
performing your stereotype.


Brianna Bullen

Author: Brianna Bullen

Brianna Bullen is a Deakin University PhD candidate writing a thesis examining the role of memory in science fiction. She has had work published in LiNQ, Verandah, Voiceworks, and Buzzcuts. She placed second in the 2017 Newcastle Short Story competition.