Going Back

Going Back

There’s a saying that might appear familiar to readers of Terry Pratchett: “You can’t cross the same river twice”. If it wasn’t for the clue in his books that the obvious interpretation is not the intended one then I don’t think I’d have worked it out. I’m too literal a thinker to have realized, unaided, that the river here refers to the water rather than its course. I’m not going to take the metaphor too far and start considering the water cycle through evaporation and rainfall by which the same water molecules could be crossed again. For the purposes of this metaphor, once the water has flowed downstream it must be considered “lost” as different water flows down, replacing it. The river crossing in this instance is an event in space-time: the time coordinate is key to understanding.

So far, so what? Is any of this relevant? Well,… yes. You see, I sometimes get nostalgic. I recall places in terms of past events and some of those events evoke memories of happiness. I feel a longing to experience a particular event again that going back to the same place in the present can’t satisfy: it’s not the same river.

This unsatisfied longing to go back to an event – a situation – in the past can be so overwhelmingly powerful that I feel a profound sense of loss because there is no way to return, wind back the clock. This can be a problem when I find myself in the same place doing the same thing, whether it’s socializing, playing darts or watching a band. Association triggers memories of the historical event and I can be left feeling that there is something missing, some vital piece of the puzzle that would complete the picture.

So I’m left with my memories, replaying the experiences, going back in my mind instead of in time. Maybe I can’t cross that river again, but it will always be there.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Outside the Wall

To be a fly on the wall, an unseen observer. How many people have wished that at some point? Usually because of curiosity: they want to be in on private events that they would normally have no access to. It’s a normal human feeling… and I don’t experience it; I don’t have that curiosity about the minutia of other people’s lives.


What I do experience is a desire to be unnoticed, to fade into the background, to become invisible, hidden. Not so that I can observe others but so that they can’t observe me as I go about my daily activities.

Paranoid Eyes

Obviously I’m not the invisible man. But is what people see really me or am I hiding behind this fleshy facade? Looking out through the eye-holes in my mask? Like a mask, my face doesn’t show much of what I’m thinking or feeling: this is a common autistic trait. And I like it that way. I’m not comfortable with the idea of my private thoughts being broadcast involuntarily by a traitorous subconscious via facial expressions or other body language. I want to have full conscious control over every aspect of my communication.

In the Flesh

That’s an aspiration; the reality falls short and I find that people are able to “read” me in a limited way. But I find I get misread almost as often, so I guess I’m sending mixed signals. I’ve been wearing this body for nearly 40 years and I still don’t have effortless control over its motor functions: it doesn’t always move in the way I want so I can be physically awkward and clumsy. And this also applies to facial expressions and even speech: it takes me a degree of concentration if I’m not to speak indistinctly, mumble or slur my words.

Speak to Me

I normally speak softly, only raising my voice when I’m overloaded or in meltdown when I don’t have much control. Sometimes too softly and I get asked to repeat myself, which is fair enough given the number of times I have to ask people to repeat themselves. That or I just stand there for a spell while I try to decipher what I just heard into meaningful words. Chinese whispers has got nothing on what I think I’ve heard at times! It can be quite amusing but mostly it’s just confusing and distracting.

Us and Them

What is behind this desire to be apart rather than to be a part in social situations? It’s partly a lack of affinity with in-groups: I have never identified with any group or class. Most people maintain an identity based on attributes shared with others, whether they support the same football team, listen to the same bands, go to the same church. I am, and always have been, just me. While I am well aware that my interests and activities overlap with those of other people I know, I don’t feel that this makes me part of any social group.

I’m just me, on my own, always on the periphery. Not so much a fly on the wall as outside the wall, looking in through the windows. The eternal outsider.