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.

Lost in Transit

Lost in Transit

Footprints clear in the crisp snow;
I follow, hoping to find my way
Back to the place I came in.
The path winds on and on;
No end in sight. Until at last
Familiar sights greet me.
I have been here before:
This is where I started out
Chasing the ghost of my own past,
Round and round, perpetual motion
Leading nowhere. No memory
Of my destination remains.
Lost in transit, marking time,
Walking in my own footsteps
Hoping to find myself
At journey’s end.

Still Young at Heart

Still Young at Heart

Realization recently struck me like a slap in the face from a wet fish – I’ve been far too serious lately and it has been contributing to a morose malaise. The cure? Cast off all sense of grown-up responsibility for a while and just play.

Reveling in immaturity and freedom as I take a short vacation from the gravity of adulthood – it sure sounds attractive. I want to jump in a puddle to make the biggest splash, climb a tree and look out to the horizon, run around and laugh and play. I want to be Huck Finn and run away on an adventure…

Not that I will end up doing any of that – just dreaming. But the other day I did yield to the urge to get away for a spell – irresponsible perhaps, but necessary to restore some peace of mind. I walked along the river path, enjoying the stillness and solitude. It was enjoyable for a while…

..and then I started to encounter people and it spoiled the mood. Gone was my relaxed sense of ease to be replaced by a stiff uneasiness in the presence of strangers.

I took refuge in a place I feel comfortable but although it turned out to be an enjoyable day I couldn’t get time alone to restore some semblance of calm in my mind.

Loneliness vs Solitude

Loneliness vs Solitude

Sometimes I feel lonely – I get the need for company. Other times I find other people hard to handle and need some time alone. This time of year – the holiday season – is making me unusually aware of this.

It has been a strange few days. I’ve spent a lot of time amongst friends, enjoying myself, and yet felt the need to take a break every now and again to be alone. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed and needing just five or ten minutes of peace to recover. I don’t generally explain or even describe how I’m feeling – I just walk away for a spell, and come back afterwards feeling calmer and more at ease.

And now, in the small hours of the morning, I am sat at home. My wife is asleep in bed. For some reason I feel alone, even though I know she is only a few yards away – I can even hear her snoring gently. The feeling’s like an emptiness inside, different from sadness in that there is no pain. It’s almost an absence of feeling.

I want to share with somebody what the past few days have been like. The dislocation caused by a week’s forced vacation as work shut down for the holidays. The exhilaration of working the bar during a record-breaking day. The physical tiredness from successive late nights. The comfort I felt holding my wife on the dance-floor. Other events, other feelings, good and bad.

Writing this, sharing it here, has helped me. I have regained my balance, and now I shall retire to bed at ease.