Ed note: The following contains some (very) adult language. Although I typically take pains to avoid it in my writing, it was - like it or not - part of the story. It felt disingenuous to edit it out or even to sanitize it. Apologies to any who might find it offensive.
I don't recognize the voice, no less the woman who is screaming at the top of her lungs. For the life of me, I have no idea what she is doing or, for the love of all things holy, why.
It appears that she is shouting at the man who cut her off. An absurd altercation. He might be wrong, but who the hell cares? Why does it matter? It doesn't.
But there she is, enraged beyond reason, screaming bloody murder in response to his raised middle finger and the words Fuck you mouthed through the closed window of his SUV. And there she is, without so much as a single salvageable shred of control, screaming back at him with everything she has. Screaming, "NO. You're WRONG. Fuck YOU."
I lean into the consonants of the word, beginning with the F, taut and short like a spitting hiss, then landing with all of my weight on the C and the K, searching for relief on the sharp edge of the sounds.
I can see nothing, feel nothing. The only thing I have is rage. I am looking at this man, at the world, through a lens of molten, dripping, toxic rage.
For his part, he is laughing. Laughing at the lunatic whom he's provoked with no more than an aggressive moment on the road followed by an obscene gesture. He is laughing at the absurdity of this woman screaming her pain, screaming her anger, screaming her impotence at him - from a convertible no less - raw, vulnerable, exposed, completely and utterly out of control. A boiling pot whose lid has finally flown across the room.
And there I am, driving away as he finally turns the corner, heaving and sobbing and searching for a place to pull over - to breathe to escape to run. To figure out where the hell I've been.
Out of nowhere, I can't breathe. I have no idea why. I'm going to vomit or cry or .. something. I have to get up. NOW. I have to .. I don't know. I have to DO something.
I blurt out the only words I can find. "I have to walk away."
The words have no context. They make no sense. But I'm walking away. I simply have no choice. I can't stay at the table.
Luau is looking at me. He is concerned, confused. I can't say any more than I've said. I just have to get out the door.
I walk outside and try to breathe. I spot a slab of slate in the yard and decide that it has to - needs to - absolutely without question MUST - be moved rightthisverysecond. I pull it up from the grass, stand it on its end and heave it into place with a satisfying thud.
I search for something else. Something I can put into place. Something I can FIX. Physical order in place of emotional order - I'll take whatever I can get.
I think of my girl. How for years her autism compelled her to create lines, rows, towers - order. Like never before, I get it.
I pick up a chaise lounge and drag it across the lawn. It's awkward to lift - heavy and bulky. I set it down in its new location. I don't like it. It doesn't feel right. I move it again, then one more time before settling on a spot. I'm sweating. I go back for the other one. I line them up. By the time I walk away, they are perfectly parallel.
My family is eating without me. I see Luau through the window, talking with the girls. He's keeping it together. I am grateful. And envious.
I go back into the house, but excuse myself from the table. I head upstairs and find myself in the bathroom. I pace. I don't know where to go or what to do. For a moment, I'm lost.
Friday night via text
A walk in the morning sounds great. Only time I've got is 8am. Can we make that work?
Perfect. I'll meet you in front of the elementary school. I need this!
Saturday via e-mail
Thank you so much for the invitation, but we're unable to attend. I really appreciate you thinking of us. Hopefully next time!
Sunday via e-mail
If it's not too late, I'd like to retract my offer to volunteer as liaison coordinator.
I'll remain a member at large if the group will have me, but I absolutely have to cut back my commitments moving forward. I'm killing myself - literally.
Thanks for understanding.
Sunday night via text
Thank you so much for thinking of us. You're so sweet to ask. It's just not going to work this time, but hopefully in the future!
Monday afternoon via e-mail
I unfortunately need to resign from the Committee, effective immediately.
Our family's commitment ... is in no way diminished ... but I desperately need to take some things off of my plate.
If you'd like to, please feel free to keep me in the e-mail loop and I'll offer input when I can. Either way, I'm never more than an e-mail or phone call away.
Thank you all for your dedication to our kids. I appreciate it and am grateful for it every day.
I hope to be back again (if you'll have me) when / if time allows.
Thank you for your understanding.
Monday night via text
I need your help working on the awards. You in?
Bed time last night, lying in the dark with my ten year-old daughter
"Mama, are you OK? You haven't been very, well, hmm, YOU lately."
"I know, baby. I'm sorry."
"It's OK, Mama. Is life hard?"
"Sometimes, sweetheart, yes. It's been tough lately."
"Is it frustrating?"
"Well, yes, sometimes it is."
"Is it confusing?"
"Hmm, well, yeah, it can be."
"Is it annoying?"
"But is it happy?"
I fight tears.
"It is, baby. And Mama's working on finding a lot more of the happy, OK?"
"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Cause I miss you."
"I know, sweet girl. I miss you too. And I miss me too. I'm working on it, OK? I promise."
We lie together in the dark.
Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband Luau* and their beautiful daughters - ten year-old Katie*, an utterly fabulous typically a-typical fourth grader, and eight year-old, Brooke*, a loving, talented, hilarious second grader who has autism.
She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and supportive community of parents, friends, adults on the autism spectrum and some random people in her life who cared enough to hit 'Like' and probably now wonder what they got themselves into.