Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Revenge Fantasies

Everybody has fantasies about getting revenge on people who have wronged them. Mine are mostly against the holier-than-thou neurotypical people who have wronged me in a passive-aggressive manner; the revenge fantasies are also passive-aggressive, against: Melanie, my ex-best friend who has shunned me; my most recent boss who told me I was "doing fine" and then fired me; people in Meetup groups who, instead of confronting me directly about issues they had with me, reported me to the organizer and got me kicked out; and many, many more. The revenge fantasy that continually comes to my mind is one that fights passive-aggression with, well, passive-aggression. I have nobody specific in mind for this story, but since I have to use pronouns I'm just going to use "she" for the person I'm getting revenge against, as most of the people who have been passive-aggressive to me have been women.The story goes like this:

I am visiting my parents in Pennsylvania, driving alone along one of the back roads in one of the more rural areas of Bucks County, returning from... oh, does it really matter? I just felt like going for a drive. Alone. Some me time. What I hadn't counted on was the snow. The weatherman on Channel 6 had said that the high was going to be fifty degrees and there might be some light rain, but right now it's twenty-eight and the snow is coming down in clumps, attacking my car on all sides. The heat is cranked up, the defogger is on the highest setting, and the windshield wipers are thump-thumping, trying desperately to attack the clumps before they obscure my view. It doesn't help that the sun has already set and that my high-beams barely penetrate the darkness. 

And then I see the flash, the reflection of a deer's eyes. A deer in the headlights. Caught. Just like in the metaphor. It's not going to move. 

"Shit!" I yank the wheel to a hard left.

But then the world spins around me. I jam on the breaks and hear their screeching protest against the relentless ice and snow. When the car finally stops and I get my bearings, I see that the car has done a complete one-eighty: I am facing backwards. Damn good thing that nobody else is on the road. And who would be in this weather? As soon as my heart stops racing and I confirm that the deer is gone, I maneuver the car back on to the right side of the road, again facing the correct way.

I haven't driven in a year because I've been living in Boston where one doesn't need a car, but I think I am doing well, considering that near miss. Since I never really learned to drive until just under two years ago, it's amazing that the driving skills I have learned are still there. Like riding a bike, as they say. I think about the neurological connections one has to make when learning a new skill and how those neurological connections just stay even if they have not been accessed for quite some time. I think about the time I learned the lanyard box stitch from a ten-year-old kid when  I was working at a summer day camp in 1999. I showed it to my father, who had learned the same stitch when he was nine or ten. Since he was then almost fifty years old, it had been a good forty years since he had done the box stitch. But when I handed him the lanyards I had been working on, he completed the next couple stitches. Once the lanyards were in his hands, he knew immediately what to do. Muscle memory? Or perhaps tapping into some unused but present neurological pathway, like accessing a file on a computer one hasn't used in a while? Both? As I wake up from my mental tangent, I make a note to buy more books by Sam Harris and Steven Pinker to see if the answers to my questions are there. Maybe I'll stop at the Doylestown Bookshop on the way back to my parents'. Mom will be doing the typical mother thing and worrying herself to death about me (I'm amazed my cell phone hasn't rung yet), but she'll live.

Yeah, that sounds good. A couple of nerdy books to read while wrapped up in a warm, down-filled quilt in front of a fire. The only thing that would make the night complete would be a dog curled up beside me, warm, fuzzy head in my lap. Like the last dog that my family had, a sweet and affectionate yellow Labrador Retriever. We got her when I was 12 and she was put to sleep in early 2008 at the age of 14 1/2. For a dog that size that is the equivalent to a person living into her early '90s. She was a great dog.

Whoops, there I go. Another mental tangent. They say that those with Asperger's can't multi-task. But here I am, driving and daydreaming at the same time. If people think that those with Asperger's can't multi-task, then they don't know me...

The robotic woman on the GPS tells me to make a right at the next stop sign. That will eventually lead me to route 611. I'll know how to get back to my parents' from there. As I turn, I notice a car at the side of the road. Its headlights aren't on. Hell, even its hazard lights aren't on. I can vaguely see that it is blue, but it's hard to tell in the darkness and with the snow blanketing it. Did somebody abandon their car here? I wonder. But then I see the silhouette of a head in the front seat. I slow down, realizing that the person's car's battery must have died. I have some jumper cables in the trunk. Last year Dad taught me how to jump-start a car. I don't remember how to do it, but I'm sure I can figure it out. If not, at least I can call Dad and he'll talk me through it. 

I stop the car, pull on my coat and gloves, and step out into the blanket of nighttime snow. How long has this person been waiting? I wonder, looking at the snow that has accumulated on the car. I look through the driver's side window. A woman's head is resting on the steering wheel, her hair obscuring her face. Christ, has she fallen asleep, waiting for help? Even though I can't see her face, there's something oddly familiar about her. I knock on the window. "Hey, do you need help?" I call.

The woman nearly hits her head on the roof as she turns to look at me. She opens the door, an ear-to-ear grin on her face. "Oh, thank God!" she says. "I've been waiting forever for someone to get here. I--"

Oh my God. Her. Her. What were the odds of me running into her

"Julie?" she says. "Is that you?"

"Um... Yeah," I say, jamming my hands into my coat pockets and kicking at a clump of snow with my left boot. "Wh- what are you doing here?"

"I was driving home from a friend's house. But I've been stuck here. My battery died."

I look at her and see the desperation in her eyes. She's hoping I'll forget what she did to me. People with Asperger's are said not to be able to interpret any social cues or read any body language. Bullshit. Asperger's is part of a spectrum. I know and understand a lot more than people think. In any case, she's counting on my not picking up on her hopes that I don't remember because she knows damn well that makes the difference of whether or not I will help her. Or she's at least counting on my being a nice, naive, compliant Aspie woman who doesn't know when she's been manipulated. Or maybe she's just counting on me being more forgiving than anyone can be expected to be. Well, I know damn well when I'm being manipulated and even I have my limits for forgiving. 

"Your battery died, did it?" I ask.

"Yeah," she says. "Oh, Julie, it's so good to see you. I haven't seen you in ages."

"Yes, I know," I say. Inside my right glove I can feel a hangnail. I just clipped my nails this morning, but I guess I missed a spot. I remove my hand from the glove, bite off the hangnail, and spit the remains into the snow.

"So, how long have you been out here?" I ask, slipping the glove back onto my hand. 

"Two hours, I think," she says. "It's horrible. The car battery is dead. I can't start my car and the heat won't work."

"Yeah, that's what happens when car batteries die," I say. I can feel a slight tug at my lips.

"I can't get home," she says, her wide eyes begging me to not remember. 

 "And?" I ask, feeling an even stronger tug at my lips. I scratch an itch on my left arm and flick away some snow that accumulated there. 

"I'm stuck here. I don't even know where I am."

I nod, my lips now ear-to-ear. I walk over to my car and lean against the driver's side door for a moment.

I then walk to the back of my car and open the trunk. She looks hopeful, but it's not jumper cables I'm getting. It's a scraper. In the five minutes that I've been out here the windshield and the back window have been completely covered with snow. I brush the snow off of my windshield. She still hasn't taken the hint. Funny, I thought that's how neurotypicals communicated: through hints, not direct confrontation.


"Yes?" I stop for a moment to look at her again.

"What are you doing?" 

"Getting the snow off the windows so I'll be able see where I'm going."

She still says nothing. She is looking at me, her eyes radiating disbelief. I finish cleaning off my windshield and then begin working on the back window. When I am finished with that, I toss the scraper back into the trunk. I then open the front door of my car. She is still watching me. I put the key into the ignition, and the engine roars to life.

She knocks on the window. I roll it down.

"Julie? What are you doing?" she asks, looking at me through the window.

"Going back to my parents' house. I might pick up some books on the way home first."

"Aren't you going to help me?"

"It's really coming down out here. I don't have time."

She leans through the window. "But I'm stuck here."

I look at her. She is so desperate. She cannot imagine why I am doing this to her. But hey, it's not my problem. Besides, I'm sure she has a cell phone and if she uses her brain she'll figure out that she can call Triple A, I assure myself, just like she probably assured herself when she screwed me over that I would "forget about it" and "get over it."

"Well," I say at length. "I guess you're fucked."

She says nothing. I press the button to roll the window back up. She steps back, just barely avoiding getting clipped by the moving glass.

I put the heat back on, restart the defogger and the windshield wipers, and flip on the high beams. She steps out of the way, staring at me as I pull back into the street. Some music would be nice. I turn on the local oldies station. Oh, hell, yeah. They're having a Beatles marathon.

I plug the address of the bookstore into the GPS. I should be able to detour there before I go back to my parents'.

She steps out of the road, her back against her car. She continues to stare at me until I have driven far enough away that we can no longer see each other.

I feel something stirring in my belly, moving up towards my lungs until it emanates from my mouth like a desperate animal bursting out of a cage: A laugh. A laugh so powerful that moisture forms at the corners of my eyes. I try to stop so I can focus on the road, but the sound keeps desperately forcing itself out of my mouth and almost snapping my eye shut. Somehow, however, I manage to get myself to Route 611.

And I don't look back.

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