Life in the Shell House residence at Simon Fraser University was a case study of what happens when a person on the spectrum is allowed near complete freedom to live as he chooses, but is surrounded by people and desperately wants their attention and approval. One of the biggest misconceptions that people have when it comes to Aspergers or Autism is that we are antisocial. Nothing can be further from the truth – at least in my experience. We definitely want to fit in socially and be accepted – it’s just that we have no idea how to do it. We go out into the world thinking that we are just like everyone else. It is only when we see how others respond to us that we begin to realize that something is wrong – with us. That is when the depression sets in followed by the intense yearning to “figure out how to fit in”. You neurotypicals are, for the most part, terribly insecure at that age – throughout high school and university, when you really have no reason to be. Imagine, if you will for a moment how insecure you would be when you actually do have a reason to doubt your own worth as a member of our society, because of how you perceive virtually everyone around you responding to you. Once you can imagine this, you will have some idea of how I felt on an almost daily basis throughout high school and university, and I don’t think that my experience is that much different from the experience of a lot of people on the autistic spectrum.
One way that this desperation manifested itself was that I went completely overboard every time there was a party with alcohol – which was every single week. I watched the way drunk people got what I perceived to be attention at the dorm parties. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this attention was not the same as approval. It was more along the lines of “Ha ha. Look at that buffoon who cannot hold his liquor!”. Now, to some extent that could be a source of amusement to your fellow dorm mates and being the source of amusement, could, if you were likeable in other ways not hurt you socially. But of course, the people in my dorm who were popular and well liked socially were not liked because they got drunk every week. No, they would have been popular without the alcohol. There is a really really fine line between being a source of amusement to people and being just downright annoying. I’m not sure to this day that I know exactly where that line is, but I suspect that it is just before falling-down-drunk and throwing up. I can tell you that I certainly had no clue back then that this line even existed, even though I could clearly see that I was one of the only people drinking to excess.
One Friday night in 1989, during my second semester at SFU, I was sitting with about three of four of my floormates in Dave’s room, which was two doors away from my corner room. We were just shooting the shit and I was drinking a six pack that I had purchased for the night. I drank it quickly as usual, finishing it in about an hour or so. I was getting pretty drunk at this point and once the alcohol was gone, one of the guys said that his sister had given him a full gallon of home-made raspberry wine. You know those large glass bottles with the finger holes? We all agreed that it would be a good idea if he were to bring us this wine for us to drink. So off to his room he went. He came back to Dave’s room with the wine and poured each of us a small glass. The wine was syrupy sweet and strong – not liqueur strong, but more like port wine. All the other guys were like “Oh god no.”. But not me, no sir. I loved this wine and kept drinking glass after glass after glass. This was at around 9:30pm. My last memory was laughing at a joke while taking a sip out of my glass.
Then, I woke up in a single bed that wasn’t mine. As I came to, I realized that I was in Dave’s bed. My clothes felt unfamiliar and I looked down only to find that these were not my clothes. I had a pounding headache and my eyes were hazy. As I struggled to gain lucidity, Dave comes in and gives me a gentle kick through the sheets and says: “Get up you bastard! A lot of people want to see you!”. I got out of the bed and began to walk with Dave down the hall into the dormitory kitchen, which was white painted with large motifs of orange slices. As I walked in, it seemed like the entire dormitory was gathered around the kitchen tables. On the tables were several dozen photographs of me in varying states of drunkenness and in the very centre of the tables was a large ghetto blaster. Dave placed a cassette tape into the ghetto blaster and pressed play. I heard my voice and that of some of the other guys in the dorm:
Guy: Chris, what do you think of Ghadaffi?
Me: He’s an astozit!
Guy: I think he means terrorist, guys. Chris, why do you think he’s a terrorist?
Me: Beeeecauuse he killllsssss innnnoccent people!
Guy: What do you think should happen to him?
Me: Heeee should be rooooounded uppp and shot!
Guy: Do you know where you are now?
Me: I’mmmm in the dorm!
And on it went for another 5 minutes or so. This was frightening. I couldn’t remember any of this! Then a couple of the people told me that after the interview, I had stripped off all my clothes and danced naked on the tables. I didn’t quite believe them, as none of the pictures showed me naked. Dave was acting all weird and awkward toward me. So I finally said “Dave, I see all this and I can’t argue with any of you over this, but why are you acting so weird?” He looks at me square in the eye and in front of all the women in the room says: “Chris. I dried your nuts!”.
I’m told that I drank ¾ of that bottle that night.