“Chris?” Steph was starring at me intently as we strolled past the priceless Krieghoff paintings through the Art Gallery of Ontario. “What’s on your mind?” I asked as I stopped us in a quiet corner of the room.
“I have some concerns and I wrote them down,” she said calmly as she looked at me with her lovely brown eyes.
I felt a little twinge of apprehension fearing the worst. “Ok, please tell me what they are.”
“I’ve noticed that you seem a little…well, off and I can’t put my finger on it.” She paused for a second as if deciding whether to continue then blurted out, “are you a sociopath?”
I threw my head back and howled with laughter. “No, darling! No. I can most definitely assure you that I am not a sociopath. I can spell sociopath, but that is about it. I think that we should go somewhere where we can talk and I will explain everything.”
She suggested a pub across the street and we headed in that direction. It was a small gastro-pub that was open on the two sides that faced out toward the sidewalk, as it was on the corner of the building that it occupied. It had a nice old-English feel with small tables and plenty of dark wood that surrounded us. I ordered my favourite strawberry-cherry beer and our conversation resumed.
I decided to get straight to the point and asked “so why do you think I am a sociopath?”
Steph flashed me a little embarrassed smile and said “well, I’m usually pretty good at reading a person’s emotions from their body language, and I find that nearly every time I think I know what you are feeling I’m wrong. Remember the other day when I thought you were mad at me and you said that you weren’t even feeling mad at all?” I nodded remembering that I was confused when she asked me about it at the time. “Well, that’s what I’m talking about,” she said.
“Have you ever heard of Asperger’s?” I asked. It was like a light went off in her head as her eyes grew larger.
“Yes, I met a guy with Asperger’s recently but, he doesn’t seem…” She stopped and appeared to be struggling with how to word the next sentence.
“He doesn’t seem to function as well as I do in society?” I asked as if anticipating her thought. She nodded and explained that although he was a lovely person he just seemed to need a lot more help and didn’t seem as well adjusted. I thought for a moment about everything my mother had done to help me function on my own and I silently thanked her.
I went on to say, “You know Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory? She nodded with a laugh, “he is an extreme example of someone with Asperger’s. I’m nowhere near that extreme, and in fact Asperger’s and autism are on a continuum. Some of us can almost pass for ‘normal ‘with an awful lot of hard work. My parents spent years training me on how to behave in most ordinary social situations, and I had to work very, very hard.” She put her hand on mine and gave me a reassuring look. “I have managed to get to the point where I can hold my own in social situations for at least a few hours. But after that I start to shut down, and the abnormalities begin to appear. Another huge aspect to being on the spectrum is that most of the time my facial expressions do not match my emotions. I’ve been told more times than I can count that I usually appear pissed-off and serious and I can tell you that I seldom feel this way. So you see, you and other people that are not on the Autistic spectrum cannot read me accurately by looking at my body language. If you want to know how I am actually feeling or what I am actually thinking, you have to ask me and trust that I am telling you the truth.”
She sat back in her chair and nodded as if to confirm that asking me “what was up” was the right choice and asked “did this impact your second marriage to Kay?”
I thought about it for a moment and said, “Kay didn’t understand this in all the years we were married. I’m sure this was the reason for 90% of our problems. Of course, my infidelity destroyed the trust that was between us, and I don’t believe that the hard work I did in trying to rebuild it was very successful.”
We sat in silence for a time thinking about everything that was said both looking and feeling a little relived. I finally broke the silence, “you said you had more than one concern, right?”
She smiled at me in that way that always melts my heart, “Yes, but perhaps that is a conversation for another date. Want to get another beer?” I laughed and called the waiter over thinking I could spend the rest of my life with this woman and I smiled back.