Mamma, it hurts.
It hurts to see the looks they give me. I don’t want their sympathy. I don’t want the “how do they manage a kid like that” looks they give you. I don’t want any of that. I tried to blend in; I really did. But it’s like they aren’t ready to accept me. Not now, not anytime soon. Maybe not ever. And It hurts that I’m stringing you along in this bumpy ride.
It hurts to know that I’m different. I’ve known this since the moment I tried to speak my first word and failed. I’ve known this since that time you took me to the park and everyone gave me weird looks. I’ve known this since that day you were forced to change me into a “special” needs class because I’m not “normal”. That’s what my classmates told me— that I’m not normal. Is that true, Mamma?
It hurts to feel so helpless. I know I stare at people a lot— and I know that it freaks them out. Some even give me looks of disgust, others just brush it off. But I want to tell them, it’s not my intention to make them uncomfortable— no, I never meant to do that. I stare because I want to be like them. I want to laugh and play and make jokes and go out with my friends. Though, I hardly have any friends. But that’s okay. Maybe I’ll make some when I grow older. Or maybe they might feel that I’m not even worthy of friends. Is that right, Mamma?
It hurts that people mock me for something I’m not even responsible for. This other day, I was sitting at the joali outside our house. Two of our neighbors came to me and started making these weird signs. At first I thought they were trying to talk to me; sign language is hard to learn, I can understand. But then I realized that they weren’t trying to talk. They were mocking me, Mamma. They were making fun of my disability. They made me look ridiculous. Is that what their parents taught them, Mamma?
It hurts that I can’t be a perfect son. Every time I look at you and Bappa, It feels like someone stabs me. I want to tell you, in words, how much you both mean to me, and how happy I am to have such supportive parents. But I can only stare. I can only struggle to portray the love I feel for you but sometimes that isn’t enough. I know that. I can read your faces like the back of my hands. I can’t even look you in the eye. Because I’m scared of what I might see in them. I’m scared to see the dreams, the expectations, the hopes and the future you created for me in your eyes. I feel like a disappointment and it hurts. Am I a disappointment, Mamma?
I want to do so much in life. I want to grow up, become a pilot. Or a doctor. I can help kids like me Mamma. Maybe when this world is not so cruel we can all help people like me. But right now, its just darkness. I don’t see any light at the end of my tunnel. Everything’s empty and broken and everytime I close my eyes the darkness that greets terrifies me. I can’t sleep, I can’t dream. I can only wish for the society to accept me. To look at me like they look at the kids who are deemed “normal”. To acknowledge my dreams and existence. To help me live. Is that asking too much, Mamma?
Because right now it just hurts. It hurts so much. I want it to go away, Mamma. Make it go away.
Zaan Zabeer, Autistic Child.