I have landed in a strange world. The people here are very odd.
They won’t stop looking in my eyes when they talk to me. They connect their gaze with mine and hold it until I look away. It’s creepy.
They touch my arm and ask me many questions.
Jack! Buddy! Are you playing basketball this year?
I do not like to be touched on the arm. And I do not like anything about basketball. I hate the sound of the buzzer.
But these people don’t get it. They just keep going and going, with the touching and the questions and the ideas about how to make something called a foul shot.
They also do something very awkward called small talk, where they ask each other fake questions and give answers that don’t mean anything. Their voices echo across a wide canyon, yet they fail to bridge the gap.
I do not know how to make this small talk. I only know how to make big talk.
I don’t care about the price of gas or if the town library’s hours have changed.
I want to know if your Grandma peels pears for you.
I want to know if you ever feel fear biting into your spirit until you cannot find your braveness.
The faces here don’t match up— they smile with their mouth while their eyes stay quiet, and secret-like.
They cover their insides with a brave-looking outside. This is not good. They are hurting and sad. They are hiding.
I don’t know how to hide. I don’t know how to keep the words in my mind and not say them the moment I think them. My face shows all my feelings.
I live out loud.
Around here, the lights are always too bright. The music is loud. People talk very fast and they say things that don’t make sense.
It’s raining cats and dogs!
Take it with a grain of salt.
This parking lot is a zoo.
The first time I heard the one about the parking lot, I looked over my shoulder, expecting to see big elephants and fast tigers running in between the cars.
I say what I mean. I say the parking lot is very busy and there are no open spots.
This is a strange place, indeed. I cannot find my way. I cannot figure out the hidden language or the reason why you would take a grain of salt with you.
These people need to be fixed. There is something very wrong with them.
They are weird.
They don’t belong.
They need a diagnosis. We need to figure out what kind of disorder they have.
We need to change them.
We need to write up big plans and create goals and help them make progress.
They need to reject everything that is instinctual and honest and true about themselves, in order to be more like the rest of us.
If they work hard enough, they can be normal.
With enough time and therapy, they can fit in a little more.
We can figure out why they give away their energy to everyone else and then they feel empty.
Why they need very big things to be happy. Expensive gifts, lavish praise, trophies, awards.
Why they cling to status and ego.
I don’t care about status. Or ego.
I like to do small things. I refill the toilet paper in the bathrooms, and change light bulbs gone dark. I write out recipes for my sister’s favorite cookies. This makes me feel good and whole.
Everything is too fast here.
This is a strange, strange world.
Here, children are rewarded if they can kick a ball far down the field or point to Houston on a map.
This is all fine and good, but what about the kid who endured the fire drill even though the noise made his head hurt, or the boy who kept his body still during story hour?
It’s hard for me to keep my body still.
The problem is, I don’t think you can fix people. I don’t think all the papers and plans really work. At the end of the day, we are who we are.
This is okay.
We will figure out the eyeballs, and the baseball, and the arm-touching.
In the meantime, I accept you as you are.
I love you for the person you hope to become.
If you let me, I can help you look beyond what you thought you could see.
Only then, can we live out loud together.
Every Sunday, my Grandma peels a yellow pear for me.
My father holds my hand. He helps me find braveness.