down the hallway

after a half century of masking and denial
autism self-realization
is walking down a hallway
with a hundred doors
and each door hides another realization

how does one respond to
“just checking on you”
in a way that doesn’t sound loaded?
“i’m fine” sounds dismissive
“i’m alive” is either glib or passive-aggressive masking
“doing great” only works if i’m doing great

and i’m not doing great
but i’m okay
better than yesterday
better than last month
still seeking that inertia
that will push me where i want to be
instead of where i am

how many times in my life
has a shut down of mine
been interpreted as depression?
enough that i was trained
to interpret them that way

my self was pasted together
from strips of newsprint
and mod podge decoupaged
with smiles and rainbows
on top of spit and gristle
until i could no longer see the seams
between the me beneath
and the mask above

this is the hallway
these are the doors
this is the coalescence
these are the dreams
let me sink into the comfort
the comfort of the numbness
the numbness that is not depression
it is overstimulation
it is retreat
into a safe space
that those who do not understand
set afire
so that i would stop seeking it

i have spent a half century of masking and denial
this mask has been grafted onto my skin
adhered so firmly that removal is pain
removal is treacherous
removal is vulnerability
removal is needful


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