Once I have this post up and running, I can get back to my wip (that’s tradespeak for “work in progress”). It’s a sequel to the book I mentioned earlier, Twenty Minutes Late, which is due to come out on May 26. The sequel is scheduled for November. That means it has to reach the publisher several months beforehand, and it’s not even finished! Plus, I still have to do my taxes.
The blog is important, too, at least to me. Although I did run out of steam for a while, which accounts for that gap of many months in which nothing appeared.
Recently I’ve gotten some comments that take issue with the points I’ve tried to make. Mostly they’re from the same person, with an occasional “Right on!” from one or two others.
The writer went through a harrowing experience of workplace stalking by a man who had Asperger’s. It cost her not only her peace of mind, but her job. From the number of comments she’s left on various posts, I have the impression she’s been going through the entire blog (which is very flattering) and identified her experience with that of our Miss M. My subject, Ryo Kiyan, is therefore the villain and I am all wrong in trying to explain him.
I can think immediately of one huge difference. The writer says she lost her job because of the stalking. In Ryo’s case, he was the one who lost his job, while according to what he learned afterward, Miss M was given a promotion and a $10,000 raise. My correspondent seems to have picked the wrong employer. Why was she, the presumed victim, the one who got canned? Something’s wrong with this picture.
For those who tuned in late, here’s what happened with Ryo and Miss M. They had become friends at the office, or so he thought. She knew he was looking for an apartment so that he could move out of his mother’s mobile home, a living arrangement he had accepted when he was studying and had no income. Now he was ready to move on. Miss M offered to introduce him to her landlord, after which they had a pleasant lunch together at an old inn.
Ryo enjoyed her company and hoped the relationship could go on from there. Miss M, so it seemed, did not share his opinion. In fact, when they went to her apartment either before or after the lunch, it made her “uncomfortable” (her words) that he looked at the books in her bookcase. He sometimes did that to occupy himself when he was uncomfortable in an unfamiliar place.
Still, he had no idea of how she felt. Aspies are known to be poor at picking up social cues.
But he wanted to get to know her better and there’s where he made a huge, Aspergian mistake. Because of his mother’s inevitable presence, he thought it would be awkward to invite Miss M to his home. He suggested instead that he bring some food to Miss M’s apartment, cook it himself, and rent a movie.
Oops. My female readers are aghast at the very idea that anyone could be so forward. But Ryo had Asperger’s. He didn’t think of it as being forward. To him, it made sense. That’s how much he knew. Miss M was as aghast as my readers, a fact he realized when he saw her expression.
And there he made his second mistake. Having shocked her completely, he wanted her to understand that he realized he’d done wrong. He wanted her to accept his apology, and hoped they could go on being friends. For her part, she wanted nothing more to do with him except in a word-related way. No doubt he was too much of an oddball for her taste, although previously they had had some pleasant and profound conversations. He thought they were on the same wavelength. Still craving forgiveness and understanding, he kept after her, trying to explain himself, even trying to organize a hiking trip, as they both enjoyed hiking. That persistence was his undoing. As an Aspie, he really had no clue about what was appropriate behavior and what was bizarre. At one point during the prolonged aftermath of all this, he cried out, “I just wish I knew how the world works!”
That’s how it often is for Aspies. Many have said they feel as if they came from another planet. Or, as a very perceptive reader put it, it’s as though the two parties were speaking different languages. That reader suggested a mediation session, rather than “criminalizing” a confused Aspie’s behavior. Another reader insists that mediation wouldn’t have helped. True, it might not, if the offender intended to do what he was doing, with malice aforethought. But Aspies have this problem, you see. As my friend Jesse Saperstein wrote in his book, Atypical, his persistence in trying to get to know a girl has more than once been viewed as stalking.
Ryo himself, after he’d lost everything, thought mediation would have made all the difference. He did not know what he was doing in terms of how the other person saw it. He only wanted to discuss what he saw as a misunderstanding that could be put right if they talked about it. Mediation, by its very name, implies the presence of a mediator, a neutral person or persons who would hear both sides and help them understand each other. It would, of course, be entirely voluntary. If each had known where the other was coming from, it would, I’m sure, have put an end to Ryo’s persistence and to Miss M’s fears. She was so terrified, she started carrying a knife and pepper spray. Now that’s something the mediator could have worked on. As it is, Ryo only found out about it much later at the hearing. He was shocked and horrified. He never, ever meant her any harm or realized that she saw him as a threat.
One more point that’s come up in these discussions is that many people seem to think I’m advocating special treatment for Aspies. Rather, I’m arguing for equal treatment for them. As disabled persons, they start with a handicap. Autism is a disability. At the very least, it’s a whole different way of seeing the world, and they can’t help it. “Neurotypicals,” as non-autistics are called, have woefully little understanding of that world. As Ryo’s cousin Sharleen Inouye pointed out in her condolence note to me, “his reality was different from the norm, and that was what made him unique.”
The trouble is, it’s invisible. It’s their thinking, not their appearance, that sets them apart, so people have expectations of them that aren’t realistic. In one of my posts, I likened Asperger’s to hearing loss, also an invisible disability, as I well know. People have no idea what the world sounds like to me. If they did, just maybe they would make more effort to speak up and enunciate. That is, if they really wanted me to hear them. Maybe they don’t!
In my last post, “His Birthday,” I tried to insert some photographs. I’d done it before with no problem, but that time WordPress weirded out on me and I got nowhere. I am trying once again and hope my earlier success reasserts itself. The birthday one would have fitted in better with the birthday post, but we takes what we gets.