It seems like yesterday, it really does even though it was a half-a my lifetime ago. The events in the chapter "Linda" happened 16 years ago today and while it is 12 pages in my current book it was much, much longer in the original manuscript because the events that transpired and the crater of an aftermath were, and still are felt to this day.
So much of my life has seemingly been by pure chance. Truly, the whole series of events to get me to where I am today is a series of events that if one were taken out the whole sequence wouldn't have happened. While I did dedicate my book to Emily I do have to say that Linda had just as an important role as Emily did.
I won't rehash too much of my book but the story goes like this; in a twist I traveled to Minneapolis with my dad instead of going on a servant trip to upstate New York. I was working a convention booth with my dad when this girl neared the booth. She reminded me of someone and I had a sense that something important was about to happen. I was indeed right about that as she talked to me which this had never happened before. I panicked wondering why a girl would talk with me but minutes turned into quarter hours turned into hours. This was unfamiliar territory and the next day she stopped by as well. I got invited to dinner which would've extended the time we got to spend together but I elected to go back to the hotel to watch the NASCAR race instead. When we said goodbye she hugged me and she walked into the convention crowd and eventually was out of sight in the midst of a throng of people. That moment is one of the strongest memories I have of anything ever.
We stayed in contact and our conversations continued, but over time things just went awry. I thought I was doing the right thing when I said I couldn't talk to her anymore (which I did so via e-mail on Christmas so in a way I not only have broken up on Christmas but I've also said I couldn't talk to a person on Christmas) but things went back to normal for two months when I once again said goodbye and this time she said fine and to, "never try and contact her again."
I have tried to contact her but she never once responded. The most recent was in 2009 when I found her on Facebook. To this day she has never read it (I know thanks to Facebook's read receipts) which I'm fine with that. The whole sequence of events was a sick yet needed course. I made many mistakes having a, "I think therefore you should know" mindset. I had no idea the decisions I made weren't the most socially appropriate.
The second chapter I ever wrote was about that relationship and it was through that mistake, along with the mistakes I made with Emily, that motivated me to keep writing and when I got the chance to present the mistakes allowed me to shrug off the fear of public speaking and stand up and profess what I know and have learned. It's within the mistakes that the fuel for what I do is supplied. Maybe in a way I'm trying to atone for the hardships I created by giving as many people understanding so future mistakes might be avoided for others.
In the end of the Linda chapter I stated that I hoped that someday Linda would come up to me and say, "Hi, do you remember me?" but I know this is never going to happen. After all, it was half-a lifetime ago. For some people they have the luxury of being able to move on. In the original version of my book my dad wrote, "The chance encounter was like two ships running into each other in the night. It took a long time to recover from the collision." Maybe I haven't fully recovered yet. I still fear being alone and making the same mistakes but at the same time I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing without the pain.
Linda is out there, somewhere in this world and is probably oblivious to the impact she had on me. Last time we communicated I was still an aspiring race car driver but if she watches the news, or any race at all, my name has never been mentioned. To her I was an aspiring driver who never made it and that, to her, would seem to be the end of the story. What she doesn't know is that she was part of the formula that got me off the race track and on the track to race to raise awareness and understanding about the autism spectrum. It's amazing the impact someone can have in your life even when they've been out of it for so long, but they can and the best thing I can do to honor the memory of those days in Minneapolis is to keep doing what I'm doing and that's exactly what I am going to do.