Friday, November 5, 2010

The Long Lasting Effects of an Unfinished Sentence

Yesterday I drove to Quincy, Illinois to give a presentation at the TouchPoint Piece by Piece Conference. The drive is about 2.5 hours long and for some reason yesterday, as soon as I left town, my mind began to reconstruct an event that happened four years ago.

This event four years ago may have made it into my book, or maybe I wrote it in my 2nd book. Whatever the case it's affecting me now so I will write about it now.

Last week was the four year anniversary of an event that many people loathe. I actually was looking forward to it as I was jobless so it was a great thrill when I got called to jury duty. I mean, I was jobless and I didn't leave the house much and this summons to be on jury duty was, well, a rush! To go from doing nothing to being part of the American Justice System was an event that I highly looked forward. Add on top the fact that during this time I was fixated on John Grisham novels and, well, I was counting down the days.

When the day came I didn't really know what to expect. Would there be thrills? Yelling lawyers? Cameras? Quickly I learned that I was grateful I brought a book because there were no thrills, or cameras, and only grumpy lawyers and that waiting is an art form. Wait, wait, and wait some more was the order of the day.

I understand the way the jury selection process is done and I knew I wasn't going to be on a jury being number 99 out of 99, and then 87 out of 88 in the two courtrooms I saw. However, this blog is not about waiting, or the American Justice system, but rather what happened during a short break in the first courtroom I was in.

I was seated on the bench in the hall during an argument between the prosecutor and lawyer (somehow the prosecutor did a major no-no and the case just about got dismissed... before the trial even began!) and as I was seated I heard a conversation to the left of me. "Yeah, bowling is fun and I work with this gal that bowls two times a week. Where do I work? I work at..."

After hearing the same place of employment as Emily (she's mentioned several times on my blog and if you see my presentation she is the one that I broke up with on Christmas via text message to see if she still liked me. Oops!) I asked this person if she was talking about Emily. I had not spoken with Emily since May of 2004 and the date when this happened was October 2006. Needless to say I was somewhat anxious to hear how she was doing.

The person who knew Emily asked me how I knew her and I said I used to be her boyfriend. What happened next can only be understood if you have even seen someone hear the most revolting thing in the world and then see their reaction because that's what this person did. Instantly the smile went to a shocked expression and a look of utter distaste. She stared at me for a second as if I were the plague, and then she said, "OH! I've heard about yooooooooou!" (truly she said you for two seconds!)

I had to ask, "What does that" and before I could conclude that sentence the bailiff shouted, "Everyone back into the courtroom!"

I so badly wanted to know what type of horrible stuff was said about me because I never realized the impact I had up to that point. I was in the midst of finishing my first book, but writing about the emotional impact, and seeing someone's reaction to me in their presence was totally different. I know I have said I have trouble judging people's emotions, but there was no confusing her look of being in a state of shock. If anything her facial expression was one that said, "Oh my God! You're real?!"

As the jury selection whittled down the coworker of Emily's was released and I was unable to say anything else to her or hear anything else. My unfinished sentence would remain forever unfinished. I never would know why I brought about such a response from her. You may think that hearing the truth would have been worse, but for me the unfinished question with the answer that couldn't be given is far worse because it is up to my processing part of my brain to try and comprehend what the answer could be.

To this day I still struggle with that look her coworker gave me. Did she know the whole truth, or just parts of it? Or, was there a different boyfriend? But if that's the case why did she say and stress, "yoooooooooou?"

After the horse incident of 2008 ( I talked to her on the phone and during the eight minute conversation I wanted to ask her about the coworkers comments, but I never got the confidence to do so and that probably was a good thing as maybe hen there would be more than just one coworker that knows about "meeeeeeeeeee".

I will probably play out what happened in that courtroom hall for a long time to come. I started yesterday and have been doing so non stop and as this blog entry proves I am still thinking about it. I wish the common saying of, "time heals all wounds" applied to me. Events like this one are as tender now as it was when it first happened. If I only knew why I was the plague in the coworkers eyes then perhaps I may not be playing out all the possible reasons. In any case I do find it amazing just how much power one comment and one unfinished sentence has had in my life.


  1. Um, Aaron HELLO?! You DUMPED Emily on CHRISTMAS via a TEXT message! I don't think, Dear, that you needed to do anything else in the relationship beyond that to have that coworker look at you unfavorably.

  2. Anonymous may be right, but they are still rude. As someone on the spectrum, relationships are a little different for you. Also, as someone who is not on the spectrum, that unfinished sentence would haunt me as well. Just know that when everything happened with Emily you were a different person. And you won't break up with another girl on Christmas day via text, right? :)

  3. Oh... Wow... That's why I always try to end a conversation, especially unfinished sentences. If someone can finish a subject/conversation/sentence/word, some more explanation can be given and a lot of hassle can be prevented.
    Furthermore, I agree with Kim.

  4. Anonymous, you are very, very wrong. First off, the coworker assumed Emily not only to be correct but also completely knowledgeable of all circumstances.

    Now, I'll tell you something from the other side. Last year, December 30th, my now ex-wife broke up with me and let's assume it was coincidence that the process started after my asperger's diagnosis was made. At some point so started to distance herself from me and let's assume it a coincidence that it was at the same time she started to be with someone else. I might not be great at interpreting the social signals but at analyzing you can't really beat me. Come christmas and I gave her a present, at that time unaware of what she had been up to, including that she had been planning to break up with me for a few months. You know how it feels to kiss your wife on christmas and meeting a brick wall so cold no particle moves? (that's 0 Kelvin)

    When I added the odds and ends and had a clear picture of what had happened, did I express disgust? Mind you, I was involved and a victim here. Did I try to take everything from her including the kids (oh, yes, we have 2 kids). Nope, I was and still am civil to the point I cut off all contact with my mother after some really nasty incident.
    The coworker had no right and her actions cannot be defended by a thinking person. Sending a text message was not a good idea but really, it is a very minor thing. Assuming Emily told the coworker what happened and didn't add other things, true or untrue, into the mix, it was a very immature reaction by someone who has a personality with the depth of a dollar bill.

  5. I am glad to see Aaron's followers come to his defense. Truly that was my intention as I feel that Aaron has beat himself up over this issue for too many years now. Thank you followers for showing Aaron that his followers care about him as much as he cares about us!

  6. This is an experience our neurotypical counterparts have also, but they generally should handle it better than people with autism. What I have learned from my OT peers is that if these moments happen, then I will wrap up with some sort of sentence such as "see you later", "I will talk to you later", "I will catch you after (insert event here)". I have used that with regularity and I eventually will get my question answered even though I have no guarantee when I will see the person next time.

    I read another autism blog about the importance of social scripts. Well, wrapping up a conversation and trying to continue it later REQUIRES a social script.