The ride to the office was quiet, aside from her occasional screeching. She would say things that didn’t make sense. She asked questions that didn’t need answering. It was a lovely day, as we passed the rocky hills of the pacific coast. I watched the road, and dreamed of hearing the words that would change my life. I dreamed that there would be an answer, finally, at the end of this long road. I no longer held out hope though; it was just a silly dream. The years of struggling had long since killed it, the way she had killed her father. The road seemed as though it would wind on forever before I spotted the sign.
“Jerry Staller, Pediatrician & Child Neurologist.”
I sighed, and pretended to read a magazine. She stares deeply and intently toward the floor, as though she were trying to solve it. She is my flesh and blood, my DNA. She might as well be me. She is so strange though; so very different from who I am or who I’ve been. I was a normal child. I ran around, I jumped and laughed and cried. She stalks about the house like a ghost, ashamed of having to haunt you. I can’t look into her eyes without seeing disappointment.
“Your daughter is perfectly healthy. I see no reason to believe she suffers from autism or any other ailment.”
“Then she is simply burdened?”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand your meaning.”
“Look at her. The weight of the world rests atop those shoulders.”
“Is everything alright, Manal? Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes. Everything is alright. Everything is fucking grand. My child lives in a bubble of her own thoughts and creations, oblivious to others, or simply disinterested in them. What could possibly be wrong? You know what the worst part is though? Do you know what the worst fucking part is? I don’t like her. I don’t love her. I don’t like seeing her everyday.”
“Uh… I don’t…”
“And I fucking hate myself for feeling that way.”
It was the first time I had ever admitted it, but it had crossed my mind many times before. Everyday. Everyday, since she was born. My instincts never showed through. That intangible thing that causes you to love your offspring, no matter what, that blind spot for all their faults; I didn’t have it. I just had unmet expectations and a life of servitude to this terrible being who is needier than most, while she stares off into the fucking ether.
Tears ran down my eyes as I stared out over the cliffs and we drove home.