Pure Story

‘You have Asperger’s Syndrome.’

The woman in the bar made my head turn. Your correspondent is checking his emails over a pint of Czech Bud when she makes this observation. ‘Sorry?’

‘You have Asperger’s. But don’t worry,’ she said, ‘it’s not gonna affect you.’

It’s not often someone sees right through you, and it made me disorientated and afraid. We talked a little. She told me that she did have Asperger’s syndrome plus learning difficulties and a support worker. I explained that I’d been tested for the condition as a primary school child because of my echolalia habit. If you said something to me, I’d repeat it back. I never found out the conclusions of that test and my parents didn’t mention this to me until twenty years later when it came up during breakdown numero uno. I was angry at the time but now I think they made the right decision. It’s not good to grow up labelled, and to have a convenient excuse for your failures and mistakes.

The question of whether or not I have this autistic spectrum disorder has never been resolved and I suspect it never will be. My therapist, a intelligent and practical woman who saved my life, told me that you can find just about anyone on these spectrums. So I’ll probably never know and it probably doesn’t matter. Perhaps it’s best for some things in your life to remain unexamined mysteries.

In two days I’ll be twenty-eight – as Alabama 3 said, ‘one more step towards the grave, you know the box.’ Thing is I started thinking semi-seriously about mortality at the age of nineteen or so. I expected this feeling to intensify with the passing years but instead it’s dissipating like snow in sunshine. You still dwell on life’s impermanence but without the same urgency. Maybe because there’s so much going on that boredom is a luxury.

I can’t believe it’s been over two years since I started this blog! Two years of unreasonable attacks on various writers and politicians, mixed with ill-advised confessional autobiography and shameless promotions of my fiction and criticism. I started the weblog as an outlet for my own obsessions about what was happening in political debate; as time’s gone by it has begun to mean a little more to me than that.

Things are going a great deal better for me than they were this time last year. I feel little or no anxiety. The move to South Manchester has given me opportunities to explore more of this amazing city of ours.  I even love my new job at JLB Credit and it’s good to have some certainty about where the next rent cheque is coming from. I’m still writing, continuously, at every conceivable opportunity – that novella I talked about has colonised most weekday evenings. I feel that, like Lucky Jim, I may yet be of use to somebody.

Michel Houellebecq introduced his 2005 novel, The Possibility of an Island, by crediting its existence to a Berlin journalist called Harriet Wolff. ‘Before putting her questions to me,’  he wrote, ‘Harriet wanted to recount a little fable.’ For Wolff. the following summed up Houellebecq as a novelist. I think it can be applied to anyone who writes online.

I am in a telephone box, after the end of the world. I can make as many telephone calls as I like, there is no limit. I have no idea if anyone else has survived, or if my calls are just the monologues of a lunatic. Sometimes the call is brief, as if someone has hung up on me; sometimes it goes on for a while, as if someone is listening with guilty curiosity. There is neither day nor night; the situation is without end.

Welcome to eternal life, Harriet.

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