I’ve been trying really hard, the moon watching me trespass outside of myself and into the gloom of the night as I sit next to my dad in the car and photograph streetlights through the screen of my phone, the blur of them mimicking my astigmatism and making the mundane ethereal and glowing orange in the night as we pass through country lanes grown wild with overhanging trees and I am trying not to be afraid.
Panic rises in my throat as readily as bile and I swallow it down. I am new now and this is my third trip out and no missteps, no attacks, I haven’t had to go home. As the night has surrounded me like a cloak I have swallowed the tablets, one blue, two pink, and I have made my way to the supermarket and I have wandered the aisles if not with purpose, then with some kind of desire other than desperation. I browse the shelves and I do not seek salvation in leaving empty handed. I make a point of taking time to weigh my options, but there are many and I become overwhelmed. I stick to simple choices. I forget what I came here for. No matter, there is always tomorrow.
Fear is a trickster demon and it lives in your head and breathes your air and I can feel my lungs getting tighter. I mutter to myself, little nonsense phrases that have people glancing my way but it’s better than the collapse. I pick out the biscuits my mum asked for and I feel proud of myself. I have accomplished something. I am worthwhile. This has not been in vain.
Supermarket car parks have the most beautiful skies and this one is no exception. The moon hangs heavy and the clouds are chubby and thick, lit up by moonglow and almost angelic with it. I take out my phone again and take more photos. It seems important to immortalise being outside. So much of my life isn’t. I want to prove I breathed fresh air. Look! I want to say. Look! I was here in this car park, looking at the moon!
We drive home, astigmatic lights blurring by, and I curl into myself a little smaller, returning home again a little less brave than before, because is this an accomplishment? Is this a victory? It feels hollowed out to call this a win when everyone else was wandering around with their baskets like it was a normal Thursday. To me, it was an event. To them, it was nothing at all. I wonder whose perspective is more accurate. Is there a way to be right here?
Back home, and back to my room, and back to the most stripped back version of myself. Unmasked, and rocking gently to the same six songs on repeat. I scroll through my phone. The photos are still there, the moon, the streetlights, the roundabout that veers suddenly. I existed, however briefly, in the world. Maybe I will again. In a haze, in a blur, in the corner of an eye, I exist.
Charlotte Amelia Poe (they/them) is an autistic nonbinary author from England. Their first book, How To Be Autistic, was published in 2019. Their debut novel, The Language Of Dead Flowers, was published in September 2022. Their second novel, Ghost Towns, was self published in 2023. Their second memoir, (currently untitled), will be published in 2024. Twitter: @charlottepoe Instagram: @smallreprieves Website: charlottepoe.com