Actually Autistic Moment of the Day: “of”

I only have a few memory-fragments from before my earliest full memory, my realization that I was gay (when I was three, maybe an early four, years old); of these fragments, the most prominent concerns the word ‘of’.

What a weird, duplicitous word. My young mind marveled over it. When the first syllable of ‘over’ sounds like ohv– and ‘of’ sounds like ov. And dove is spelled like dove, not dof! I have a fragment of memories of that word flashing in my brain: a brighter white throwing shade against a duller white, ‘of’ outlined in radiant shadow.

Connected to this thought is an accessory image of doves. Of and doves remain connected in my mind to this day.

I think I was in the backseat of a car, seems like it was a Grand Am sort of car. We were driving down the road. Was there anyone in the passenger seat? Was it only my grandma in the car? Was it even my grandma driving, or the family that briefly adopted me, or is it an even earlier memory?

The f was distinctly lowercase, a curving sanguine arch, set after an o only half its size.



It’s the earliest linguistic conundrum I can recall contemplating, it may be the earliest thought I can remember having, and ever since then this thought has remained flying around in my head. Occasionally even now I scoff at ‘of’ and its ludicrous spelling. Off should be of, of should be ov. [heavy-shade-throwing eye roll here at the language called English!]

It came up way before I had had any notion of how languages worked, that there were other languages I hadn’t heard, that phonetic languages aren’t necessarily that phonetic, that the system I was working through was actually a complex system of systems…

I can still see that word in my mind as I saw it over thirty years ago (as I badly managed to illustrate it in the image above).

Maybe I said something about it, maybe not. Probably it was just laughed off, if I did. I suspect I probably never said anything about it to anyone. If I’m gauging the timing right it wasn’t even a year yet since I’d found myself uprooted a second time from a foster family into my grandma’s care, or else just after the one-year anniversary of that transition. I don’t have memories of interactions with people among the other early fragments, so I can’t say whether or not I was talkative or if I was acutely silent from the shock of two separations.

But for the me who’s coming to recognize my neuroqueer identity badly named ‘autism,’ this one moment is so revelatory: I’m #actuallyAutistic. My mind moves in imagery, abstractions and systems, yet for all that generalization, I fixate on detail, down to the protons, electrons and neutrons of whatever I’m working through. I’m hyperlexic. I abhor inaccuracy.

Many of the skills I rely on every day are there in that one extremely early moment. In a way, it is a perfect memory, a kind of oasis from among the earliest darkness, a seemingly anodyne moment that shows me already searching for control in a world of continual trauma and for well-ordered systems and stability itself against a terrible turbulence.

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