Not anymore.

You see, when you play Poke the Autie, or tease or bully me, as far as I’m concerned it came out of left field. I had no way of seeing it coming. Until then, all our interactions were friendly, or so I thought. We interacted at work, we chatted at the Christmas party. Everything was good.

Other colleagues shake their heads if I tell them this. It was obvious to them, apparently.

But not to me.

And the problem is, if I continue to be your friend, I won’t be able to predict the next time, or the next time, or the time after that. And what at first felt like betrayal, in the end, just makes me hate myself for being an idiot. For being disabled. For not being able to read people and see this shit coming.

So you played Poke the Autie. And you thought it was funny. And now you can’t understand why I’m monosyllabic around you, why I don’t stop to chat, why I extricate myself from conversations when you join them. Of course, you’re probably relieved. You’ve been trying to smack down the weirdo for months. You just didn’t expect it to be this obvious that it had worked.

See, the thing is, I have empathy, but I don’t think it’s quite like yours. Once you do this shit, it switches off. Once I get over the meltdown, and the anxiety, and the distress, I realise I no longer feel anything about you. Not friendship, not sympathy, not even mild interest. Click. Gone.

I don’t think this is autism per se. I think it’s a knock on effect, the way I’ve had to become in order to protect myself, in order not to live in constant fear that the people I think are my friends will suddenly and without warning turn on me. Because autism is already a high anxiety state, and I don’t need any more. In fact, I can’t cope with any more.

And I do still dream about having a friend who won’t do this, who accepts me for who I am, who can resist all those little temptations that neurotypicals seem to be surrounded by and treat me like a human being, an autistic human being.

But I don’t hold my breath.