Selective Mutism in Autistic People Isn’t Called Selective Mutism—It’s Called a “Facet of Autism” and Doesn’t Get a Name

Sepia tone photograph of a lone bird sitting on a power line.

By Elizabeth Patrick
I want to write a poem on the back of the speeding ticket given to me Friday morning on my way to work. Though I wasn’t in a hurry and had nowhere to be until noon, the cop told me he had to be strict on this stretch of highway. He said he’d give me a break, write me up for going ten miles over instead of fourteen. I wanted to tell him it was a slap in the face to ruin twelve years of clean driving just for going ten miles over the speed limit on the interstate.  But I didn’t.

* * * * *

Big bubble, little bubble, a friend told me once. She was explaining what I think my face reveals versus what actually appears there. She drew it out for me on a legal pad: two circles of absurdly disproportionate size.  Big bubble, little bubble explained why no one paid any mind to my moods, why my obvious displeasure towards watching sad movies, speaking in public, or the gaseous aftertaste of cucumbers all went unnoticed, why the pleasure I felt towards holding hands and having philosophical discussion on the subtleties of language all went unrepeated. She loved me most because she was the only one who understood me.  However, I knew she meant that I couldn’t be loved by anyone but her. My facial features would never even speak against her.

* * * * *

I keep the ticket in a drawer, sharp ink that censures and cuts when I change my socks. I wear sandals now.  I sometimes flip the ticket over, smooth and blank as my face. I flatten it against the top of my dresser so the corners look less mussed, the crease down its center less defined. It is waiting for my words. I wish I had the kind of handwriting people couldn’t read so they maybe wouldn’t know, they wouldn’t know I have nothing to say at all. ( sentence.)


Author Biography

Elizabeth Patrick is an MFA-candidate in Eastern Washington University’s creative writing program and managing editor of Willow Springs Books. Eternally on vacation, she lives in a camper in a small town in Idaho with her dog.

Visual Artist Biography

Kati Zamani is an MFA student at Chapman University and an assistant editor at Anastamos. She graduated from University of California, Irvine with a BA in English Literature and an emphasis in Latin. She specializes in nonfiction.

1 Comment
  • Jane Snyder
    April 7, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    This was so powerful. Each sentence was a surprise yet inevitable.

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