Try as I might, I can’t find anyone in my life who’ll tell me not to write. I keep reading about memorists who have complete family holocausts from their writing, breakups, stale-mates, therapy sessions with declarations of disinheritances and threats of lawsuits.
I ask my husband, “Do you care if I write about your infidelity?” He was quiet. “It’s totally up my alley of material. It’s all over everything in my history.”
“Write,” he says. “You should write more.”
He texted me three days later. “What can I do to help you get time to write. You should write.”
Even my mother-in-law tells me, “You’re a good writer Kelli. When you write Claudio, I hear his voice exactly.”
I think my husband is Aspergers. Has Aspergers? I’m not sure of the way to phrase it. He has told me not to call him that, but he’ll allow me to write it. I don’t understand why I can’t call him this. After his affair came out, after I filed for divorce,I then dragged his sorry ass to therapists galore. We’ve had three marital counselors call him “Alien,” one Hollywood coach call him a “Sociopath,” and one married couple therapist stopped us mid-session and said to me, “Kelli, you should divorce right now. You should leave him this second.”
I always called ahead before our sessions to “prep” the therapists, told these therapists I thought he was an Aspie, and the response was always the same: “Every woman thinks her husband is Aspie.” I was sick of Los Angeles therapists, so we flew to Texas and did twenty-seven hours straight with the author of one of a self-help book about emotionally unavailable men.
On the last day of our back-to-back sessions she sent Claudio to the waiting room and told me to read every book on Asperger’s, on marriage between Aspie and Neurotypicals, or NTs. Normies. Eighty seven percent of NT/Aspie marriages fail, compared to the usual fifty percent of Normie marriages. She told me she wasn’t sure, but he seemed Aspie-ish. She said loving him would require me to focus on the positive, to understand his brain isn’t like other people, to find what is worthwhile and special, and also to learn to take care of my own needs in a way I might not in a NT marriage. She told me not to tell him about this, but rather to just sit with it and learn everything I can.
Then she said, “Don’t you think Claudio is worth saving?”
I remember the shock of that query. Saving? Did she mean to not just throw him away because of his two-year long affair? People are not disposable, is that what she meant? I took vows, for better or worse? The question froze my brain. Saving? I have approximately 3,295 books opposing the notion of saving someone. I attend 12-step groups unfolding the octopus enrapturement of codependency. I am no one’s savior. Save his own damn self, I thought.
I read the Aspie books. I wept alone. I grieved. I watched him like he was my science experiment. I was horrified-—what could be so broken in me that I’d choose an Aspie when I had the pick of the litter?
Then I remembered years ago telling Claudio that if ever he died, I would go hunting at Cal Tech for my next husband-—gonna get myself a rocket man, and realized with my newfound knowledge that the ratio of Aspie to NT on that campus must be abominable as a snowman.
Last night Claudio told me, “I started crying today Kelli. I don’t know how to do any of this. I’m so confused.”
I had earplugs in.
“What’d you say?” I’d been annoyed at him for two days. I pulled in, turtle like, not silent treatment, but not dancing for him anymore.
“I don’t know how to do any of this. I’m always failing you.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to fix him, to swoop in with mothering words. I just sat quietly, which is so unlike me.
Finally I said, “What do you mean?”
“You seem so mad at me.”
“I’m not mad. I’m just-—I’m trying to figure out how to be married to you.”
“You say that and I think you’re leaving.”
“Nope. I’m just thinking about what’s mine and how to be happy. It’s hard.”
“I got weepy today,” he said.”Thinking about you”
He never used to say things like this to me. He never used to cry. We also never used to fight, until all we did was fight. He cries sometimes now. He’ll burst out, like something held in for decades and say, “Kelli, you might feel it’s a good idea to leave me, but it’s not. Please don’t ever leave me.”
I gave him an online test for Asperger’s about a month after the Texan told me. She told me Aspies are particularly uninterested in having a diagnosis, and to keep it to myself, but when have I ever been good at keeping a secret?
I had taken the test first, to see if it was accurate. I scored Neurotypical, but with a high percentage of Aspie-like qualities. This didn’t surprise me. I loathe small talk.
He passed the test with flying colors, as I knew he would. Questions like, ‘Do you have odd hair?’, ‘Do you get an urge to jump in front of a moving train?’ ‘Do loved ones find you callus or unfeeling?’ Or Alien, I pointed out.
Each yes he had a quirk, his head turned sideways, a Labrador of curiosity.
I told him his score. He jumped out of bed, went downstairs, and came back in an hour.
“Don’t ever call me that,” he said.
I mostly don’t, but I’ll toss it in a conversation once in a while, a crouton, and sometimes he’ll discuss it briefly, sometimes he gets quiet.
Last night I asked him why he’s so opposed to his Aspergerness. He said, “It means I’m retarded.”
It never occurred to me he’d feel slow, broken, shamed from my internet/Texan therapist diagnosis.
“Is that what you’ve thought? You’re not retarded. You’re an Alien.”
“I don’t want to be retarded.”
He’s never felt so human to me.