Nate’s New Normal: A Day in the Life (Chapter One)

“Nate’s New Normal: A Day in the Life”

My name is Nate. Actually my name is Nathaniel after a famous American, I am told. Nate just sounds better to me and to those around me. “Those around me” include my younger brother Ted, named for Edward M. Kennedy who is four – not Senator Kennedy who passed away – but Ted. Also included are my mother Nancy and father Brian, both named for their grandparents.
This Nathaniel was a prodigious writer and Renaissance Man. I am neither, but there’s time since I’m only twelve. I go to a ‘special department’ in my school, and it’s not necessary to drag out all the ‘short bus’ jokes you know, because I walk the few blocks from my home to Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School. Yep you got it!
I want to tell you a little about the classes I take before I go any further. Thanks to the small city I live in, Santa Monica California, there are numerous facilities for a boy like me: that is, a boy who is a mathematics whiz and currently testing post-graduate levels, reader but not sharer of what was read, artist of some acclaim although nobody but me seems to know what I’m doing with the watercolor painting that I enjoy the most.
Now back to that first appellation – the math geek: it is quite expensive to educate and raise in general a boy like me. Understand that I believe I am absolutely normal – until I look around and see the other kids in my classes. Well, okay, you can throw in the teachers and the cafeteria lady whose name is Myrtle and is probably my best friend at school. I work for a puzzle company that my father heard about in his job as a newspaper reporter. So I am stoked that I can contribute some money for my education and for my family. I find great comfort in the fact that my dad reminds me constantly that both HE and I are odd-men out, since newspapers seem to be dying in the ever-expanding world of the Internet, and I am what is commonly known as autistic.
This is a silly determinant for a twelve-year-old who reads mathematics, algebra, trig, calculus and is now dipping his toe into physics. Just my opinion, you understand. How many other twelve-year-olds do you know who have a paying job while going to middle school? I mean a really high-paying gig – I test puzzles. All kinds of puzzles – number puzzles, really any kind of puzzle that involves numerical theories or practice. I am even going to interview with some guy from the federal government who thinks I might be a good employee to test their number puzzles.
You see, and this is really important to me: I live in my own world most of the time. That does not mean that I am stupid, aloof or disinterested. It just means that the connector between me and others is frayed, like a rope. Not broken but you have to be careful with it until you figure out how to reweave the rope so it’s stronger. That’s the way Myrtle explains it to me and to anybody else who’ll listen. She has a son who is in the same predicament as me. He is all grown up now and has a job with an IT firm. If you work at an IT firm it’s pretty much you and the equipment you know; there isn’t so much a need for talking to other people and you can get a lot more accomplished as well. Notice that I say I am in a predicament – that’s all. In my world the sun shines brightly, the palm trees sway in the breeze at the beach, dogs bark and kittens mew. It’s not all that different. I just have difficulty maintaining enough contact to have a conversation with another person.
Here’s my predicament in a nutshell: if, and I am guarded about that ‘if’, I can get that connector to work as well as other kids, will I lose my super-abilities which matter to me so much? This is a quandary. I mull possible answers to this question several times a day. Is it worth it for me to give up my puzzle-jobs so that I can chat with the girl who sits next to me in biology? Her name is Angie, and I believe she is quite pretty. I believe this because I see and hear what the other guys say about her. I have never spoken to Angie, but I look at her and she looks back at me and smiles. I think next week I may smile back at her. We’re going to dissect rats next week and it seems like a perfectly normal thing to do, to smile back at her.
I have problems with this ‘normal’ thing, as you may have figured out. I do not know what the word means. I have looked up the word in all kinds of dictionaries and encyclopedias online. There seem to be as many definitions of the word ‘normal’ as there are people who are writing about it. It makes my head ache and I must eat supper. Nancy, my mom, is really nice about supper. I should mention a few words about that. I eat my supper in a special plate that has sections in it. Nancy and I found these plates at the 99-cent store of all places. After I picked it out, I pulled an extra one out for my brother Ted. They are hard plastic and have several colors in each of the sections. I like to eat that way, with the food separated. Ted tries to copy me, but he gets all of his food mixed up together, so he has green beans sticking out of his mashed potatoes and pudding where the meat should be. Nancy says that is normal for a four-year-old. There’s that word again.
After dinner I have homework and some exercises that I do on the computer. I must tell you this though – most of the ‘games’ on the computer are not as good as the ones in my head. This is the main reason that I want to work with others to fix that frayed rope of communication. I have to be able to explain what I want to do! What I want to create and what I want to do with my life. I’m at that age you know where I should be thinking about these things. Is that possibly what is meant by ‘normal’? Maybe that is my new normal. In other words, not the ‘normal’ that other people think is normal, but my very own new normal. Somehow I think that Ted would like that, since he loves to play games and likes to have books read to him. Nancy and Brian would like it because they could talk to me and I could answer better and they wouldn’t worry. I know they worry. Myrtle would like it because she wouldn’t have to say “Use your words, Nate” instead of my pointing to whatever I want to eat. And last, I think that Angie would like it, because I’m afraid that she isn’t going to like rat dissection very much without her partner whispering comforting words.
Must go now. Nancy is getting ready to read us a story before Brian takes us up for bath and bed. Horton Hears a Who is the story tonight. Ted laughs and laughs about that story. I think tonight I am going to smile.

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