Yesterday was pool day. An outing. Fun.
When we got there, I swam alone.
I always swim alone.
The pool is overwhelming.
I practiced my dolphin kick. Practicing to swim in a mermaid tail. I pretended I was a children's performer, coming out of the water to wave and pretending I didn't need to come up for air. I imagined myself swimming in a tank. I practiced sitting in the shallow lip of the pool, testing to see if there was room for a mermaid tail.
And then I was done. I didn't swim for more than a half hour or an hour. I was in-and-out of the pool. I didn't want to force myself to swim longer just so I could look like I was having fun at the pool. Like everyone else. I didn't stay in the water to avoid well-intentioned questions, only to pay for it later with exhaustion.
I was done.
Pressure to look normal.
Pressure to be social.
Pressure to have "fun."
I was trying to self-regulate. I was calculating my "spoons." I had a friend coming over later; I wanted to save some spoons for that. I didn't want to wear myself down.
I walked around the pool for fifteen minutes, talking to myself, up on my toes, hopping, stimming, "dancing." I walked until I was dry.
My friends meant well.
They wanted to "rescue" me from boredom.
They waved me over to the water. I shook my head politely.
They begged. They bartered. They pleaded. They haggled.
We could just swim in the shallow end.
We could just sit on the steps.
I tried to say it politely: I'm done. All done. I signed it: [done]. No, thank you. I'm already dry.
That's why you need to get wet!
I don't want to get wet.
We can just go sit in the kiddy pool.
Well, okay... that was okay. I guess. It was quiet; there were almost no people; it was far away from the commotion of the main pool; it was shallow; there was shade; and we could just sit. I wanted to be a good friend. They wanted me to be in the water. Good friends make their friends happy.
She got in the water and swam around at our feet. She splashed me.
She splashed me. I was already dry. She splashed me.
I cringed. I didn't say anything. Good friends don't complain. She didn't do it on purpose. Good friends don't say anything. That's making a scene. Good friends don't make a scene.
My bottom hurt from the hot concrete, and the grainy dirt and rocks, and the little dimples in the cement.
"Let's go get in the pool."
No, thank you.
No, I'm done. No, I'm done. All done. Too many people.
"Pleeeeease? We can go in the deep end you can practice your dolphin kick. Look, there's hardly any people there."
No. Too many people. Too loud. Too much. Too much going on over there.
They begged. They pleaded. They bartered. They haggled.
I got up and walked away.
I did not feel good.
My legs were wet. They were itchy. They were wet.
I walked around the pool. I did not dance. I trudged. On my toes, but I trudged. Exhaustion.
I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting behind a chair, under a towel, singing, rocking, and making cat noises. Meowing.
And then I had to keep it together for three hours of friendship at home.
Don't do this to your Autistic friend.