In ninth grade, I asked my psychologist for a diagnosis, and I did it because I wanted to be told where I belonged. I had a way of seeking out this world's yeses and nos, black and white, rights or wrongs, and nothing in between. It made me happy when, after so many years of wondering, my test result came back not "maybe," not "somewhere in between," but "positive," for Asperger's Syndrome. I wasn't supposed to understand people. I wasn't imagining that my brain worked differently than most of the people I knew. The peace that came with that felt like falling into bed after a long, loud day spent with friends and non-friends, and remembering that you wouldn't have to talk to anyone for an entire weekend now, falling into the heaviest but most relieved kind of sleep. And I might have slept. I might have stopped trying to make sense of people, if...
There weren't, scattered like Lily pads through the waters of my mind, moments. Moments of laughter, of knowing, of ease. The kind of ease that, from what I understood, someone like me wasn't supposed to experience. But I had them. Sometimes, I thought the universe had gotten mixed up by giving them to me, but I took them, and I loved them.
In tenth grade, we were asked to create art pieces that represented some aspect of our lives. I made a miniature balance beam. I decorated one side entirely in black and white, with newspapers, stepping stones, and the division flashcards I treasured as a child. The figure standing on the balance beam held a victory pose, but...
In eleventh grade, I got so, so tired of walking that beam. Of being pulled back and forth between the sides, of falling off sometimes, but never settling.
In twelfth grade, as we all made plans for keeping in touch after high school was over, I realized once again how I had so very many friends from so very many groups, although most were not close friends. The mark of someone who never, ever fell off the beam and landed in the same place as last time. The mark of someone who didn't belong somewhere specific.
"You know something," one of my friends said to me one night, "You might be the only person I have ever met who has invited cheerleaders and choir kids to hang out with you at the same time, and had it actually work well. How do you even do that? You're like some little bridge or something." I still didn't get it. I thought that couldn't possibly be true, because if a bridge picked a side, the way I wanted to, it would collapse.
On our last day of high school, the teachers stood in two rows facing each other, reaching towards each other to make a tunnel that all of us ran through. I was thinking about how a balance beam divides two sides, but a bridge connects them, and that maybe, in that tenth grade art project that was still sitting in a box under my bed, I should rotate the balance beam ninety degrees, and I should let the figurine take a seat right on it and breathe for a while.