The curtains are drawn. “Good Morning,” my mother says as the golden hues of the sun reach my eyes.
“Abababab,” I reply, covering my face with the duvet.
Mom pulls off the blanket, saying, “You have school today.”
Another half-day to be spent in front of the laptop! What a waste of time.
I go to the washroom, splash cold water on my face and smile when I see Riya.
The nanny ties the apron to my neck as I make a face at the bowl of Quinoa on the table.
“Abababab,” I protest. I don’t like Quinoa.
“Eat your food, dear,” Mom says.
Mom doesn’t understand my language. I am different, as relatives and strangers keep on saying.
I am hungry. I glance at Riya, who looks back with understanding. We pick up our spoons and start eating.
I am more interested in Riya than Quinoa. My only friend in the world is charming with her round face, short curly hair, and twinkling eyes.
At the moment, her chin is smeared with Quinoa, and most of her pink polka dot apron is covered with yellow. Quite a mess.
“Let me feed you before you waste any more food,” the nanny says soon after.
Riya shrugs. I sigh. Adults don’t allow children to make mistakes.
I cover my ears with my hands as the morning prayer streams through the laptop.
“The volume is loud,” the female class educator advises the male one. I sit back with folded hands as the sound becomes bearable.
I see my fellow classmates in separate windows on the screen. Education confined to eleven inches devices is the norm now.
Suddenly Riya’s face appears at one of the Zoom windows. She pouts her lips and teases me from different angles.
“Riya, pay attention,” the educator shouts.
We sit still for the rest of the class duration.
The world outside is dark, even as my mother remains busy working in the opposite corner of the room.
“Abababab,” I say, wanting to talk to her.
“Are you hungry, dear?” the nanny asks, even as my mother is unmoved.
I throw one of my dolls into Mom’s corner. It hits her laptop.
Mom finally gets up from her chair, only to shout, “You naughty girl! Let me work.”
I start bawling. My sobs bring Dad out from the other room.
He tilts my body to the other side.
“Look here,” he says. “Riya is a good girl.”
I take my hands off my eyes and look in front. Riya’s charming face stares back at me, this time with moistened eyes.
I touch the cheeks of the one person in the world with all the time for me.
Soon I forget my woes and flap my hands.
Mom’s words reach my ears. “She does love herself so. Thank God for the mirrors.”
Life is a lot less lonely when you learn to befriend yourself.
I get busy with my favourite person, no longer interested in the grownup world.
The preference to look at themselves in the mirror instead of making eye contact with someone else is a common trait of autistic children when overwhelmed with outside stimuli. The story is a fictional and imaginative attempt to understand their special world.
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