Autism, Love & My Friend Billy: A New Epic Myth

"Friends Out of Time." Dark illustration of two elder gentlemen sharing a laugh.

In my autistic world… a friend is a precious thing.

I can’t afford to judge that fragile treasure by status, education, wealth… or what they can do for me.

Johnny Profane Âû, original illustration. A graphic-novel influenced illustration of an elderly gentleman wearing a fedora hat & black sunglasses. It appears he is wearing a mask of himself, the lower half torn off. Mask in warm tons of gold & sepia. Underying face in coll tones of bue & verdigris.
Johnny Profane Âû, original illustration.

NOTE: Some autistic & ADHD folks process reading better, some listening… some both at once. So I include a transcript, podcast, and “pretty” captioned video below. #InclusionMatters.


Friendship is complex for this autistic. There’s Love. There’s #DontGiveAFAnymore… And then… that vast, thorny battlefield between them.


I want to tell you about my friend, Billy. And end with a simple spoken-word memory.

But I feel like I gotta set the scene… which I’ll warn you upfront gets a little gritty. Street talk. The slur, idiot. Drug use. Death…

There’s nothing I craved more in my life than companionship. And the times I found it? My most glorious moments.

Whenever I found ’em. For however long. With WHOever…

The pop myths about autistics aren’t kind…
1. We can’t feel love. Don’t want friends. Lack empathy.
2. We’re hostile. Aggressive. Rigid. Can’t communicate.
3. Don’t feel compassion. In fact…,
4. We. Don’t. FEEL… Full stop.

On Mastodon, my friend @DragonladyCH read this in draft. She adds,

“Then they put us on a pedestal, like a precious gem to be kept in a showcase. As long as we stay there.

And don’t move.”

Article continues below…

YouTube (7:23, with captions)

Captioned to aid audio processing.

TikTok (7:23), if you prefer.

Why do I want to tell new myths? Because all these old ones were written by non-autists. They don’t know me. And I don’t see myself in any of ’em.

So… Those pop culture stereotypes are just their screengrabs off movies & TV. Of problems NON-autistic people have… understanding us.

They see Rainman. Or Elon Musk.

Their myths have no reality for us. They’re ugly distortions… in a funhouse mirror.

Straight society trains us for its goals… A mad dash to max out production, consumption, growth. So pop media teaches straight citizens a treacherous mixed message about us.

The autistic… ALL disabled… are a duty, a burden… and a danger. We get in the way of their goals… BUT we must be coddled & protected. So, we gotta be watched. Cuz who knows how we’ll take advantage. Or when we’ll go off…

Their stereotypes… their myths.

The boxes they give us to squeeze into?

The Deserving Cripple. The Flawed Genius. The Idiot Savant. The Infantile Idiot. The Asshole Next Door…

Notice, not a one of em helps achieve their goals. So like all such prejudices, their myths oppress and imprison us.

See… Most autists don’t feel too little… Most say we feel too much. Too deeply. Too quickly. Easily overwhelmed by intense or prolonged contact.

Ya come to dread criticism, ridicule, judgment. From everyone, everywhere, every time… BIG time in every group.

It’s near universal. We feel we don’t belong. We’re unseen. We’re Other.

Poet William Blake’s a big hero of mine. He felt like an Other. The goals & myths of 18th-century England wrapped him in chains.

So he wrote his own heroic myths. And spoken songs. To throw off those chains…

Here’s one of mine.

Myth #1: My Autistic Goals Are about Respect, Admiration & Joy.

For what I want. For what I do. With who I love.

My life’s been a search for friends. And love… Married three times. Plus 4 multi-year partners…

Most folks seem to place memories around where they lived. I remember my life by who I was with… at the time.

In my world… a friend is a precious thing. Likely to disappear with my next spoken word. I can’t afford to judge that fragile treasure by status, accomplishment, education, wealth… or what they can do for me.

I only know the joy of the shared moment in front of me. Whether I bent elbows with billionaires… as I did… a few years. Or lived with the Homeless… as I did… a few times.

Billy & I had nothing in common. Except our hearts. So, we became friends.

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I call this one, “My Friend Billy.” Cuz he was.

Going on death,
Woke to a frozen world
Where no car crept.
A day no singing bird
Was left alive.
A day another friend
Sighed his last breath.

Polar vortex
Blew thru my trailer.
I wrapped windows in blankets,
Sealed the entries to my life
A bunker in war.
Cranked the oven,
Cracked its door…
Stale air hung like failure.

Settled in for a day alone.
Picked up the phone,
My only open door…
Splashed across its screen
Wars, rumors of wars,
Disasters revealed,
Disasters concealed…
A dying world’s dreams.

I read the news —
Tanker Spews Fuel…
A Politician Lies…
Then —
“Local Man Dies.”

Wind froze my heart.
Another sun sets
That’ll never rise…
Another friend gone
Where I can’t hear his cries…

I wish I were that poet…
Say, Yeats’ sweet voice
Or at least L. Cohen…
Raised in bitter rejoice
To toast your life of rough edges.
But I see you clear —
Tears in your eyes…

How you outraced cops
Across Arizona deserts…
Or burnt a scumbag dealer…
Or how your kid came to be born…

About that woman you loved…
Those kids you missed seeing…
Locked in your room
Picking at scabs…

One bottle at a time.

He lived for love…
He lived for laughs.
He left little more
Than a church full of folks
Who missed him for an hour.

He was Billy.
And now years later…
He won’t leave my autistic mind
And still laffs in my autistic heart
Teaching it to praise.

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Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2 #AutisticAF Out Loud

  1. Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2
  2. Love, Politics & Faking Normal: 3 New Autistic Myths s03e01
  3. #AutisticRave: Group Processing Disorder. It's a Thing.
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