top of page

Breath & Shadow

Spring 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 4

"Sad Exchange"

written by

Nina Fosati

When he gets like this, she equates it to having an epileptic fit. The stimulus crashes and burns across his synapses triggering an automatic, involuntary response. He can’t stop or control it. The angry words spill out of him in response to the sounds and light stabbing into him. He feels like a tiger has grabbed hold of his head, biting into his brain and shaking his whole body with savage intent. His reaction is the automatic fight for self-preservation.


It’s unfortunate the NT world thinks he’s behaving like an asshole. In the Aspergers Universe, she’s referred to as an NT, a neurotypical female, married now for thirty-five years to an Aspie. It has taken its toll. It has cost her regarding accommodation, acquiescence to his individual needs.


To be able to function in the world, he needs his life, his home to be a certain way, particular to his needs and interests. For long years, she has lived under this regime, but now she is waking up. Now she is writing her stories down, and she is inching closer to her old NT self.


To survive, she has turned her receptors down to mute. She has lived so long in silence it is now the norm. Today, though, the receptors spit and flicker, blaze into her awareness. She vaguely remembers these silent conversations.


The scene runs like this.


The husband sits next to her, FOX News playing on the large flat-panel TV mounted on the wall. Its pulsing graphics and punishing sound assault him. He directs his displeasure at her. The entire waiting room can hear. She knows nothing can stop him. No words will calm him. He’s in the grip of an automatic response. Nothing but silence will end it.


Her receptors are firing as well. A man sits, waiting to see the doctor. He looks directly at her, and unexpectedly, she knows he’s thinking: “Damn, you are a fine looking woman.”


She thinks, “Well, you’re not so bad yourself.”


She glances at her husband. He is sputtering with frustration with the onslaught of sensation prickling and poking him. She wishes she could help him. She wishes it didn’t jangle and warp him so. She wishes he could let the extra stimulation bounce off him like a normal person, instead of sucking it into him like electricity. She wishes he would shut up.


She glances at the man with the silent voice, who raises his eyebrow, smiles a little half-smile and says, “I’d love to sit here and flirt with you for a while. I’m sorry the mister you are with is such a jerk.”


“I’d love to flirt back, but you see how it is.”


He does see. Probably far more than she wants.


She thinks about the scene later. Long ago she abandoned these silent conversations; these exchanges that happen with subtle micro-expressions, minute changes in body language, the tiniest variations in the face. She has muted them for so long it seems as if she suddenly walked into a room filled with sound. The force of its return smacks and slams into her. It’s startling. Oh yes, now she remembers, most of the world lives in this land of silent communication. She has turned down the frequency trying to protect her marriage. She knows she finds the noise too seductive a contrast to the silent world of home.


Her husband knows something has passed under his perception. He stares at her face, searching, trying to read the hidden meaning he knows she’s transmitting, but his circuits can't decipher the message. She is an NT living in his silent world.

Nina suggests you track down the song Sad Exchange by “Finger Eleven.” She considers it an interesting counterpoint to her story. Every five years, when she mails the official form to her doctor, she wonders what her primary damage will be. This year, Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy earned her a handicapped hangtag and a card carrying claim to being disabled. In truth, any number of conditions would have served. You can follow Nina on Facebook or check out her website at

bottom of page