Four months of chaos, disorder, sensory assault and social dissonance. The autistic constitution can only be this much resilient. I wonder often how much an average neurotypical is able to endure the same dimensions, levels and consistent torture – and do so with the panache and persistence that many of us autistics execute on a daily basis?

Time to retreat and reboot. If only for a mere four and a half days.

Saturday bruncheon with Rick at our favourite Not Just Coffee – nourishing noshment and conversation, providing vim and vigour for the adventure ahead. It was so good to be back in our old neighbourhood of Paddington too.

Trundling along after parting ways with Rick required the full throttle of verve, and a little self-deprecating humour. There we went, a tiny human figure dragging a rollo-bag of my clothes, Lucy’s personal fleece blankie, a heavy backpack on shoulders containing Macbook Pro, iPad, dog treats and other paraphernalia, plus a heavy carry bag slung over left shoulder in which resided Lucy’s stainless steel bowl, K9 Natural lamb treat food, more treats, Gree Lipped Mussel supplements and Protexin powder, and a black Greyhound dog in tow. We made it to the Paddington Markets, sat down and booked an Uber ride.

Unfortunately, a bit of a minor kefuffle when Ubder driver arrived, and refused us because of Lucy. I tried to explain that she is my assistance dog etc but he drove away. It wasn’t difficult to get another Uber booking anyway, and these incidents are not common with Uber, so I was not too distressed, just extremely tired and physically worn. A pleasant social interjection while standing in the cold street corner waiting for our next ride came in the form of an elderly couple who remembered Lucy (I could not recognise them at all, despite knowing full well they must’ve been former neighbours!) and another elderly neighbour I did remember. Our next Uber driver was lovely and we were transported safely to our destination. He even waited to make sure I was coping well with the bags before driving off.

We are safely ensconced now. A lovely room in an old house in Randwick, near Queens Park. Yes, the bathroom is old, but it is clean. The toilet is separate, which is how they used to build them in old houses of this vintage, but again, it is clean. The only bother is having to walk to the bathroom after using the loo to wash my hands, and wondering if my fellow occupants remember to do the same?

An old kitchen, no microwave for my doggy-heat-pad, but it’s ok, we have a heater in our room and a very warm quilt. We didn’t even need the heater last night. Lucy and I cuddled and snuggled under the cosy bedding in a double bed. Lavish space, compared to the single we’ve been squishing into for half a year now, in various different temporary abodes. Charming eco-consciousness reigns here – rubbish sorted out properly, eco-friendly cleaning products, fresh tomatoes in the garden, and even eggplants at this time of year.

It is quiet here, apart from the swishing of cars going by and distant sounds of people and dogs at play in the park. We had a long walk after resting in the day bed. I ordered a pasta takeaway from the cafe down the road – it was soggy and bland but I was tired and hungry, and managed to eat every last strand of it, as well as share a banana with Lucy. Ironic incident occurred where a junior staff member noticed quickly Lucy’s assistance dog vest and was most welcoming when we entered to make our order, whereas a more senior person (or so I surmised from her haughty demeanour) marched up to us at the counter and declared the usual NO DOGS ALLOWED without even bothering to look at Lucy’s large bright yellow vest first. I pointed to her vest and gently said, yes, but she is my assistance dog. The person glanced at Lucy’s vest then, and mumbled something while scuttling away. All goodly again, though the wait was long for the food.

As we were falling asleep, we heard possums again, and Lucy pricked up her ears. An old familiar sound from our previous beloved neighbourhood. No incessant pounding of waves on concrete walls, no screaming humans and loudly barking dogs on beach, no 24-hour television to grapple with. Peace.

Oh, and did I mention clean… CLEAN!!!! Fresh air – no choking smoke, no unwashed human stink, no cloying smell of rotting rubber from ancient threadbare carpet, and no insistent social-babble-noise-pollution.

It’s not heaven. I’d love to have a room with our own bathroom. But it is respite. A clement space indeed, after months of inclement hell.

Four days.

Breathe fully. Smile deeply. Sleep soundly.

Think. Write. Draw. Walk.


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