Shark eyes & autism

Mandy Boles

There were signs the depression was going to hit again, and I ignored them.

It’s been at least five years since I’ve been in a state of severe depression. An incident that happened a couple of weeks before Christmas 2011 seemed to signal the start of the patch of depression I find myself in currently, and it also points to one of the causes of my depression. My brother has autism, and being his sister has not always been easy.

This past December while driving from my home in Biloxi, Mississippi to the Medical Alliance Christmas luncheon in Pass Christian, Mississippi, I felt anxious. I was in charge of desserts, and I didn’t make them myself. I had them catered. I’m not super wife. The iPod is in shuffle mode. The Scientist by Coldplay comes on.

I was just guessing

I’m overwhelmed with sadness

At numbers and figures

I start crying hysterically

Pulling the Puzzles Apart

It’s no longer about the dessert. I’m nineteen now.

You Don’t know How Lovely You Are

The year is 1995, and it’s the middle of the night.

I’m Goin’ Back To The Start

Shark Eyes

My severely autistic, fourteen-year-old brother pulled me out of bed by my hair. My head’s being slammed into my closet door repeatedly. A crescendo to his frustration that he can’t voice. He’s just having a bad night. I love him so much. I can’t be mad. There is no one to blame. It occurs to me sometime into the attack that I didn’t wake up while he was pulling me out of bed by my hair and dragging me the three feet across the room to my closet door, the only unobstructed wall space big enough to slam me against. I am small for my age. At nineteen, I weigh about 95 pounds and I’m 5’4” tall. My brother has been bigger than me since he was about 12- years-old.

I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m under water as I stare into his eyes: Shark Eyes. Blank. Black. He doesn’t see me. He doesn’t know it’s me. There is a poster of a white seal on my closet door just above where my head is slamming with a quote about friendship. It’s the same closet door in the corner where I used to hide and dance in my elementary school and junior high years.

Light from a streetlamp outside peaks through the white eyelet curtains in my bedroom casting an otherworldly glow on my surroundings. My right cheek hits the wood again with such force that my lower jaw swings back and forth. Maybe he’ll kill me. I was almost hopeful. I hate myself. I feel guilty for being born “the normal one.” Only in my family could I possibly be considered normal. I pushed myself back to the surface. I screamed.

My dad ran into the room and pulled him off of me. I screamed words out of anger that I’ll regret for years at my brother and grabbed my car keys. I left in my 1980 red Ford Escort in the middle of the night. I drove to Mobile, AL and showed up at my boyfriend Nate’s apartment in the middle of the night crying hysterically. Again. Why he wanted to date much less marry me I’ll never know.

I Love My Brother

It’s a long drive from Biloxi to Pass Christian where the Alliance Party was held. But all I can think about is that drive to Mobile, Alabama from Long Beach, Mississippi nearly twenty years ago. My green and red plaid flannel boxers were worn thin with patches of color faded to white. I was braless under my white t shirt. My hair still tangled from where my brother had grabbed it. I was barefoot. I managed to grab my debit card on my way out the door.

I stopped at a payphone near the projects on 28th street in Gulfport, Mississippi to call Nate collect. I‘m worried I won’t be able to make it to one of the jobs I had at the time the next day. I stare vacantly across the street at the cinder block and brick homes sitting in a perfect grid. The gas station is covered in burglar bars and signs for cheap, ice cold beer. It’s closed, and there isn’t a porch light on in the projects as far as the eye can see. Grasshoppers rubbing their legs together in the knee high grass on the side of the road is the only sound to be heard. I feel like I need to whisper for fear of waking the many people sleeping a stone’s throw from where I stand. I dig my feet into the dirt and dial Nate’s number. He is the only person I’ll tell about this for seventeen years.

I love my brother.

Whenever I read the poem Howl by Allen Ginsburg it makes me cry for my brother.

I love my brother.

One time he mooed like a cow until he got a plate of strawberries at a Ryan’s Steakhouse.

I love my brother.

On trips he would sing the cutest song when we finally pulled into the hotel parking lot of our destination. “Dun dee dun dun. Dun dee dun dun. Dun dee dun dun duuuun.”

I love my brother.

He has this amazing ability to tell you the day of the week any date is on. I’m all “July 27th 1822”? and he’s all “Saturday bitch.” He doesn’t really say bitch.

When I think about my childhood, moments like this are what I want to remember. I bury violent events like the one described in this post deep inside and protect them with sarcasm and dark humor. I tried to never think about them again, because doing so would be a disservice to my brother. He couldn’t help being born with autism.

At least this is what I’ve always told myself.

I’m tired of being the silent victim of my life.

I’m tired of silent dignity.

Fuck dignity.

I can add The Scientist to my list of triggers.

Author’s Note: I still love my parents and my brother very much. They are still very much a part of my life. Some autistic teens have a rough time with puberty. My brother was one of them. Incidents like this occurred every six months or so from the time I was 16. At some point my brother was put on anti-psychotic meds. Eventually his doctors found the right medication cocktail and his behavior got under control. Now he is thirty-two and no longer has issues with violence.

Courtesy of

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