Sometime in the last week I had the fortune (or misfortune, as the real subject teacher would say) to observe an English class of Level II students, doing a brainstorming session with their teacher. This is a requirement for all third year students in the SHBIE, so they could go through their fourth year.
Anyway, sure the class was full of the typical Level II student: unmotivated, academically weak, forgetful, noisy, low attention span and dyslexic or possess one or other forms of learning disorders and the teacher is the typical Level II teacher: patient, repetitive, forceful, persistent and eventually very tired.
But in all the hustle and bustle of this class, one student, a fair girl with a sweet little face and deep dark eyes, however, caught my attention. It wasn’t because she was the one wearing the cleanest tunic, or the fact that she was the prettiest. It was the fact that while the rest of the class was paying attention, and participating in the class discussion, she was totally uninterested. She seemed to be really distant from her friends, her peers. It was as if, she was alone in this world, and content to be so.
Throughout the one-hour lesson, she was engrossed in her own activities, or rather, activity, which involved shredding a piece of white A4 paper with the utmost precision, in the slowest manner. She tears it into small irregular strips, sometimes triangles, from up to down. From up to down. She made it her business to be regular, three long strips followed by one triangle. Three long strips and one triangle, repeatedly, again and again, until exactly when the bell rang, there was no more paper.
There was something about the girl, and there was something about her precision and her distance that enthralled me. I studied her moves, it was as if she knew that her actions will take exactly one hour. But how does she know? Throughout the whole lesson, not even once did she glanced to the wall clock.
It was her eyes that captivated me the most. She didn’t once even looked at me, but I sense a familiar feeling. I recognised her intense longing. She was longing for something. Love? Maybe. Friends? Maybe. But it was certain that I will, never ever, totally comprehend, nor am I ever going to find out.
Later outside the classroom, the teacher who was teaching said,
“I know you were looking at the girl in the corner”
..and that’s when I learnt that she is autistic.