They gathered outside the Ugly Mug, I saw them when I drove by—smiling, laughing, relaxed. Radiating a glow only possible after a long run on a cool morning. Content. Gettysburg has three coffee shops, the good one, the popular one and Starbucks. I use Starbucks, or I did before the pandemic. I broke that habit; now I brew my coffee at home.

They circled up, paper cups in hand, steaming, frothy—caramel lattes, mocha cappuccinos, calories irrelevant, already running a deficit for the day. They recount their week, storytelling, successes and failures. Building their friendships like a fortress, brick and mortar, made to withstand a storm.

Failures: I could join in that part. Thursday night after mountain bike practice, parents pick up their kids. Coaches linger, talk, share data, who’s riding strong, who needs support. I ask a question, my timing’s off. I interrupt, destroy the flow of conversation. “Huh? What’s that?” I ask again. He freezes, panicked, uncomprehending. He looks left, then right, hoping someone translates. I’m not enunciating, I’m not making sense. I try again, I try to make myself clear.

I load my bike on my truck and drive home. Anticipating the conversation once I leave. “What’s up with that guy, why is he so weird?”

Susan consoles me. “Someone stuck up for you. They said ‘You know he has Tourette Syndrome, right?’” Maybe they talked about my brain injury. Social anxiety. Autism. Easier if I advertised. A bright yellow shirt, a white road sign emblazoned on my chest—Caution: Neurological Nightmare. Stay Back.

The next practice is Tuesday. I’ll keep my head down, mouth shut. Try to be solid, predictable, neuro-normal. I’ll rebuild some credibility. Maybe try harder to fit in. Maybe I won’t try at all.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

22 thoughts on “Bricks

  1. I do that too. I tell myself to just keep my head down and not to say anything because no matter what I will beat myself up afterward – even if I was on point and made sense. Sorry you had a bad social experience. People always tell me that it wasn’t as bad I think it was. And some people are just nice and can overlook my social awkwardness. Hopefully both of these are the case for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been a long while since that happened. It took some wind out of my sails. Bad timing as the overnight team trips will start in a month. Susan says no one probably noticed, but of course she wasn’t there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well put, good perspective yours here…the perspective of your perspective, that is. Thanks for sharing Jeff. Quit busting in on my sofa time with the cat though, please 😜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awww☹ It takes courage to even try, I’m sorry you felt like it bombed.
    Why not just be straight up? Tell them about your neuro stuff, and hearing loss? You’re gonna be around these people a lot, and most individuals are kind.

    Head down and mouth shut is lonely… I’ve done it. I just spill my defects so people know up front. The hearing loss was a big one, especially with masks. People started talking louder to me… worked good.

    Brain injuries are something ALL these bike riders may face, helmets or not. Education and socialization.

    Keep trying. You’re a cool guy, Jeff!


    • Telling them is a good idea but I don’t have any idea when I’d do that. I feel like someone must have read my big or book at some point. Possibly they already know and already cut me a break. I know one through work and I feel like my TS is pretty well known in that group.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would tell the entire team… the boys too. Especially about the TBI. Tell them whenever you’re all together🤷🏼‍♀️
        Did you see that a BMX biker that crashed at the Olympics has a brain hemorrhage? I bet the team will be thinking about it, even if they don’t say anything.

        I think I’ve just made myself your official cheerleader😂 You can fire me anytime, or just “shush” me if I get annoying.😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • I need a publicist like Simone has. From my perspective, my best bet is to write something and send it out. I have a hard enough time leading team stretches, much less baring my soul. I have a real concerns that some parents might decide I’m not the right person to entrust with their child’s safety.


  4. I’m so sorry that happened, and happens.

    I also understand how incredibly hard it is to toss your truth out there to the people/groups you casually interact with. Will they understand? Will they think it’s an excuse for…?

    They don’t have the same life experience, so how can they possibly understand?

    They can’t/won’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of listening and trying. So I vote for speaking your truth and letting the chips fall where they may. There’s nothing to lose, and potentially much to gain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan thinks I should just tell the one person most likely to blab it to everyone else. Of course then I lose control of the message, but if I make a speech my brain will freeze and I’ll become inarticulate. Written communication is clearly best for me


  5. +1 here for awkward social interactions! I just tell myself that no one cares or notices as much as I do (i.e. we are our own worst critic) because everyone is thinking about themselves, and if they are judging me then they really need to get a life. I generally try to be as kind and inclusive as I can and hope the people who matter will see that over any occasional awkwardness. It’s maybe made a bit harder for you with the neurological things but I still think this concept could apply for you. They’re all at work or home with their families or living their lives now and have likely forgotten it already!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately I’ve had more than my share. It’s been a long while since it’s happened this badly. I really took a bit out of me, I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered. I get what you mean about wanting the experience to happen to you. I call it “good material”. I used to follow a great writer who was an addict and her partner recently died of an OD. If you can believe it, I was actually jealous of her good material to draw from.


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