Melvin has a very wide range of interests and is very knowledgeable in spite of his problems with Asperger’s Syndrome. Those interests include things like the two World Wars, trains, actresses from the 1930s, natural disasters like earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions and the Titanic. He goes from one interest to the next and then back again in an eternal infinite loop. For many people, it can be wearing hearing him go on about the same things day after day but I know that he can’t help it. Besides, it’s good to see him so passionate about the subjects that interest him even if sometimes that passion crosses over to obsession. That’s just a common trait for people who have Asperger’s Syndrome.
Like Melvin, I to have many interests which have come and then lain dormant in the back of my mind. The first big one was war but mainly the wars between the US Cavalry and the Native Americans in the last half of the nineteenth century. General George Armstrong Custer was a personal hero of mine. The problem was that in fourth grade, I let all and sundry know about this specific interest, to the point where many of the less tolerant became annoyed with me. While the interests changed to American football in fifth grade, ice hockey in sixth grade and then included the solar system in seventh grade, the pattern remained the same. I was also living in the place I call Hell during that time and my extreme interests were used as an excuse for bullying. Mark’s interest have a devastating effect on him in “He Was Weird.” While, I have mellowed a lot in this respect, probably because I was made to feel that I was in the wrong for having these interests, I can see where I would be just like Melvin.
Melvin isn’t the only person I can see a resemblance to with myself. Let me introduce Ernie or that’s what I will be referring to him as. Ernie has one main interest which is an obsession. In his early life, he was told by cruel children that he was going to be arrested by the police for indecent exposure on account of wearing worn out trousers. Because of his Asperger’s, Ernie believed them and still struggles with the concept that those children are wrong. Trousers are now an obsession with him. He is so anxious that he’s going to be arrested for his trousers that he now has to buy them at every opportunity. The shelves and wardrobe in his room are stacked high with pairs of trousers, most of which he’s never worn. We have learned that feeding or starving this obsession will not work so we do the best we can to help Ernie manage it. So far, it seems to be working.
I too had a problem regarding trousers. My growth spurt began when I was 11 and lasted until I was 14. The problem for my mother was that I was growing faster than what she could afford to clothe me. As a result, in the early 1970s, my flares didn’t touch my shoes or cover my shoe laces when my tormentors changed the rules. I was teased mercilessly for wearing flood pants. Something like that shouldn’t have bothered me but for me like the bullying I was suffering back then, it too broke down my resistances to it. Each day before going to school, I would check to make sure that the trousers were of the appropriate length and those deemed to be flood pants would be put to the back of the wardrobe never to be worn again. Even today, when I get a new pair of trousers, I check to make sure they’re long enough. I transferred the problem to Mark when I wrote “He Was Weird,” only he gets teased even worse. I don’t ever remember anyone telling me that their fist says I’m wearing flood pants.
Back in my early life, I had many interests and obsessions like Melvin and Ernie. Theirs are real and are part of them as mine are with me. The main difference is that I have learned to manage mine where they don’t take over my life. I doubt that Ernie or Melvin will ever be able to do this.
Before I go, I would like to make an announcement. The Worcester News has published an article about me and “He Was Weird.” To read it go to: http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/local/10919813.Man_who_fell_prey_to_bullies_writes_novel/