I Won't Leave You
I had a real moment in the studio recently that I didn't quite understand at the time. I was in a session with my cowriter, Stolar, working on a song for my upcoming album. The song is based on a concept I had for a music video about a woman who saves a stranger's life. We were listening to the music and discussing the lyrics when Stolar asked how the concept related to me; I told him it didn't. After Stolar probed some more, I was suddenly overcome by a long-forgotten memory of when I tried to save a man's life. As we got deeper into the song, I burst into tears and kept repeating, "People are stupid, people are stupid…" I struggled to understand why I was so upset about an event from a few years before when things that were going on today sometimes barely registered with me; it just didn't make any sense. Explaining my intense reaction in that moment was made even more difficult because as an Aspie, in addition to having delayed reactions to traumatic events, I often struggle to find the words to express my emotions. This is a big part of why music is so important to me. After finishing the song, I was an emotional mess, but I felt grateful the songwriting process had brought something to light I had inadvertently hidden away.
The incident that had me in tears happened years before when I was still living in Malaysia. I had been driving through my neighborhood when I spotted a man lying on the side of the road. His face was blue and he was barely conscious. I immediately pulled over and tried flagging down other cars for help. The man was too heavy for me to move alone, and I needed help getting him into my car. Cars either drove past us or stopped and then quickly drove away. I tried alerting people on the street and even knocked on doors, telling those who would listen that a man was in distress and needed to get to a hospital right away. Nobody believed me. Some people thought it was a scam; others simply ignored me. I was shocked. How could so many people ignore my pleas for help? Every moment that passed tore at me because I knew it was another moment the poor man was in pain. I was finally able to get some help after calling a family member. Together, we put the stranger into the backseat of my car and rushed him to the hospital.
Later, while the man was in the ER, I went through his wallet and backpack in search of his name and contact information so that I could call his family. I felt strangely close to the man as we appeared to be alike from the few details I was able to piece together. Like me, he was neat. He wore a button-down shirt that had been carefully tucked in, eyeglasses, and had a backpack. His wallet was clean and organized and contained a collection of bus passes. Something about him looked like a loner-type. Thinking back, I get the feeling he may have been an Aspie. This was before my official diagnosis, but there was something about him that seemed familiar, and I instantly felt a kinship with him.
After a while, the doctor came out and announced the man had passed away. The cause of death was a heart attack. I cried when I heard the news. I knew I had done my best to try and help the man, but hearing he had died still filled me with an overwhelming sadness. Later, the man's family arrived at the hospital; grateful for my help, they invited me to dinner to thank me for what I had done. They told me the man had been working on his Ph.D. at the nearby university. They said he had always been a loner and that he loved books and his tidy home was filled with them from floor to ceiling. I wasn't surprised to hear any of these details about him.
Days after our recording session, I still couldn't figure out why I got so upset over something that happened so long ago to someone I didn’t even know. For about a week, every time I played back the song we recorded I would break down in tears. Why was I crying? I asked myself. I didn't feel guilty over what had happened with the stranger because I know I tried my best to save him; it just was beyond my control. Or was I lying to myself? I recently started therapy for the first time, so I told my therapist what I was experiencing. I told him I was confused by my feelings and didn’t know why I was feeling this way after so much time. My therapist speculated that deep down I knew why; it was because humanity had disappointed me that day. And he was right. That was exactly it. All those people who ignored my cries for help were disappointing… profoundly disappointing… so much so that after all these years, it still had the power to overwhelm me. If someone had cared enough to help us that afternoon, the stranger might be alive today. In the end, I was able to put the disturbing memory to rest after praying for the man and talking to him in my thoughts; I wished him well, wherever he was.