In Cairo my wife made a friend called Luc at the hotel, but I got off on the wrong foot with him. I thought he was a flake and didn’t give him the time of day.
Then on Day 3 I realized that under the airy demeanor he was intelligent and wise. By then I’d blown it, I’d hurt his feelings; and Luc took an arch pleasure in ignoring me or baiting me. I scrambled/groveled, but he would roll his eyes and look at my wife–or as he always said, “your lovely wife,” suggesting that I was unworthy of her.
At dinner of molohaje Sunday night, I said that one of my wife’s complaints about me is that I can be prosecutorial in social situations, and Luc said I reminded him of “Eliot Spite-zer.” As the conversation went on, my wife gave me the nose signal—holding her finger to her nose, which means I should shut up—and on the walk back to the hotel she gave me the furry eyeball.
The next day in the hotel room my wife looked up from her Ipad and said, “Here’s a list of names, what do they have in common? Jeffrey Dahmer. Emily Dickinson. Thomas Jefferson. Glenn Gould.”
“I’m going to add one more name to the list. Philip Weiss.”
I knew where she was going. My wife often says that I’m “Aspergers-y”. I said, “Emily Dickinson was Asperger’s?”
“It’s a basket of symptoms. It’s not like temperature, where if it’s more than 98.6 you have a fever. Do you want to know your symptoms?”
I was eating a pomegranate. I put it down and turned in my chair.
“Obviously you can’t read people. You don’t know when you’ve made them uncomfortable. So you come barreling in, you have no sense of the energy in the room, you start saying inappropriate things, and when you get the big giant signal– most people would get the signal to chill when they were told they were like Eliot Spitzer– but somehow that just seems to encourage you. So those are real Aspergery kind of conditions.
“You also have the thing that is classical Aspergers which Orwell certainly had, and I think Christopher Hitchens has Aspergers– you have no idea when you’ve been naughty. That means you rip through the social fabric, and everyone else is looking at the social fabric on the ground, ripped and torn, and you’re just going your merry way, ripping down more fabric and kicking it up without any sense of the destructiveness wrought in your path.
“Also, some people might say that the 25 jobs you got fired from is some indication of your Aspergers.”
“I haven’t been fired by 25 jobs,” I said.
“Well I can’t figure out how to count it up.”
“Why does Luc say I’m charming?”
“He was trying to say something nice. Even Orwell could be charming if he had to be.”