What's the Difference

I was out for drinks with some new coworkers and a few of their friends. I had just started working with this insurance company about a month ago. White lights lined the edges of the bar ceiling.

“So, why are you such a weird person?” Terrell asked.

“What do you mean?” I sniffled a little and my shoulder twitched slightly. Whenever I have a lot of stress I try moving my shoulder a certain way to release some endorphins. I am never really certain whether endorphins are triggered, but it seems to be temporary stress relief.

“Yeah, but you’re like, you’re different.”

“I’m aware of that. I just—why would you ask me that?”

“Well, we’re gonna be working together, man. I gotta know, ya know.”

“What is it you have to know?” Could it be that I have schizophrenia? Clearly this guy doesn’t get it.

Terrell started stirring his drink while wrinkling his brow. I’d only known him several weeks, and he always seemed to be stirring.

“I have a cousin who you remind me of. In and out of the hospital a lot and all.”

“Which hospital?”

Terrell turned his head and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “Which hospital?” he asked. “Come on, man. I know there’s somethin’ different about you.”

“Does it really matter?”

“I’m gonna go…get another drink. I’ll catch up with you soon.”

I got up without responding and walked to the bar. The noise level was moderate as it was a Tuesday in this small city. A few other folks in business attire were at the bar. I had an empty seat next to me. I was hoping it would stay that way for at least a short while.

Lauren from the company said hey and sat next to me. We generally get along pretty well. My eyes began darting around as they periodically do.

“Why are your eyes so weird?” she asked. My eyes are always darting. It’s not like I can change them. Maybe it’s happening more so than usual right now?

“What do you mean?” I lied.

“They’re always moving so fast.”

“I’m not a physiologist. They’ve always been this way.”

“You’re like the most different person I’ve ever met.” She turned her head slightly and brushed her brown hair behind her shoulder. She sipped her drink subtly and placed it calmly on the table.

“Would you prefer everyone to be the same?” I asked.

“No, no. I like you…I just…” She hesitated and then pretended to look at her phone.

“I’m pretty comfortable with the way I am. Things make sense to me.”

“Yeah, but you don’t make sense to me.” She laughed.

“Do I need to make sense to you?” I felt bad after I said that. Sometimes I insult people, but I figure it out afterwards. Why is normal so popular? I have no clue how to be normal, and I never have, and I probably never will.

“Did you get made fun of a lot when you were younger? I was a psychology major. I can see things about people.” She laughed again, and I forced a laugh. It’s not easy being interrogated by just about everyone I meet.

I’m a psychology author, I felt like replying. I sorted through my thoughts. I became rigid, and I choked up a bit.

“It’s okay that people made fun of you,” Lauren said. “Everyone gets made fun of growing up.”

“Why are you so curious to know more about me?”

“I just think you’re a really nice guy. But like…sorry I know I keep asking but what’s so different about you?”

“Do you like that I’m different?”

“I dunno. In some ways I do. In other ways I don’t understand it.”

“It’s just the way that I know how to do things.” I watched the TV for a minute or so to give myself a breather. I turned my drink slightly and took a swig.

Lauren ordered two shots from the bartender. “I’m gonna get you drunk tonight.”

I’ve been through this a number of times. People trying to get me drunk thinking I’ll disclose my diagnosis. It’s funny because as they continue to drink and get drunk they lose track of whether I’ve been drinking or not. I get free drinks out of it, though.

Two shots of Captain Morgan’s were placed on the mahogany bar. She slid one over and I picked it up. She paid cash, and the bartender walked to the next customers. We clinked glasses and downed the shots.

This girl, like the vast majority of people, makes no sense to me. I know why they do the things they do, but their reasons don’t always seem logical.

“Why are you so normal?” I asked.

“Everyone is normal. I’m just like everyone else,” Lauren replied.

“You’re not making much sense,” I said. “You’ve fallen victim to a false standard.”

She was baffled. She started laughing and looked at me. “We need to drink more together.”

An awkward pause filled the room as nearly everyone in the bar became quiet at the same time.

“Everyone is normal. That’s why I’m normal. I’m just like everyone else. You’re the one who is different,” Lauren said.

“Why does it matter that I’m different, and why do you feel obligated to be just like everyone else?”

“You’re really different,” she replied.

“I think you’re a little bit stranger than you think,” I said. “Why do you want to be so much like everyone else?”

“That’s what everyone does,” she said.

“Not a valid answer.”

“I don’t understand what you’re asking me? Let’s just pretend this conversation didn’t happen and just have drinks.” She waved to the bartender so she could get us more shots.

Maybe it’s natural for people to be curious about things and other people that don’t make sense to them.

“Sure, let’s drink.”

As an undergraduate, Steve Colori developed schizoaffective disorder. Over the years he has worked hard to overcome it and help others. Colori has published eight articles with Oxford Medical Journals; he has written for Mclean Hospital since 2011; and he is the author of a memoir, Experiencing and Overcoming Schizoaffective Disorder. He writes regularly for The Good Men’s Project in the Health & Wellness and Social Justice Sections. He has also been lecturing Mclean Hospital’s Harvard Resident Doctors since 2012. SteveColori.com