Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Without Having to Voice It"

This poem is spillover from the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] dreamwriteremmy. It also fills the "invisible disabilities" square in my 3-1-17 card for the Disability Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features mental issues, because the inside of Shiv's head is always a warning, reference to past communication challenges, the comprehension gap between nonverbal and verbal languages, rude humor. reference to ugly aspects of history including slavery and death from unavailability of safe abortion care, reference to brain injuries, Shiv is resistant to seeking help or even admitting he's not okay, but he actually manages it occasionally, cape politics, awkward social interactions, reference to lousy hairdressers and discrimination against people with special needs, minimally verbal autistic character wrangling with English when his native language is visual rather than spoken, tense (but not violent) interaction with a police officer, who is a bit clunky interacting with a nonverbal person, frustration over being expected to solve other people's problems, loneliness, regret, threats, and other challenges. It's mostly positive, though, as Shiv fumbles his way toward better coping skills. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Without Having to Voice It"

In recent months, Shiv has learned
a lot about nonverbal communication.

It began in prison with the blowup
over the illustrated social stories, after
which Dr. G encouraged Shiv to write
antisocial stories if it suited him.

That helped Shiv learn about
ways to say what he wanted
without having to voice it.

This is handy, he thinks.

Translating signs into icons for
Dr. Bloch even earned him points.

Once Shiv has started thinking
in terms of nonverbal communication,
he finds himself spotting it everywhere.

It's even more noticeable outside,
and after his release, Shiv gets
to where he watches for this stuff.

He finds himself a t-shirt that says,
No more spoons, only knives left.

Boss White gives Shiv a lesson
about the quilt codes, which started
way back in the Underground Railroad.

The quilt on Boss White's bed is
all about music, black and white and red,
and he tells Shiv how the slaves used songs
and quilts to carry messages while Shiv's fingers
trace over the swirling lines of embroidery.

The oldest patterns are things like
Flying Geese to tell people when to travel,
the Drinking Gourd for direction, and
the Log Cabin for safe places.

"Recollect this coulda got folks killed
if anyone found out," said Boss White.
"That's why there ain't no written record,
and the code ain't the same all over.
It's oral tradition and handicrafts,
what white folks don't care about."

Shiv nods, thinking, I know all about
how to keep things by taking what
nobody else actually wants.

"Yeah, boss, I get it," he says.

Boss White tells him
how the codes changed
to offer new kinds of help.

"Used to be, birth control and
abortion were illegal, so women had
to find their own way to places they could
get what they need," says Boss White.
"Flying geese told the gals where to get
a ride, coathangers where to get help."

The older man looks sad as
his big hands stroke the quilt.
"Had me an aunt, once, that I don't
no more," he says. "Guy raped her,
got her in trouble, and she went
to make it go away. Didn't survive."

Shiv looks at the blood-colored quilt
and is fucking grateful that nowadays
you can get rubbers in any restroom
and all the care you need at most clinics.

He's grateful, even though he doesn't
think with his dick like most guys, because
he never wants to hear another story like this.

He doesn't know why it hurts even though
he never knew the gal. Maybe because
Boss White is choking up a bit.

"I think I've seen some other stuff?"
Shiv says, desperate to change the topic.
"Like quilts with bandaids on them?"

He'd spotted several of those in
videos of Dr. G's office, one that was
all bandaids, and others with a bandaid
over a heart or a brain. He wondered
what they meant, but hadn't asked.

"Those're for fragile folks,"
Boss White explains. "Bandaids
are for any old injury, or if it's over
a body part, that tells what's hurt."

That's the last thing I need.
Shiv instantly decides never
to bring up the damn bandaid brain.

"I've seen quilts with spoons
on them, too," he says.

"Stay away from those, it's
mostly meant for superheroes,"
Boss White advises. "Now if you see
spoons, forks, and knives all together,
then that means anything goes."

"Do people even make quilts
like that?" Shiv says, boggling.

"Valor's Widow has one,"
Boss White says. "You mind her,
boy, or you'll be doing chores all week."

"Yes, boss," Shiv says quickly.

"Crickets are good, though,"
says Boss White. "Same as on
a sticker, it means soup-friendly
and they think about special needs."

Shiv had figured out soon enough
that if he acted super hungry at
a food truck with a cricket sticker,
they'd give him extra eats.

"Are there cape quilts?" he asks,
because he hasn't seen any.

"Not that I know of, but there are
masks," says Boss White. "If you see
those hanging up, then hide what you
can do. Some places put them up where
you can get supplies for a secret identity."

Scary thought, Shiv muses. He doesn't
tend to hide his superpower, so much as
be careful not to flash it around too much.
Like a knife, you didn't necessarily want
folks to know you had it until it was too late.

The quilt codes stick in his head and
make him a little twitchy, even though
he likes quilts. It's the history behind them.

The next time he sees Dr. G, Shiv mentions
this, because Dr. G is always interested in
what he's learning or what's bugging him.

"You may have seen the quilts in my office,"
Dr. G says. "A local charity makes them, so I
keep some to hand out to clients as needed.
The broken heart is for emotional injuries
and EFA, the brain is for concussions and --"

"Bandaid quilts are gross," Shiv says,
hoping Dr. G will let him off the hook.

"There are other ways to work with
mental challenges," Dr. G says. "You
have a perfectly good blanket already.
How about checking out local resources
for mental health, in case of emergency
if you can't reach me immediately?"

Shiv has exactly zero interest in this, but
after the surprisingly not-a-disaster trip to
the hard case doctor, he's willing to go along
for a sufficiently nifty bribe. "How about
putting your money where your mouth is?"

Dr. G offers to buy him a plate
of some ocean fish that Shiv has
never even heard of, called red snapper.

This is enough to get Shiv on a bus to
the Omaha Personal Repair Center, which
lies between the mostly-black neighborhood
where Shiv lives and the mostly-Hispanic one
that borders it along the southern side.

Shiv makes it as far as the entry.
Then he gets cold feet.

Free fish, Shiv reminds himself.
All I have to do is go inside and
do one thing, then I get free fish.

The lobby is large and open,
with a café that has signs in
a mix of English and Spanish.

Shiv slips into the café,
finds the self-serve area,
and is pleased to see that it
offers a picture-based menu.

He buys himself a can
of passion fruit cocktail.
He could use something
to quiet his nerves right now.

The drink is cool and sweet, and
settles him enough to look around.

A wall kiosk catches his eye with
its silver frame and tall touchscreen.

At the top, a red-framed window
reads, Do you need help right now?
Below, the space divides in two columns:
Would you like to play a game? in blue and
Would you like to explore our facility? in green.

Shiv is plenty familiar with the kind of screen
on vending machines that will give you freebies
if you play educational games, most of which
are boring. Nothing new there, he thinks.

He is curious about the center, though.
Tapping the green frame expands it and
offers him a floor plan. Touching any room
shows a picture of its inside and sometimes
a schedule of the activities held there.

All the toilets are one-person roomlets,
and several of them are dotties. This is
a good place to stop for a piss,
Shiv decides.

There are rooms for group therapy
and private therapy, exam rooms,
and all kinds of individual offices.

Most of it is mental health shit,
but there is also an eye doctor, who
Shiv has absolutely no intention of
ever letting anywhere near him.

Shiv sneers at the social worker office,
too, but not far from it is one for a dietitian,
and food generally gets his attention.

Oh, they have a healthy touch room!
His skin tingles at the memory, and
he misses Jessica from the prison,
where that kind of service came free.
Maybe this place isn't a total waste
of time after all,
Shiv thinks.

Then he notices the baskets
marked Free Social Alert Buttons.

One seems to hold buttons
for people who aren't fucked up,
that say things like Polite, Mediator,
and Need prayer? Just ask.

The other is for people like him.

Most of these say things like
Social Anxiety or Migraine Day.
Shiv used to have a foster sister
with migraines, and that button
would have saved everyone else
a lot of headaches dealing with her.

When he sees the one that says,
Here for the FOOD! he laughs
and folds it into his hand.

Then he stirs the basket, looking
for buttons that he hasn't seen yet.
Maybe there are more funny ones.

"Hi, I'm Docie," says the receptionist.
"Would you like a sorting basket?"
She holds out a wicker one divided into
quarters. "Some people like these for
picking out keepers and throwbacks."

"Keepers?" Shiv says as he takes it.
"You can take more than one?"

"Sure," she said. "Usually we consider
three a reasonable number, but if
you find a lot of things that will make
your life easier, we can be flexible."

"Huh," Shiv says, rapidly flicking
through the buttons. He finds one
with a background that reminds him of
dichroic glass that says Don't TOUCH me,
and he puts that in the keeper pile.

Most of the buttons don't suit him,
and he shuffles them out of the way.
Near the bottom he finds one that says,
SOCIAL inside the no-symbol,
so he takes that one too.

Shiv pours the rejects back
into their original basket, then
hands the sorter to the receptionist.

"Did you find anything helpful?"
Docie asks, leaning over the counter
like they're chatting across a back fence.

"Um, yeah," Shiv says, not really
sure what to do with himself.

"Then that's a success," she says.
"Would you like to talk with someone?"

"Better quit while I'm ahead,"
Shiv says, shaking his head.

He loves that excuse.
As long as he's just done
something that looks like "trying,"
then people will usually let him
skate on anything more.

"That's a good plan," Docie says.
"I hope we'll see you in here again.
You look like a guy with a story to tell."

Shiv laughs. If only you knew,
he thinks as he slips out the door.

It's a nice day outside,
and he enjoys the walk
toward the bus stop.

A flash of vivid blue catches
his eye, and Shiv notices the boy --
who is probably a few years younger
than himself -- standing in front of
Snippy Tips with a protest sign.

Well, they have it coming,
he thinks firmly. He's gone to
Snippy Tips exactly once. They
treated him like crap, wrecked
his fringe, and then bitched when
he didn't tip the hairdresser.

Shiv wanders over and asks,
"What did they fuck up this time?"

The boy raps his fingers against
the sign, which reads, Snippy Tips
discriminates against people with autism.

"That sucks," Shiv says. "You got
a nice hairdo there, but it looks like
it takes regular maintenance."

It's really something -- about an inch
of black frizz on the left side of his head,
and silky hanks of rich blue shaded with
purplish and grayish streaks reaching
down to his chin on the right side.

Watching the light play along
the blue strands, Shiv realizes
that the color is natural. It has
the peacock-bright gloss that he
has seen on other crayon soups.

I wonder if they dissed him for
being autistic, or being super,

Shiv grumbles to himself.

The boy rakes a hand through
the long side and then lets
the blue strands trickle out of
his fingers. It's beautiful.

He doesn't say anything, though,
or even introduce himself, which is
something Shiv has been told and told
to do but forgets half the time anyhow.

"Hi, I'm Shiv," he remembers this time.

The boy tugs a long lock of hair
like he means it as a reply.

"Hair? Blue?" Shiv guesses.
This is kind of a cool game.

Headshake. Nod.

"Indigo? Cornflower?"
Shiv says, trying the colors
that seem like a close match.

Another headshake, and
the boy pulls out a smartphone.
He types, then turns it around
so Shiv can see: Hi, I'm Persia.

"Oh! Persian blue!" Shiv exclaims.
I should have thought of that, because
it can be light, medium, or dark.

Then he notices the familiar frame
around the words on the screen,
which looks like paint splatter.

"Hey, do you SplatChat?" he asks,
taking out his own smartphone.

Persia grins, and bounces
up and down, and grabs ahold of
a necklace that he stuffs into his mouth.

"Synch up?" Shiv offers, and at
Persia's enthusiastic nod, they
pair their smartphones.

That's the cool thing about
SplatChat, you can connect and
then chat in images instead of
talking out loud. It even lets you
mix in text from the keyboard mode.

Persia has all kinds of snarky things
to say about Snippy Tips, most
of which make Shiv laugh.

In return, Shiv shows Persia
some rude graffiti that he's done,
which makes the younger boy
blow a raspberry at the salon.

Shiv isn't going to go tag
Snippy Tips today, because
he's supposed to stay out
of trouble for a while.

A few months from now,
however, is a different story,

he muses to himself.

He gives the front of the salon
a thoughtful look, imagining it
spraypainted with yippy dogs.

The conversation rambles
back and forth, mostly icons
with some snapshots, and
occasionally they break into
text for things that aren't
easy to illustrate.

Persia has a great set of
icons, though, even better
than the ones that Shiv
has collected recently.

The best ones cost money,
but you can always find plenty
for free, because in addition to
the basic batch that comes with
a chat program, art students like
to make new ones for class projects.

Shiv enjoys himself more than
he would have expected.

It's fun to yak around with
someone, and not have to worry
if he's spelling or pronouncing
things the way everyone expects.

It's relaxing to enjoy the company
without having to voice it, just
vibing on the same page and
soaking up the same sunlight.

That's when it goes to hell,
because things always
go to hell in Shiv's life.

The policeman looms over
both of them, but his attention
is on Shiv. "He's talking with
you?" the taller man asks.
"Can you make him leave?"

Shiv is supposed to be good,
so he doesn't tell the cop
to go fuck himself.

"Ask him yourself, since he's
standing right here," Shiv says.

He hates it when people talk
around him like he's not there,
and he's not going to stand by
while someone else does it
to a kid he finds amusing.

"I've been trying all morning,"
the cop says, throwing up his hands.
"He won't do what I ask, and when I try
to budge him by hand, then he gets
fractious. I don't want to risk spooking
him into traffic, so I backed off."

At least he's not a complete idiot,
Shiv admits grudgingly. He just
doesn't know what he's doing.
Why is this suddenly MY problem?

"Uh huh," Shiv said. "What's it to me?"

"My name is Dain. I've gone through all
the stuff I learned about de-escalation, it's
not working, and I'm worried," the cop says.
"I thought since you're his friend, maybe
you'd be willing to give me a hand,
and explain how to reach him."

"We're not friends, we just met,"
Shiv points out, but Dain looks
fucking desperate, and Shiv knows
that a desperate cop is not a good thing.

Shiv sighs and looks at Persia,
who is clutching his protest sign
like it's a knight's shield.

"You wanna move?" he asks,
not expecting that to work.

Persia just scowls and
jabs a finger at Snippy Tips,
too fussed to type a reply.

"I know, I know, they're
douchebags and they
dissed you, so you want
everyone to know about it,"
Shiv says. He turns to the cop.
"Persia doesn't want to leave."

"But it's dangerous here,"
Dain says, pointing overhead.
"They're doing construction. That's
why I'm assigned to this block for now.
I'm a safety officer; I keep an eye on
hazards so people don't get hurt."

Shiv looks up, and sure enough,
they're doing renovation or some shit
on the upstairs apartment next door to
the salon. The space right below it
is blocked off, but that's all.

As he watches, a worker throws a load
of trash down a tube that looks like it's
made from garbage cans strung together.
Some of the junk spills, missing the dumpster.

That's not good, Shiv thinks. That crap
is going to get all over the place.

It's not his damn problem, but
he doesn't want to step in it, either.
Shiv casts his power around
to find out how bad it is.

Sharp things.
Sharp things everywhere.

Usually Shiv doesn't pay attention
to all the points and edges lying around in
public places, because it's too distracting,
but now that he's seeking them out,
he can sense them all around.

If telling Persia about this
was going to work, then it
would've worked already.

So Shiv takes the easy way out:
he picks up all the sharp things
that he can reach, lifts them about
a foot in the air, and then drops them.

"Move, or bleed," he adds aloud.

Persia stares at the ground,
his eyes huge. "Nails!" he says.

"Nails, staples, bits of broken glass,
and somebody didn't bother to throw
their used utility blades in the trash,"
Shiv recites from memory.

Persia looks like the time
that a kid used a teddy bear
to make a cushion underneath
the seesaw, sad and mashed.
All the sparkle's gone out of him.

"You really need to leave now,"
Dain says, reaching for Persia.

The boy skitters out of the way,
and Shiv remembers seeing
the Don't TOUCH me buttons.

Shiv rolls his eyes and thinks,
This is so not helping.

He doesn't know what to do.
He's not a damn superhero.

For the first time, Shiv wishes
that Stalwart Stan was here
to take this mess off his hands.
The big lug probably wouldn't
do any better, but at least then it
wouldn't be Shiv's problem anymore.

Persia jabs a button on his phone,
and it reads, Please be patient
with me. I need more time.

Recognizing the routine for
stored messages, and that
Persia's brain is likely full,
Shiv says, "Sure, I can wait."

"Five minutes," Dain says.

Shiv doesn't think much of
cop training if this is the best
Dain can do. Shiv can do
better, and he's a supervillain.

Then again, Shiv only knows
some of this shit because
Boss White has pounded it into
his skull that the Ebonies & Ivories
don't discriminate against people.

That reminds him of his lessons,
which gives him an idea.

"How about we go down to
Twisting Sisters?" he says.
"If you wave your sign there,
maybe people won't come here,
they might go in the other salon."

It's mostly for women with
natural hair, but they wouldn't
turn away Hispanic customers,
or even white folks. Extra money
is nothing to sneeze at.

Persia rocks a little in place,
but he's clearly thinking it over,
so Shiv doesn't pester him.

I hate it when people rush me,
but I really don't want to stand here
waiting for this cop to find some reason
to bust me,
he thinks to himself.

"You mentioned utility blades,"
Dain says. "Can you point them out?"

Shiv doesn't care to take orders
from him, but neither does he want
the cop to make more of a fuss.

There's one between their feet,
and another near the dumpster.
"There and there," he says, pointing.

Dain takes an evidence bag
out of his utility belt and carefully
picks up the spent blades, then
tucks them in a different pouch.

Shiv smirks a little to see a cop
using something that was invented
by supervillains. That's never
going to stop being funny.

"Thank you," Dain says. "I'll have
words with the construction workers
about keeping their site tidy."

Good luck with that, Shiv thinks,
but doesn't say it out loud.

Then Persia decides that
he's done thinking about
whether to shift his position.

Shiv's phone makes
a splattery noise and then
pops up the message, Would
you like to walk with me?

"Sure," he says, because
Twisting Sisters is on
the way to the bus stop.

Dain lets them go, although
Shiv suspects that the cop will
shadow them from a distance.

Since he's not planning to steal
anything, he doesn't particularly care.

It's nice having someone to walk with,
though. Persia is fun to have around
even if the boy isn't very vocal. He
flaps his hands at the pigeons to shoo
them out of the way, making Shiv laugh.

Persia laughs too, and he doesn't
shy away like Shiv is dangerous
or just not worth having around.

There haven't been many folks
like that in his life before.

Shiv misses Antimatter
with a sudden, piercing twist
that is not at all fun. He had
meant to replace the guy, but
somehow never got around to it.

Maybe he should think about
making some new allies.

When they get to Twisting Sisters,
Persia doesn't say anything, but he
reaches out to tap his phone on Shiv's.

"Yeah, we can swap numbers,"
Shiv says, and gives his to Persia.

The younger boy replies
with his own contact information,
and then they part company.

The bus ride is quiet,
but Shiv can't stop thinking
about everything that has
happened to him today.

It's been a good day,
if kind of exhausting.

When Shiv gets home,
he spends half an hour
carefully sculpting a button
on the back of his cargo shorts
so that it says, STAB YOU.

He considers this fair warning
for what will happen the next time
anyone tries to touch his butt.

The smooth flow of the metal
under his fingertips helps him
to settle his mind and body alike.

Sometimes it's nice to say what
you mean without having to voice it.

* * *


Docie Overby -- She has cocoa skin, brown eyes, and nappy brown hair that she usually wraps up in a headband. She is married with two children, a boy and a girl. Docie works as a receptionist at the Omaha Personal Repair Center in Nebraska. In addition to her organizational skills, she excels at making a quick connection with people when they come in. Nothing really fazes her. However, she is allergic to animals, which sometimes poses a challenge if someone brings a service animal into the office. Docie graduated from a community college with a major in Office Management and a minor in African-American History. She collects prints from black artists and posters of famous black people.
Qualities: Good (+2) African-American History, Good (+2) Cislunar Freakout Threshold, Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Forming Rapport, Good (+2) Receptionist
Poor (-2) Allergic to Animals

Persia (Garrett Rector) -- He has light copper skin and brown eyes. His hair is short and black on the left, longer on the right with a base color of Persian blue streaked with lighter and darker blues. A drawback of the vivid hair is that it attracts girls, and sometimes boys; but Persia finds the whole topic of sex awkward and confusing. His heritage includes American, Iranian, and Otoe. He is 17 and a senior in high school. He wants to attend college, but isn't sure whether he wants to become a social worker or a professional activist. Persia is autistic, and has learned how to make that work for him. He is genderqueer, and equally comfortable with that. As an activist, he advocates for better accommodations for people with differences.
Origin: When Garrett was young, he had sensory processing disorder that was worst in the visual range and aggravating everywhere else. His mother got him into a program to test out a promising new medication that was mostly intended to reduce autistic behavior, but also seemed to help SPD. They were nervous about it, but hopeful. It fixed the visual problem, reduced the other SPD symptoms to a level manageable with other coping skills, but didn't affect his autistic traits. It also gave him superpowers.
Uniform: Persia dresses for comfort, not for fashion. He's quite fond of several clothing lines that cater to autistic people. His favorite color is red, and he won't wear blue. He customarily wears a chewable pendant around his neck.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Autistic, Good (+2) Genderqueer, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Sexy
Powers: Good (+2) Crayon Soup
Like some crayon soups, Persia can see into the ultraviolet.
Motivation: Making the world more inclusive.

Nonverbal autism is a condition in which people speak rarely if at all. However, some of them can read and write just fine, and may prefer that as a mode of communication; others prefer a graphic interface. Even verbal people with autism may become nonverbal under stress. (This occasionally happens to neurotypical people, too, they just don't think of it as the same thing.) Autistic folks may be nonverbal or minimally verbal because they don't think in words, struggle to find words that fit their thoughts, or other reasons. In essence, their native language and thought patterns don't use words the same way most people do, and "translating" is hard work. A standard linguistic parameter, however, is that comprehension exceeds production, often by a wide margin. So nonverbal people can usually understand some or all of what people say to them. Read a post from a nonverbal autistic person.

A chewy necklace can help regulate emotions.

Dain Adnerson -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and ash-brown hair buzzed short. He is married with three children, two girls and a boy. He serves as a police officer in Omaha, Nebraska. Dain is good at talking with people when there's trouble, and finding a solution that way. He's not good with visual imagery, though, and that makes it harder for him to communicate with visual thinkers. He often works safety patrol around parts of town that are prone to accidents, or when changes have increased the chance of mishaps. As a hobby, he breeds sugar gliders. Dain is particularly adept at socializing them to make good pets, and he's selecting primarily for temperament and health rather than fancy coat.
Qualities: Good (+2) Breeding Sugar Gliders, Good (+2) Cop, Good (+2) Friendly, Good (+2) Linguistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence

* * *

“When it occurs without having to voice it - vibin' on the same page, flowin' on the same wave, soakin' up the same light rays.”
T.F. Hodge, From Within I Rise: Spiritual Triumph Over Death and Conscious Encounters with "The Divine Presence"

The Omaha Personal Repair Center is primarily designed for mental health services, offered in a wide variety of styles. However, it also includes a few aspects of physical care that interface with mental care, such as diet, vision, and healthy touch. All-purpose exam rooms provide space for physical health care, and there are triage nurses to sort clients according to what they need and how soon. Telemedicine offices make it easy to interface with other providers, such as the Freeman Family Hospital, for services not available onsite. That makes it possible to use this as a hub for accessing other health care, once someone becomes comfortable with the center and its staff.

See the exterior and the parking level. This is the floor plan. The waiting room is divided into several areas.

These wall-mounted touchscreens provide interactive services in several locations. Most are in the waiting area, but there are some by each stairwell and the conference room too. The vertical display allows users to move the windows up or down as needed to reach eye level. The standby display has a red-framed top window that says, "Do you need help right now?" Below that are two side-by-side ones; the blue frame says, "Would you like to play a game?" and the green-framed one says, "Would you like to explore our facility?" There is also a linear menu with more options, which users can set to different locations. If you have a user account, the thing will even remember your settings. Touchscreen kiosks can also be freestanding with one or two sides. They can be designed with three or four sides, like this square kiosk, to serve multiple users at once. Where the floor map says "kiosk" in the waiting area is a square kiosk with four screens.

Social alert buttons carry messages to aid communication and courtesy, things that people may be unable or uncomfortable to say aloud. This shop sells many of them.

Here are some assorted social alert buttons. They may give warnings such as Social Anxiety, Migraine Day, Don't touch me, or Social (no). Some are designed to offer positive things like Polite, Mediator, or Need Prayer?

A sorting basket has different compartments. The reason it's kept behind the counter is to encourage safe social interaction.

This is the cashier window for paying customers. Terramagne-America offers many social and health services free. Most towns have at least one community mental health clinic where citizens can get short-to-medium-term help funded by municipal sources. It's in everyone's best interest to have a sane population.

The café seating covers the tan areas adjacent to the waiting room. This is the café ordering area. Because the center lies between Hispanic and black neighborhoods, some of the signs have a mix of English and Spanish. The self-serve screens have a menu display similar to this. So customers have a choice of interacting with a cashier or not.

The welcome center provides a semi-private space for intake interviews. Sometimes people know exactly what they want and are easily routed to a particular provider, but often they're not sure, and the receptionists can help figure out where to start. More detailed assessments happen behind closed doors for more privacy.

The center provides some physical health care, so there are scales in an alcove and multi-purpose exam rooms.

The conference room includes tables and chairs that can be configured in many different ways. The meeting shown is for veteran services.

The breakroom has a kitchenette, tables and vending machines.

There are two group therapy rooms, one with chairs and another with tables and chairs. The three counseling offices adjacent to the group therapy rooms are set up for small group therapy or family counseling to serve several people. This is a family counseling room. Other counseling rooms may be set up for individuals or couples.

Office space includes resident cubicles, a social worker office, and two dietician offices.

Neighborhood design in T-America follows classic principles which place civil buildings such as a school at the center of the neighborhood, and most amenities such as stores and offices at the corners or edges where they can be shared between neighborhoods. While T-Omaha is not deliberately segregated, you can still see the tendency of people to clump together somewhat, so that some neighborhoods have a prevailing ethnic trend. But they're less inclined to kill each other over that in T-America than here.

Nonverbal communication spans multiple types. In addition to body language it also covers signals and symbols.

Social stories were originally designed to help autistic people understand human interactions and expectations for which they have less instinctive grasp than neurotypical people do. They use illustrations or captioned icons to assist poor readers. If you look at the criteria, this seems plausible. But if you look at actual examples, the problems show up. Almost all of these things are written by neurotypical people, for their own advantage, to be used ON neurovariant people so as to make them comply with someone else's expectations. Therefore, social stories routinely describe emotions that neurovariant people don't feel in that situation, or actions they don't take. Their actual experiences are not represented, because those are not approved. This erasure can create confusion, frustration, and a sense of disconnection with people and the world around them. It also goes along with forced affect -- therapy designed to change how a person expresses their feelings, pressuring them to pretend to be calm or happy even when distressed, to avoid annoying the important people around them. Shiv hates this, and it makes his behavior worse because that's how he asserts his identity. By encouraging him to write his own stories, Dr. G simultaneously gives him a nonviolent outlet for his frustration, and helps him explore his real identity which reduces the pressure.

See Shiv's "No More Spoons, Only Knives Left" t-shirt.

The Underground Railroad used songs to communicate. This is just one of many modes that people likely used, but it is among the better preserved ones.

This is Boss White's musical quilt. Most of the definition is created by black or red thread on a white background.

Quilts are popular for conveying information, inspired by the Underground Railroad. This has expanded to include patchwork coats, bags, pillows, and other items.

Various quilt patterns were used to convey messages along the Underground Railroad. While controversial in L-America, it is better recognized in T-America. Because of the extreme danger in escaping to freedom or helping escaped slaves, the system was cloaked in secrecy. Because most slaves were illiterate and came from oral tradition, they had little interest in writing things down. These factors meant that almost nothing got recorded in the ways that literate white society expects history to come, and white historians just don't respect African-American oral tradition as history. But that doesn't make it any less important.

Variations of the log cabin quilt have assigned different meanings. A red center square can stand for danger and a black for safety, along the general lines of red being a danger color -- or red can mean the fire in the house is lit so it's open to guests, while black means it's out and not safe to approach. In any cell-based resistance, you tend to see variations in codes or other cultural motifs, because there's no central organization giving everyone the same instructions. Each grup will take what they need from available sources, which means different groups may base local practices on different logical associations. What looks like a sign of inaccuracy to a book-learning culture is actually a sign of accuracy to an activist familiar with cell dynamics.

Here is a handsome sampler of Underground Railroad quilt blocks.

"Follow the Drinking Gourd" indicates the North Star, because the Big Dipper (which points toward it) is known as the Drinking Gourd in African-American star lore. So the symbolism of gourds, ladles, and spoons is linked with that of the North Star and the Big Dipper. There are a lot of variations on these motifs in quilting.

From these roots grew the modern spoon quilts. The modern version dates from after the founding of SPOON, uses a more contemporary spoon shape, and offers help for persecuted soups. Due to the association with SPOON, this type of quilt usually speaks to superheroes, and more often than not, people who are or have been open about their abilities (if not necessarily their identities). It is less often used in reference to supervillains or crickets.

If you look very closely, you can see that the woodgrain fabric used for the spoon of this block has tiny stars on it -- a reference to the Drinking Gourd and North Star from the old Underground Railroad codes. A spoon shape can be cut out of any fabric and appliqued onto a backing cloth. Any fabric with a spoon pattern can be quilted whole or in blocks of different patterns, just by stitching around the outline of each spoon. This is very popular with novice quilters. A fork and spoon quilt indicates a mixed couple: spoon for someone with superpowers, fork for someone who dislikes superpowers. But together anyway. A knife and spoon together indicate a supervillain/superhero couple. This block, based on a common pattern for placemats, puts the knife and spoon together and the fork separate. It celebrates the superpower community united againt bigots. A quilt showing all three types of cutlery indicates that all are welcome. This one belongs to Valor's Widow.

The cricket is generally a sign of good fortune and welcome. It touches on the Asian motif of lucky crickets. People may display crickets to show that they are soup-friendly and understand special needs. This patchwork quilt uses elaborate three-dimensional embroidery to create a cricket and other embellishments. This type of art quilt is not meant to spread over a bed, but rather to hang on the wall like a tapestry. They are occasionally displayed in bohemian refuges or art galleries. Any fabric with crickets printed on it can be used for this type of quilt. Because the outlines are so fussy, this would probably be quilted by stitching between the insects. Alternatively, they could be cut out individually and appliqued over a background.

Masks refer to secret identities and the need for discretion. They can warn people to hide their superpowers, or advertise that concealing supplies are available. They come in many styles such as African, Mardi Gras, or Italian. The two faces motif is another way to show secret identities. This usually implies acceptance of both facets of a person's life, or help in balancing them.

(These links are appalling.)
The history of abortion and birth control gets ugly when women have been denied health care. Stories of what abortion was like may help spur people to protect women's right. Yes, there are people alive today who lost relatives to this barbarism. Some women responded by creating an Underground Railroad to provide access to health care. Sadly it's still needed in L-America today, where theoretical "right" and actual access are so far apart that they leave women without care, creating exactly the same problems legalization was meant to stop. Women are dying right now because they aren't permitted to have the health care they allegedly have a right to get.

During the time in T-America when reproductive services such as birth control or abortion were illegal in many states, women formed a network to gain access. Like the quilts of the Underground Railroad, they were often very stylized and oblique, because secrecy was essential. People would be jailed if caught. This is a direct descendent from the Underground Railroad. The colors red and white represent blood and freedom. The flying geese symbolize travel. Thus, a red-and-white flying geese quilt shows where you can get a ride to your reproductive services. A coathanger stands for underground abortion services. These are often embroidered as simple lines.

Quilts with bandaids or other bandages generally indicate injury or feeling fragile. Any kind of cloth with bandaids printed on it can be turned into a quilt simply by stitching around the individual bandages. Another method is to make simple blocks of different bandaid fabrics. This is enormously popular with novice quilters. A bandaid quilt may be made from rectangular blocks with a white patch appliqued over the middle. Another style of bandaid block has pointed ends. There are also ones with rounded ends, but those are harder to sew. Any version of a heart with a bandaid on it symbolizes emotional injury and emotional first aid.

Bandaid Brain is a nonprofit organization for survivors of traumatic brain injury and their families which provides support groups, networking, reviews of treatments and practitioners, and other resources. Their symbol is a brain with a bandaid on it. In addition to stock images, they actually have software that lets people make custom images by choosing a brain image, choosing a bandage image, and then putting the bandage over the spot of their own injury. The images can then be printed on t-shirts, mugs, buttons, etc. In T-America many folks wear a Bandaid Brain image captioned "PTBI" (Post Traumatic Brain Injury), "TBI Survivor," "Brain Injury Survivor," etc. if they are symptomatic enough that it helps people understand why they act that way, or if they're activists seeking to raise awareness.

Many charities make and distribute quilts to recipients in need. Learn how to make quilts for donation.

Passion fruit cocktail is a popular beverage. The fruit and flowers have soothing qualities, although the flowers are stronger.

Autistic people are routinely bullied at work and in businesses, mainly because neurotypical people look down on them as defective. However, it doesn't have to be a disorder; autism has advantages too. Persia doesn't think of himself as disabled; he is comfortable with his autism and good at finding ways to accomplish his goals. Some businesses recognize these assets and design autism-friendly workplaces.

Responses to autistic customers range from cruel to downright discriminatory. Meanwhile, responsible workers simply figure out solutions and go on from there.

Alternative communication offers a variety of options for people who can't speak, or don't want to speak. There are apps for smartphones or tablets, but L-American ones are nowhere near as good or readily available as T-American ones. The decent ones here cost hundreds of dollars. In T-America you can get that level for free, and better ones for a reasonable price. It's still a good idea to consult experts before investing in a system, because different things meet different needs. Here are some sources of free communication icons.

SplatChat is an open-source visual chat program for smartphones and tablets in T-America, which uses images similar to the icons on a speech board. It has been created largely by and for people with special needs, although plenty of other folks have joined in. Users can augment the images with text. The core program and its basic dictionary of icons are free. Many more icons and modules have been created, along with supporting materials such as articles on efficient use; some of the extras are free, others paid. So for instance, you can customize the program to use all stylized icons, all photos, a mix of images and text, etc. SplatChat is very popular with neurovariant people.

A debris chute is a great way to get garbage from a high place to a low dumpster. Some are giant hoses, while others are modular like the one pictured. The flaw of all modular systems is that they can come apart at inopportune times, in this case letting garbage leak out the cracks all over the street.

In L-America, police routinely murder people for failure to be pleasing; the law amounts to "obey or die," with little chance of justice for the victims. About half of people killed by police are mentally ill, and people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police. This fellow was murdered while fleeing to safety. It's not safe for people with mental illness, or even difference, to go out in society; if they police notice them, it's immediately life-threatening. O_O They're also prone to killing people who don't speak English, and L-American cops aren't obligated to use any other language. Some departments are training officers to deal with autistic or other disabled people. They may establish specialized officers with more advanced training and/or pair police with mental workers. T-American basic training is toward the upper end of training here.

Dain is a pretty typical cop; he had enough training to avoid making the problem worse, but not enough to solve it by himself. So he watched for an opportunity to sort it out some other way. In L-America, Persia could well have been killed by people allegedly just wanting to move him out of a risky area. He's actually quite well adapted to living in a society that uses a verbal language instead of his native nonverbal, but too many challenges at once can still exceed his coping capacity. Persia wasn't being willfully disobedient; he and Dain just couldn't communicate well enough for Persia to grasp that standing in that area could've got him injured. Once Persia realized the risk, he just needed a few minutes to create a mental program for "move the protest to a safer place."

A utility belt holds small useful items, and T-American police call it by that name. L-American ones prefer to say "duty belt" instead. The most frequently used items should be the most accessible. A safety officer often finds small violations that can be picked up in an evidence bag, so he carries some in a belt pouch. Small pouches made for medical gloves work just as well for bags or other flexible items.

Some social alert buttons give explicit warnings. This is what Shiv put on the back pocket of his jeans.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, linguistics, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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