I never really understood Ellen. She's neutral to compliments and insults. She works without really getting tired. She is friendly and giving without really seeming like she needs support or acknowledgement. I had assumed that under a facade of tireless competence, she must have been a mess of self-denial, unrealistic personal expectations, and shame.
"No," she said casually as we rode home, "I have needs just like everyone else. I was just born in the next room over while Doktor Trouble was unleashing his Change-O-Tron, so the things I need are different. I don't need to feel safe or worthwhile or understood, and I don't particularly need time alone or with other people, but I have plenty of needs."
"For example?" I asked.
"Oh, I need extremely low-quality honey on a regular basis to stay coherent. And I need to be around people who talk about plants at least two hours a day. Every room in my house needs a prime number of furniture items. And I need a lot of contact with Senegalese things to keep my body temperature from going too high, of course, but not complete immersion or I'll go into a hypothermic coma. And I need to read lots of different styles of hand-writing every day. That kind of thing."
"And that's how you manage to accomplish so much? Because your needs are less emotional and more, um, mutated?"
She didn't seem to be offended.
"Oh, it's no special trick. As a teenager I was just as confused and miserable as everyone else. My parents thought I was a sociopath until they realized I just needed bad honey. The only way to avoid being needy is to know your needs and make sure they get met."
It was a wonderful ride. Thanks for paying for gas, Ellen!