Thursday, 17 January 2013

Another brother from another planet (Write of passage number twenty-seven)

I often heard him vocalizing when younger daughter and I alighted from the Transitway buses to hurry up the block to waylay our bus home. He's very tall, very broad, and somewhere quite far out on the autism spectrum. He lives in Lower Town and we've often seen him on the bus with his dad over the years. Lately he had been on his own, and had created a ritual which would play out while we waited for the transfer. He would approach the line of commuters at the bus stop and, vocalizing in an insistent tone, indicate that he wanted to fist bump.

Most people turned away, but being the mother of a special needs kid, I hated to do so. The problem is, once I had fist-bumped him, he wanted me to scrub his hands with my knuckles which he demonstrated, again with some insistence. Since younger daughter had "deep pressure hunger" issues when she was smaller, I felt honour-bound to comply, but I must admit I felt embarrassed and wondered inwardly whether I should be encouraging this. Harmless enough, but what would happen if he approached a hostile person with no inhibitions?

A later refinement in the strange ceremony was a box of antibacterial hand-wipes which he wanted me to rub on the back of his hands. I was mystified. Extricating myself with some difficulty, I searched in vain for a garbage can in which to deposit the wipe, not caring to stick it in my bag when my rapidly approaching bus arrived. In desperation, I ducked into a Starbucks for the few seconds it took to throw the wipe into the bin by the door. It was a few seconds too many for younger daughter, who is at a different end of the autism spectrum and perfectly capable of telling me how upset she was: "Mom!! What are you doing!!!" She stomped to her seat as heads turned.

I haven't seen him for a few weeks. Part of me is relieved; the other part is worried.

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