IdentityBecause I am already dancing with you.

There’s this scene in The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime where the father of the young autistic protagonist wants to give his son a hug. I think this is one of the more profound and moving moments in a story ever.

I stepped outside. Father was standing in the corridor. He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people, so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me.

I’m not autistic, but I have a few autistic traits, am solidly an introvert, and have more awareness of energy flow than I generally let on. I’m hyper-alert to situations that could lead to contact, physical or emotional. If you are dancing near me, I see you there. I feel about eye contact similarly to the way the narrator above feels about hugs. It’s too much contact, too overwhelming. If you can see my eyes, I’ve seen you. If I haven’t moved away, your presence is welcome. Chances are, I’ve been dancing with you since you were all the way across the room, in the same way that I’m dancing with everyone as an aggregate. I see a motion across the room, and I mimic it. Someone’s flourish to my right catches my eye and I take the flourish where they left off and continue it with my own body. Someone skips by and I use the flourish to mark the path of the energy trailing behind them. All the while, I keep rhythm with the music and my own internal beat, solidly grounded in my hips and my wide-spread toes.

By the time you come near and make the physical offer, trying to catch my eye or dance in the same style as me, I’ve probably already been dancing with you for ten minutes. I realize that it is unfair to expect you to notice that. You, after all, have not been dancing with me. But the intensity of intimacy that comes with truly dancing together is not something that I share easily with strangers, nor is it my intention to be more comfortable doing so. I want to cultivate people in my life who understand that touching fingertips is so much more profound than a hug, and that dancing together across the room or with our backs to each other or to our own rhythms is more profound than matching your steps to mine. If you want to acknowledge our connection, smile and nod at me at the end of the dance. I’ll understand that it means that you love me, and I will nod in return and it will mean that I love you.