I was on the Tube (London Underground for those who may not know) last evening. On the District line to be precise (random thought: why are the Tube lines the colours they are? What makes the District line green? What makes the Central line red?).
But I digress.
I hopped on to a train and picked a seat. It was blissfully empty, mostly because I was at a stop away from central London. When I sat down, even though I had my iPod Shuffle blasting Muse into my ears, I noticed a movement from the corner of my eye. When I looked ever-so-slightly to my left, a young man (possibly mid- to late-20s) was sitting at the end of the carriage, with a soda plastic bottle in his hand and he was grinning. And giggling. My knee-jerk reaction: what’s wrong with him? Has he had too much to drink?
In another 2-4 seconds, I realized, quite shamefully, I was wrong. He started rocking, babbling and laughing. He was most definitely autistic.
People were looking at him. Staring even. Avoiding him. They were afraid of him.
I left the train a few stops later and he was still there, crushing his soda bottle and stuffing his fingers in his ears. And my wish for him as I stepped off was that he reached wherever he was going safely.
You know what struck me right after? People are going to be afraid of my beautiful baby brother. He may be 14 now (though he looks much older), he may be taller than me for a good amount and he may be a hefty guy. But he’s still a baby. A baby who cries, crushes bottles, giggles randomly, stuffs his fingers in his ears when surrounding noises are just too much, and rocks when excited.
And people are going to be afraid of him.
Because he’s different. Because they don’t know what he’s going to do next. Because he doesn’t fit society’s expectations of what is “normal”.
FYI: being “normal” is over-rated.