I am autistic. I really do prefer order above chaos, routine above last minute spur-of-the-moment excitement. And dinner outside of home base is actually not something I enjoy very much at all. In fact, these days, I rarely accept dinner invitations, almost never attend concerts and exhibition openings unless I was performing or exhibiting. The sensory struggle is just not worth it anymore, and I am too old for this kind of neuronormative mimicry anyway. Yet, there I was, clutching a generous gift voucher in my hand, expiring in 24 hours, dashing off to dinner in a somewhat dishevelled state: shorts, T-shirt, canvas shoes, no make-up and messy hair. Most unglamorous. But Foodie Bunny must not let this go to waste! I was on a mission!
Prepared to eat alone, I brought my reading book, a notebook and sketching pencils – I don’t have any fear of eating solo, in fact, I quite enjoy it – but I was not sure if I could eat my way through that amount of food, so I sent out a few WhatsApp messages to friends, just to try my luck. I had been thinking of one friend, someone I really wanted to spend a quiet moment with, but I didn’t think to send him a message because I thought he’d be exhausted and busy cooking for his large family over the Lunar New Year celebrations. It was a eureka moment when a mutual friend (to whom I had sent a message) declined the invitation but mentioned the friend I had been thinking about. Voila! A dinner date was made! It just happened that he was nearby and within a few minutes, we were seated together in the little Japanese restaurant, chatting away, catching up on new happenings and reminiscing about old times (very very old times, as far back as high school). You know, the usual stuff that happens when good friends get together? Yes, autistic people do that thing too, but I am very selective these days, because of the sensory costs, and social fatigue.
This friend is a gem. I should say “diamond of the first water.” One of the very few who has accepted and embraced my autistic ‘coming out’ with grace, and remained loyal to me through the tumultuous process of separating wheat from chaff – you know, the usual combustions, explosions, implosions and loss that occurs when one comes out of any closet. One of the few I have left from days of yore, I have learned to treasure each all the more. (No, that was not a deliberate rhyme, but I shall leave it here, awkward as it is, a kind of impromptu sensory illustration, perhaps?)
We had a wonderful evening. As I waved goodbye to my friend at my apartment lobby, and watching the dashing little black vintage sports car vroom away into the distance, a cadential thought seeped into my consciousness: sometimes, unplanned events can turn out to be rather clement too.