A Night Out
In which I visit my local pub to watch a traditional Irish band.
It’s early in the evening. People are very restrained, not yet drunk. I watch their movements to see how to behave. I need to get it just right. I don’t want everyone’s attention to be on me by overdoing my show of enthusiasm, but I don’t want to appear straight-laced or weird by underdoing it either. I watch the way they stand and sway, how they clap after each song, how close they stand to each other. I drift off. I imagine my Irish ancestors living in grinding poverty, the bodies of their children rotting in Dalbeth cemetery and I feel myself start to cry. I stare up at the ceiling lights and bite my lip. I hope nobody has noticed. I wonder what they would think if they did. The penny whistle player plays a wrong note and my face exhibits an involuntary grimace of pain. I notice that I’m holding my pint of beer with two hands. I remember a night out ten years ago when I was temporarily nicknamed ‘squirrel’. I change my pint to one hand. I’m not sure what to do with the other one though. I experiment with various positions, but none of them feel right. The singer looks like ‘The Beast’ from ‘Countdown’. A man eighteen inches taller than me comes and stands right in front of me, so my face is a few inches away from his back. “What a total cunt!” I say under my breath, but I don’t think he heard me. They’re drunker now and some of them have started to clap. I despise their feeble attempts to signal musicality. I’m so close to the band now, it’s making me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want them to notice me. I so I duck out of the way. I wonder if ‘my autism is showing’. There’s another small woman to my right, I don’t know what she looks like, but I know she’s there. I imagine writing this article. I hope that I can remember everything. The strain of appearing ‘normal’ is starting to grate. I think about my face and whether I should change the expression on it. I’m enjoying the music, but I’m looking forward to the end. I dream that I have a brightly coloured badge on my bag reading “autistic” and smile to myself. This village isn’t ready for neurodiversity, but at least I’d have a larger circle of space around me.