Feeling the Music

These are my main headphones that have been wi...

Mother and son.  They got on the bus just after me.  He was somewhere between 18 and 25, I’d guess, wearing headphones and holding the tiniest MP3 player I’d ever seen.

She was anxious.

They’d been deep in conversation – negotiation, by the sound of it.
“Fine,” she was saying, “But don’t wave your arms about and no making faces.”
“Making faces!” he exclaimed, in the way sons talk to over-anxious mums the world over.  “As if I’d make faces!”

Having got his way, the young man sat at the front of the bus, while his mother perched a few seats back.

I love people-watching.  I enjoy trying to fill in the background to the gestures and snatches of conversation around me.  High-functioning autistic lad, I surmised.  Mother’s worried that if he doesn’t sit with her he’ll behave in ways that will make others stare – or worse.  She’s on a knife-edge between wanting to give him some independence and wanting to protect him from hurtful comments.  He just wants to lose himself in his music.

I watched him.  I couldn’t help it.  It felt good to see someone that happy – freely, openly, ecstatically happy and absorbed in his pleasure.  Yes, he swayed about, waved his hands from time to time, and the rapturous expressions that chased one another across his face could be classed as ‘making faces’.  He looked the way any of us might look if we were listening to music at home, alone and unobserved or at a festival, where it’s fine to dispense with inhibitions.

We – the rest of us – the neuro-typicals – have learned, from our mothers perhaps, that normally we should mask our feelings in public.  We stare straight ahead or bury our head in a book on public transport.  Showing our emotions is not acceptable.

What a dull, grey world we create.

I had enormous sympathy and respect for the boy’s mother.  I could imagine what a struggle her life was and how hard she was trying to help her child.  But regardless of that, I felt privileged to have shared that journey with him, remembering how it felt to be uninhibited and free to feel the music.