We’d been dating for something like four months when it hit me.
Elijah and sarcasm do not mix well. They’re like oil and water — nothing particularly detrimental happens to either one when they mix; they can exist together, but they do not mesh.
On the other hand, sarcasm and I have a bit of a love affair. I am more likely to communicate through sarcasm than through accurate statements. So we developed a sign. Any time I was being sarcastic, I placed a finger upon my nose. That way, he knew whether or not to take me seriously.
It worked well.
There were far fewer misunderstandings, because Elijah didn’t have to take guesses at my meanings. Smooth sailing. Until I noticed how his finger-picking and leg-shaking increased dramatically when my use of sarcasm increased. Until I noticed his reticence. Until I noticed how confused he still seemed.
That’s when it hit me. Elijah would never tell me that what I was doing upset him. He simply didn’t know how, and was too afraid to try. So I talked to him. Asked him. So now I’m learning his language.
I’m learning the joy of flapping hands and tight squeezes. I’m learning about the significance of long-held eye contact, and how much of a gift his beautiful green eyes are. I’m learning to express emotion through actions. I’m learning to say what I mean. I’m learning to explain myself — let me tell you, trying to explain what certain common colloquialisms mean is very difficult! They’re obvious to me, because I’ve grown up knowing what they mean, but I’ve noticed how rarely I actually know why. I’m learning how to be okay with the same phrase over, and over, and over. It does not lose meaning, not to him. When he tells me, “I love you more than gushers” for the thousandth time, it carries exactly the same amount of gravity as it did the first time, if not more. I’m learning how rituals comfort. I’m learning to discuss plans, to plan out days to the minute if need be. I’m learning to ignore stares and snickers and weird looks (Okay, maybe I’m not great at ignoring those. But I’m fantastic at staring people right in the eyes, very pointedly, right before I walk over to kiss the boy I love). I’ve learned not to use passive aggression, as so many neurotypical people my age tend toward.. He teaches me every day. He teaches me what it means to love.
Autism is my second language. I’m learning through experience. Luckily, I have the best teacher I could ask for (not to mention him being one of the cutest teachers I could ever ask for…).