Unsolicited advice for the week: If you assume that people talk to you for any reason other than they want to talk to you, you will drive yourself insane.

One of the other desk attendants at the dance studio spent the last half hour of her shift telling me an extensive tale of her interactions with this guy, which were a classic example of overthinking absolutely everything. She likes him, they spend a lot of time together, she once accidentally went on a five-hour date with him, and apparently they've hooked up. She is uncertain whether he wants anything to happen.

I spent the entire conversation wanting to take her by the shoulders and shout, HE LIKES YOU HE LIKES YOU HE LIKES YOU, GO BANG HIM UNTIL YOU RUN OUT OF CONDOMS, STOP TO BUY MORE, AND THEN CONTINUE. She spent the entire conversation spinning reasons why he might be answering her text messages for hours on end even though he didn't want to.

I don't know, without the invention of alcoholic beverages and the resulting sudden decisiveness, the human race might have died out centuries ago.

The rest of my interactions there have been remarkably unaggravating in comparison.

Cambridge is full of Interesting People. It's one of the reasons I love the city so. If they don't start there, they move there on purpose. Neil Gaiman bought a house in Cambridge a few months back; when he feels like doing nice things, he'll take a Sharpie with him when he goes book shopping and sign random copies of his works for basically no reason other than it pleases him to do so. One of the bookstores he so patronizes is one I walk past every few days.

There are a lot of Interesting People at the dance studio, which is smack in the middle of Cambridge, including a lot of the staff and several of the instructors. The itty-bitty lady who runs the modern dance classes is a kick in the pants. Most of the other desk attendants are either college-educated or in the process of becoming so, and so far nobody has given me that look for having a social sciences degree. Most of the acquaintanceships are actually progressing the way these things normally do, which is kind of a new one on me. My previous geographic locations were not dense enough with Weird Smart Kids for me to just sort of run into them at random and get to talking -- I had to spot them in the crowd and specifically make an effort. I don't have gaydar that works worth a damn, but I am ridiculously good at picking out the genius kids, particularly the ones that got hucked into some sort of gifted and talented program or a magnet school at an early age.

The one that I'm failing at not gathering Googlable information on is the most interesting one so far -- to the point where I was very amused to learn that I am not the only one entertaining myself trying to figure out how his brain works. Nobody will just ask him a priori, as that takes all of the fun out of the exercise, and apparently I'm the only one who doesn't balk at checking deductions a posteriori. (He answers, and is not fazed in the least.) I think I've got a pretty good grip on what's going on, but mostly because he sets off my Genius Alarm like whoa, and scans very much like someone who has spent a lot of time explicitly thinking about socialization.

Here's what's happened:

I happen to work a closing shift that coincides with his regular rehearsal time, which ends right when I'm supposed to be shooing everyone out of the building. The dance studio is very much a community, and I am very much not intimidated by random new people, so when I had to close up I just stuck my head into the studio the group was using and told him I was shutting everything down. I think I called him by name -- I did have the studio schedule down at the desk, and I'm not a twit -- but I honestly wasn't paying all that much attention, because it turns out that most people here think my accent is Southern, and I can therefore get away with calling about 90% of everybody "honey" without comment. That doesn't necessarily work the first time around, especially on people who are accustomed to n00bs being shy, so rather than hang about and be awkward I went on upstairs and started emptying trash and checking the other studios for stragglers.

He managed to leave something behind in one of the upstairs studios, and rather than rush to catch up with the rest of his group as they left, he quite deliberately stalled on the landing outside the room I was in and turned around to introduce himself properly. The conversation was the sort of utterly banal and obvious things that formally start many friendly relationships (exchange of names, "I understand you work here now!" "Yes, I am closing this building, as you can see!"), but the subtitles on it were quite something else.

Ye Interesting Person interacted with me perfectly fine when I was downstairs acting as "person at the desk who knew what studio he was booked in", but he didn't actually talk to me until I deliberately talked to him like he belonged there. (Well, like I was unsurprised he was still there, but regretfully had to make him go home now.) I was standing in a darkened studio at the time, upstairs in a mostly dark and deserted building, and he was very careful not to box me in, to the extent of staying out of arms' reach when we both finally went down the stairs. He gave me a great deal of airspace, even when coming to rummage for things behind the desk, until I demonstrated unambiguously that he did not make me at all nervous. His reaction to my observing that he basically lives there, and also a load of details that told me (correctly) that he's taken a lot of math and social science classes in his time, is somewhere between unsurprised and charmed, rather than unsettled.

I realized, rather wryly, that I am formally being befriended. I don't often get to see it from this side; I'm usually doing it to other people, and the other person usually isn't consciously aware it's being done. It doesn't happen in most friendships, as part of the usual process of realizing that you're simpatico is getting so into an interaction that you don't overtly notice or process the non-verbal cues involved -- you're discovering that you think enough like another person that you can interpret them without really trying. Ye Interesting Person is so unambiguously telegraphing a willingness to interact and then waiting for cues on my end that he cannot possibly not be doing this on purpose. I don't know if he was aware I also spend a lot of time detailing non-verbal interactions when he started, but he is now, and he hasn't knocked it off.

Even I am not usually this explicitly aware of the process as it's occurring, and it's odd. Almost like having to think about how you walk or talk or parse the sentences you hear. Still, I find it endlessly fascinating -- and an amusing parallel to the attention one suddenly has to pay to proprioception if one wishes to dance without smacking into barres, mirrors, and classmates.

There is a beautiful clarity to dealing with people who can read, write, and interpret human subtitles all on their own. It can be a strangely uncluttered form of communication, although it usually isn't. Monitoring what their body language says is the first thing most people drop when they get bogged down thinking about interactions; they don't know what they're saying, nor do they know what they're trying to convey, so getting at what's actually going on is something of a cross between Go Fish and Battleship. You just sort of lob educated guesses until you get a reaction. Talking with someone who speaks the dialect fluently is -- appropriately enough -- more of a ballroom dance: You don't necessarily know which direction you'll wind up going, but you both know the steps.

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