Busy today at my resource room work table. The radio plays Christmas carols and classic rock. The boy beside me punches numbers into a calculator. Another flips vocabulary flash cards. A girl sighs as she pages through a science text that offers scant connection to her hardscrabble life. Around the table I go, assisting, encouraging, redirecting. In an unclaimed moment, I survey the room. Outside, flurries, traces of white in a gray morning, a scene which calls to my daydreamers. Only now do I realize one of my boys is missing. I make a plea for civility in my looming absence then leave to check the bathroom across the hall.
I enter quietly. A faucet drips. He strikes the same pose I’ve discovered him in a half dozen times, his beanpole frame bent slightly forward, his pelvis pressed against the sink. His nose hovers inches from the mirror’s surface.
I say his name, the same hushed tone I use to wake my son. The boy doesn’t hear me. He’s distant, the moment a snapshot of a greater fading, a sinking into silences and obsessions and wooden gestures, an affliction his doctors and psychiatrists have yet to explain. Three years we’ve been together, saying little, laughing less. Each day he chokes out, “Hello,” and, “Goodbye;” sometimes he brings me a math paper, the problem he’s struggling with indicated with a tap of his chewed pencil. “Thanks,” he stammers when we’re done. My room is his safe place, his refuge amid the school’s chaos and noise, and for this, I am thankful.
I say his name again. He straightens himself, the jerking movements of a machine joined together with frayed wires and rusty cogs. His reflection abandons the mirror.
“Come on, pal.” I open the door. “Let’s head back.”
Image: Byron Darby at F-Stop Magazine