“Good morning!” I chirped, because I always chirp – more so when I’m tired or unhappy or terribly ill again, defying all logic. Shane made his usual mad rush for the door and I let my head roll back on my shoulders. I was tired. I’d had fifteen minutes of sleep.

I heard the door open, but suddenly I realized I hadn’t heard it close. I tilted my head to see him squeezing the door handle, looking at me. “Are you waiting for me to tease you?” He coloured deeply, said nothing, looked down. “I’m too tired to tease you. Have a good day at work and see you later.” He smiled with unexpected cheer and nodded enthusiastically.

He must think I’m some rare sort of crazy, I thought. Were he not so lonely, so obviously lonely, he’d object, or indulge the secret desire of his heart to pepper spray me.


sorry for shane

I tell myself not to feel sorry for Shane – for him. He’s just a parent, a client, and no matter how close you think you get to these people there’s always a moment, a corner, when they snap and deny you even the most basic humanity. That sounds terrible and dramatic, but it’s true. (Some other time I’ll elucidate on how you’re expected to wear every sort of bodily function like a corsage, and without complaint.)

Some other time I’ll explain about his wife, Zara, who pulls out her hair when she talks to the teachers, and his job – and what can collectively be described as “pressures.” I blame those “pressures” for why he began an apology to me –

I can’t seem to start in the right place. I want to describe his life, how socially incompetent he is, what a kind father, what a besotted husband – all the little details, the respect he shows the teachers, even the substitutes, even the cleaning staff who is not used to being perceived as human. Maybe it’s the social incompetence that made me get assigned to him; I’m always assigned to the parents (and children) who are special needs, in some way or another. He was classified as being remarkable difficult but incessantly polite, agreeing to everything and understanding nothing.

When I talk to him he just listens quietly. I guess this is my “special talent”, the same thing that enables me to have normal conversations with autistic children without even trying, which of course carries into autistic adults, which means I brought home a boyfriend and left him alone to talk to my mom only to run back when I heard her scream: he was rocking in his chair, hands over ears and body completely turned away from her.

Much later, when I asked him what had happened he didn’t seem to realize he’d exited the conversation. “I just think that maybe life is hard without you.” he told me. “Things kind of stop making as much sense.”