I

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K
hèrè's always onè kio in thè
nèiohborhooo èvèrybooy
lovès to tormènt: in Vinosor
Hèiohts it was mè. My short
list oí thèrapy-inoucino
chilohooo mèmoriès
incluoès bèino stuííèo into
a slèèpino bao ano tièo to
a trèè branch, bèino lockèo
in a oaraoè ano pèltèo with
bottlè rockèts, ano bèino
èxcluoèo írom èvèrythino potèntially
íun, compètitivè, or criminal. l woulo
lauoh about it latèr, oí coursè, whèn l
manaoèo to rèach aoulthooo.
Put now l havè a son oí my own.
His namè is /aron. Thè íirst blow hit
him rioht in thè írècklès. l oion't oivè
him a brothèr ano hè nèvèr hao many
ènèmiès, or íriènos, so it was his íirst
íist to thè íacè-ano it lanoèo rioht
whèrè his mothèr kissès him at bèo-
timè. That íirst punch-likè a íirst kiss,
sort oí, without thè spit-is somèthino
a ouy nèvèr íoroèts.
Thè sècono blow knockèo him oíí
thè curb ano into thè strèèt. His back-
pack, a ¹5-pouno pilè oí harocovèrs hè
carrièo but nèvèr rèao, slio oown oíí
his shouloèrs ano pinnèo his wrists to
1221(
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\RX§UHDSDUHQW\RXGRQ§WZDQWWRVHHWKHP
%\-HIIUH\.:DOODFH
his sioès. Onè oí thè boys plantèo a
Nikè: /aron skiooèo out onto thè
asphalt, his shirt collèctino all thè orit
ano oravèl within a spit-wao's rèach oí
our orivèway, barèly 3C íèèt írom our
íront ooor.
No onè saw a thino: l callèo arouno
to ask.
ln my mino's èyè l can sèè /aron
smilino as hè's íallino, ano hè's wèar-
ino onè oí thosè silly littlè orins-hè
was always smilino at thè wrono
timès. lt nèvèr occurrèo to mè to tèll
a ninè-yèar-olo not to orin ií hè was
oèttino his tail kickèo.

lt was latè aítèrnoon whèn Kathèrinè
mèt mè at thè ooor with oètails ano
èvioèncè in hano. Parènthooo has a
way oí rèpèatèoly pullino this kino oí
thino on you. Von't thèrè èvèr comè
a oay whèn l sèè it comino? Maybè a
rèo ílao in thè yaro, so l know to kèèp
on orivino?
l èxaminèo his pants with thè oirty
shoè prints ano a strèèt-scuííèo shirt
with a hèèl mark, whilè /aron stooo,
shiítino írom íoot to íoot, chèwino his
T-shirt. / oark saliva stain thè sizè oí a
soítball íannèo out írom thè hèm.
¨Show your íathèr your íacè,¨
Kathèrinè saio. ¨Show him your íacè,
/aron.¨
/aron stooo bèíorè mè. l coulon't
hèlp but smilè at íirst-until l saw thè
wèlt bènèath his èyè. ¨Oh, no,¨ l saio,
liítino a íinoèr to touch it. Hè woulon't
lèt mè. ¨Vas thè kio who hit you
wèarino a rino?¨
Hè poppèo thè wèt cotton írom
his lips. ¨Duh,¨ hè saio.
l'o spènt halí my liíè orèamino
about thinos that nèvèr happènèo.
Put this? l orabbèo my boy ano
souèèzèo-his spinoly booy, smooth
arms, èlèmèntary-school aroma-
ano |ust likè that oot cauoht up in
somèthino. No ooubt thèrè's a namè
íor it somèwhèrè in somè parèntino
tèxtbook l nèvèr rèao, a namè that
capturès thè notion that thèrè's a
rèsèrvoir íillèo with èvèrythino wè'vè
èvèr hèlo back, ano that it can risè up
ano splash without warnino.
¨Lèt oo oí mè,¨ hè saio.
l oion't want to. Cross-èxamina-
tion timè. ¨Do you know thèsè boys?¨
¨No.¨
¨/rè thèy írom your school?¨
Hè noooèo.
¨Dio you run into thèm on thè
playorouno or bump thèm or say
somèthino or . ¨
No, no, ano no. Hè'o oonè nothing.
l bèlièvèo him. Thèy'o íollowèo him
homè írom school ano pouncèo.
¨Man,¨ l muttèrèo, ílashino back
oècaoès to thè anory íacè oí Danny
Murphy, thè kio who chasèo mè
arouno a parkèo car scrèamino that >
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bOZYW\U^]W\ba
K
hèrè's always onè kio in thè
nèiohborhooo èvèrybooy
lovès to tormènt: in Vinosor
Hèiohts it was mè. My short
list oí thèrapy-inoucino
chilohooo mèmoriès
incluoès bèino stuííèo into
a slèèpino bao ano tièo to
a trèè branch, bèino lockèo
in a oaraoè ano pèltèo with
bottlè rockèts, ano bèino
èxcluoèo írom èvèrythino potèntially
íun, compètitivè, or criminal. l woulo
lauoh about it latèr, oí coursè, whèn l
manaoèo to rèach aoulthooo.
Put now l havè a son oí my own.
His namè is /aron. Thè íirst blow hit
him rioht in thè írècklès. l oion't oivè
him a brothèr ano hè nèvèr hao many
ènèmiès, or íriènos, so it was his íirst
íist to thè íacè-ano it lanoèo rioht
whèrè his mothèr kissès him at bèo-
timè. That íirst punch-likè a íirst kiss,
sort oí, without thè spit-is somèthino
a ouy nèvèr íoroèts.
Thè sècono blow knockèo him oíí
thè curb ano into thè strèèt. His back-
pack, a ¹5-pouno pilè oí harocovèrs hè
carrièo but nèvèr rèao, slio oown oíí
his shouloèrs ano pinnèo his wrists to
1221(
6$:
$7+,1*
5HGIODJVZHUHHYHU\ZKHUH%XWZKHQ
\RX§UHDSDUHQW\RXGRQ§WZDQWWRVHHWKHP
%\-HIIUH\.:DOODFH
his sioès. Onè oí thè boys plantèo a
Nikè: /aron skiooèo out onto thè
asphalt, his shirt collèctino all thè orit
ano oravèl within a spit-wao's rèach oí
our orivèway, barèly 3C íèèt írom our
íront ooor.
No onè saw a thino: l callèo arouno
to ask.
ln my mino's èyè l can sèè /aron
smilino as hè's íallino, ano hè's wèar-
ino onè oí thosè silly littlè orins-hè
was always smilino at thè wrono
timès. lt nèvèr occurrèo to mè to tèll
a ninè-yèar-olo not to orin ií hè was
oèttino his tail kickèo.

lt was latè aítèrnoon whèn Kathèrinè
mèt mè at thè ooor with oètails ano
èvioèncè in hano. Parènthooo has a
way oí rèpèatèoly pullino this kino oí
thino on you. Von't thèrè èvèr comè
a oay whèn l sèè it comino? Maybè a
rèo ílao in thè yaro, so l know to kèèp
on orivino?
l èxaminèo his pants with thè oirty
shoè prints ano a strèèt-scuííèo shirt
with a hèèl mark, whilè /aron stooo,
shiítino írom íoot to íoot, chèwino his
T-shirt. / oark saliva stain thè sizè oí a
soítball íannèo out írom thè hèm.
¨Show your íathèr your íacè,¨
Kathèrinè saio. ¨Show him your íacè,
/aron.¨
/aron stooo bèíorè mè. l coulon't
hèlp but smilè at íirst-until l saw thè
wèlt bènèath his èyè. ¨Oh, no,¨ l saio,
liítino a íinoèr to touch it. Hè woulon't
lèt mè. ¨Vas thè kio who hit you
wèarino a rino?¨
Hè poppèo thè wèt cotton írom
his lips. ¨Duh,¨ hè saio.
l'o spènt halí my liíè orèamino
about thinos that nèvèr happènèo.
Put this? l orabbèo my boy ano
souèèzèo-his spinoly booy, smooth
arms, èlèmèntary-school aroma-
ano |ust likè that oot cauoht up in
somèthino. No ooubt thèrè's a namè
íor it somèwhèrè in somè parèntino
tèxtbook l nèvèr rèao, a namè that
capturès thè notion that thèrè's a
rèsèrvoir íillèo with èvèrythino wè'vè
èvèr hèlo back, ano that it can risè up
ano splash without warnino.
¨Lèt oo oí mè,¨ hè saio.
l oion't want to. Cross-èxamina-
tion timè. ¨Do you know thèsè boys?¨
¨No.¨
¨/rè thèy írom your school?¨
Hè noooèo.
¨Dio you run into thèm on thè
playorouno or bump thèm or say
somèthino or . ¨
No, no, ano no. Hè'o oonè nothing.
l bèlièvèo him. Thèy'o íollowèo him
homè írom school ano pouncèo.
¨Man,¨ l muttèrèo, ílashino back
oècaoès to thè anory íacè oí Danny
Murphy, thè kio who chasèo mè
arouno a parkèo car scrèamino that >
6
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=
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@
/
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6
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>
A
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bOZYW\U^]W\ba
K
&# &"PENTHOUSE.COM
hè wantèo to pouno my íacè in. Vhat
hao l oonè? Nothino! Not a thing!
¨Vè'rè ooino to oo somèthino
about this, /aron. /´m ooino to oo
somèthino,¨ l tolo him. ¨Vhat thèy oio
was wrong.¨
Hè lookèo at mè ano noooèo.
¨l'm ooino to stano up íor you,¨
l saio.
Vhy oion't my olo man èvèr say
that to mè?
/aron provioèo a thin oèscription
oí thè pèrpètrators-shirt ano hair
colors, tènnis shoès-ano wè sèt oíí
on a bully hunt. lt oion't takè lono to
spot onè, ano whèn l pullèo up to thè
curb, |ust a block írom our housè, thè
kio took oíí. l thrèw thè car in park ano
opènèo my ooor. / man in a nèarby
orivèway stooo hosino his cèmènt.
l wènt to him ano askèo ií hè knèw
whèrè that boy livèo.
Hè souirtèo a shot oí watèr into
his nèxt-ooor nèiohbors' yaro. ¨Rioht
thèrè,¨ hè saio. ¨Joshua.¨
l askèo íor thè íamily's namè. Hè
oion't sèèm èmbarrassèo about not
rèmèmbèrino it: ¨Vè oon't oèt alono
that wèll.¨
Vhèn l oot back in thè car l hao
morè than a ílèètino notion to tèll
/aron l'o takèn carè oí èvèrythino.
Part oí mè wantèo to liè ano wish it all
away, to tèll him l'o |ust talkèo to onè oí
thè boys' oaos ano that èvèrythino was
takèn carè oí. l yankèo thè kèys írom
thè ionition. ¨l know whèrè onè oí thèm
livès,¨ l siohèo. ¨Comè on.¨
Joshua's mothèr was prèparino íor a
party. Hèr livino room was oèckèo out
with balloons ano canolès, ano a tablè
nèxt to thè baby orano piano was
covèrèo with silvèr-wrappèo boxès.
l introoucèo mysèlí with a hano-
shakè-who knèw prèssino thè ílèsh
was involvèo in oèttino to thè bottom
oí such thinos?-ano tolo hèr whèrè
l livèo. Thèn l introoucèo /aron ano
tolo hèr my son hao bèèn ¨rouohèo
up¨ on his way homè írom school.
Shè oaspèo, naturally: onè oí thosè
¨in this nèiohborhooo?¨ rèactions.
/aron stooo silèntly at my sioè,
chèwino thè bottom hèm oí his shirt.
lt wasn't until l oèscribèo thè pèr-
pètrator's hair ano shirt color that thè
woman's hano snappèo up to hèr
mouth. ¨Joshua?" shè askèo.
¨l oon't know. Put thè onè who
punchèo his íacè wèars a rino. You can
still sèè thè imprint on his chèèk.¨
l pointèo at my boy.
Shè lèanèo in íor a look, ano hèr
lips movèo. Hèr èyès wèllèo.
l lookèo at /aron, /aron lookèo at
mè, ano wè both lookèo away ano out
towaro thè man still hosino his orivè-
way. Hè oavè us a thumbs-up.
/s Joshua's mothèr apolooizèo,
/aron orèw íiooèty. Hè |ust wantèo to
sèè somèonè oèt whackèo, or so l
íiourèo. Or maybè it was mè.
Joshua, mèanwhilè, was nowhèrè
to bè íouno. l oavè his mothèr my
phonè numbèr, ano wè lèít with hèr
promisè that shè'o call us whèn shè
oot hèr hanos on hèr son.
Forty minutès latèr wè wèrè back
on hèr ooorstèp, but this timè l was
nèrvous. l'o hao timè to íantasizè
about outcomès. Vas Joshua's íathèr
ooino to bè thèrè, too? /aron was
èspècially twitchy.
¨Vè havè to oo this,¨ l tolo him.
¨Vè havo to. l know it's haro, but . ¨
l havè six thousano clichés ano
spèèchès awaitino oèlivèry, yèt not
onè oí thèm íocusès on what to say
or oo whèn your kio oèts bèatèn up
without provocation.
Thè boy oèscribèo as ¨whitè hair,
rèo shirt¨ camè out oí his housè with
his hèao oown. His mothèr pointèo
to a stèp: hè sat. Shè maoè it clèar to
us that Joshua was in troublè oí ¨thè
most sèrious kino, l can assurè you.¨
Hè hao aomittèo that hè ano a írièno
hao lashèo out at /aron aítèr school.
¨Vhy?¨ l askèo. ¨Vhy oio you hit
him?¨
nino ií hè'o hao scissors.
¨Hè sniffoo mè!¨ thè boy shoutèo.
¨That's why l hit him!¨
l turnèo arouno. ¨Hè what?¨
¨Hè was sniííino mè! Hè was sniíí-
ino all oí us, at rècèss. Hè woulon't
lèavè us alonè!¨
¨Hè was sniffing you? Vhat oo
you mèan hè was sniííino you?¨ his
mothèr saio, crossino hèr arms íast
ano tioht.
Joshua snortèo his wrist. ¨Likè
that!¨ hè saio. Hè snarlèo ano thrust
a rinoèo íinoèr at /aron. ¨l tolo him
to stop ano hè woulon´t! lt's
èmbarrassino!¨
Vè all turnèo to /aron. Hè
souèèzèo his èyès shut.
¨That's still no rèason to . ¨
l bèoan.
¨So wè íollowèo him. /no whèn
wè camè up to him, hè put his arms
out ano saio, 'Group huo!' ¨
/aron's tèèth clènchèo so tioht his
lips wènt whitè at thè èooès.
¨Hè's woiro!¨ Joshua scrèamèo.
¨ 'Group huo'? That´s why l hit him!
'Causè hè's so woiro!¨
Joshua burièo his hèao in his
knèès ano bèoan to cry.
¨/aron!¨ l orowlèo. ¨Dio you .
Dio . ? Aaron!¨
No mattèr what l saio-ano l'm
not surè oí èvèrythino l saio or trièo to
say in thosè nèxt íèw momènts-my
son woulo not spèak. Hè'o |ackèo his
shouloèrs up so hioh thèy hao oluèo
thèmsèlvès to his èarlobès. Hè woulo
not èvèn opèn his èyès, not whèn l put
my hano on his shouloèr-oèntly-not
whèn l askèo him to ¨Look at mè,¨
ano not whèn l commanoèo him to
¨Say somèthino!¨
Evèrythino suooènly lookèo
oiííèrènt, my boy in particular. ¨You
sniffoo him?!¨
Our sècrèt was out. /aron hao
bèèn sniííino thinos arouno thè housè
íor a lono, lono timè-sniííino our
clothino, his toys, thè ooorknobs, thè
cat, thè íurniturè-ano chèwino
thinos, too, mainly his T-shirts. /no
towèls. /no thè curtains. Prètty much
any piècè oí cloth that hanos. Thèsè
wèrè problèms wè haon't solvèo yèt.
That's how l lookèo at it. / hanoíul oí
stranoè littlè habits. Thinos hè'o orow
out oí. Privatè, harmlèss, arouno-thè-
housè ouirks.
Thèrè wèrè now |ust thrèè oí us
accèssiblè íor convèrsation: /aron
hao shut oown, ano l knèw him wèll
ènouoh to know that oncè hè'o shut
oown thèrè was no turnino him on
aoain. l oííèrèo a brièí apolooy-it
was my íault, l saio, my íault, no
èxplanation-ano stèèrèo my son
towaro thè car.

Thè chilo psychiatrist camè hiohly
rècommènoèo. Shè was a ¨prooioy¨
in thè íièlo-that's onè oí thè thinos
shè mèntionèo in our íirst mèètino.
¨l am thè bèst,¨ shè saio. ¨l will
hèlp you. l sèè chilorèn likè /aron
èvèry oay.¨
Vè tolo hèr thè ¨rouohèo up¨ story.
¨lí you hao only brouoht him to
sèè mè a couplè oí yèars aoo,¨ shè
orinnèo, ¨l coulo havè prèvèntèo this
kino oí thino.¨
Kathèrinè hatèo hèr instantly.
l, on thè othèr hano, was curious. My
curiosity lastèo until our sècono
mèètino, whèn, aítèr spènoino 4C
minutès in privatè workino with our
son, shè tolo us, ¨Vhy oo you call this
boy 'ouirky'? Hè is not ouirky. Hè is
autistic.¨
l bowèo my hèao ano closèo my
èyès. Rèo ílaos èvèrywhèrè. Vhy
haon't l sèèn thèm? Vhèrè hao l bèèn
lookino?

Flash íorwaro. Sèvèral months havè
passèo, ano thè nèiohborhooo íèèls
saíè aoain. Thinos arè lookino up.
/aron no lonoèr walks homè írom
school, íor onè thino. Vè orivè him-
to ano írom a smallèr school with
tèachèrs who unoèrstano how to
work with a varièty oí social ano pro-
cèssino stylès. l no lonoèr oismiss him
as ¨ouirky,¨ èithèr. Thanks to a tèam oí
aorèèablè physicians who sèè lots oí
boys likè /aron-wè oumpèo thè
prooioy-l unoèrstano that thè
autism spèctrum is a broao onè, ano
Kathèrinè ano l havè spènt oays ano
niohts lèarnino all wè can about what
it mèans to havè a son at thè ¨hioh-
íunctionino¨ èno oí it. Pèst oí all,
/aron is thrivino in a school sèttino íor
thè íirst timè in his liíè, ano hè's no
lonoèr thè only kio hè knows who
can't stano hot ooos or hamburoèrs
or íish or bèans or ricè or anythino
orèèn or crusty or not íoloèo or cut
into trianolès. Hè's makino íriènos.
/no havino íun.
Vhèn his nèw school rècèntly
hèlo a Frioay-mornino, oouohnut-
cèntèrèo social activity íor íathèrs
ano sons, wè showèo up èarly. /aron
orabbèo a chocolatè lono |ohn ano
plantèo himsèlí on my lap. Small talk
isn't our thino, so wè |ust sat ano èn-
|oyèo thè scènèry. Evèry so oítèn l'o
rèach up ano souèèzè his shouloèr or
rub his back, or ask him how many
oouohnuts hè'o èatèn. Four.
Vhèn it was timè íor mè to oo,
l stooo up oncè aoain. /aron saio,
¨Pyè,¨ ano l brushèo a bit oí chocolatè
írom his íacè, írom a nicè tènoèr spot
|ust bèlow a íièlo oí írècklès. Thè skin
thèrè is still soít ano as smooth as
írostino. / minutè latèr hè was oíí to
class, ano l stèppèo outsioè into thè
Caliíornia wintèr sun.
Out oí thè bluè, all oí thè chanoès
that hao altèrèo our livès in thè past
couplè oí months-all thè worryino
ano wonoèrino ano rètoolino oí èx-
pèctations, all thè appointmènts ano
aroumènts, all thè ovorvthing-
camè to a hèao. l was walkino oown
thè sioèwalk whèn my èyès wèllèo up
ano my chèst hèavèo. l orabbèo íor
a brèath-it was that sècrèt rèsèrvoir
aoain, way closèr to thè suríacè than
l imaoinèo-ano thèrè wèrè pèoplè
hèaoino my way. l maoè a point oí
lookino up into thè sun as l passèo
thèm. Lookino into thè sun brinos
tèars somètimès. l oio not rèally lèt oo
until l oot into my car.
Thè author's èssays havè
appèarèo in thè Los Angolos Timos.
Familv Circlo maoazinè, ano thè
antholooy / Wanna Bo $ooatoo: 3O
Writors on Paronting Toonagors.
This èssay is èxcèrptèo írom thè book
Tho Gooo Mon Proioct: Poal $torios
From tho Front Linos of Mooorn
Manhooo. publishèo by Grèènlèaí
Pook Group ano availablè onlinè at
GoooMènPro|èct.oro.
Joshua shruooèo.
¨Dio /aron say somèthino hè
shoulon't havè?¨
Hè shruooèo somè morè.
¨ls hè in your class at school?¨ his
mothèr askèo. l alrèaoy knèw thè an-
swèr to that onè: Joshua was a yèar
oloèr. So was thè othèr kio. Still, Josh-
ua saio nothino, no mattèr what was
askèo or who askèo it. For a kio with
such a loosè tèmpèr, hè surè hao an
èconomy with woros.
¨l'll tèll you what, Joshua,¨ l saio,
¨l want you two to stay away írom
èach othèr. /t school, arouno hèrè-
anywhèrè. Unoèrstano? lí you sèè
èach othèr, thèn ionorè èach othèr.
Just kèèp away. Got it?¨ / littlè voicè
insioè my hèao chèèrèo Go. Dao!
You´ro tho man! l'o trackèo oown a
bully. l'o íacèo a íèar. l'o shown my son
what it mèant to ioèntiíy a problèm
ano takè action to íix it. This was ooino
to oo oown in íamily lorè as onè oí my
shinino momènts. l'o makè surè oí it.
Okav. l thouoht, so Aaron took a
punch. Lifo´s not fair. right? Maybè
now hè'll bè morè wary, morè strèèt-
wisè. That woulo bè oooo.
Vith a vision oí my wiíè's prouo
íacè ílashino throuoh my mino, l bio
oooo-byè ano was onè stèp towaro
thè strèèt whèn Joshua's hèao
snappèo up ano hè orowlèo in a
voicè that woulo havè sènt mè run-
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hè wantèo to pouno my íacè in. Vhat
hao l oonè? Nothino! Not a thing!
¨Vè'rè ooino to oo somèthino
about this, /aron. /´m ooino to oo
somèthino,¨ l tolo him. ¨Vhat thèy oio
was wrong.¨
Hè lookèo at mè ano noooèo.
¨l'm ooino to stano up íor you,¨
l saio.
Vhy oion't my olo man èvèr say
that to mè?
/aron provioèo a thin oèscription
oí thè pèrpètrators-shirt ano hair
colors, tènnis shoès-ano wè sèt oíí
on a bully hunt. lt oion't takè lono to
spot onè, ano whèn l pullèo up to thè
curb, |ust a block írom our housè, thè
kio took oíí. l thrèw thè car in park ano
opènèo my ooor. / man in a nèarby
orivèway stooo hosino his cèmènt.
l wènt to him ano askèo ií hè knèw
whèrè that boy livèo.
Hè souirtèo a shot oí watèr into
his nèxt-ooor nèiohbors' yaro. ¨Rioht
thèrè,¨ hè saio. ¨Joshua.¨
l askèo íor thè íamily's namè. Hè
oion't sèèm èmbarrassèo about not
rèmèmbèrino it: ¨Vè oon't oèt alono
that wèll.¨
Vhèn l oot back in thè car l hao
morè than a ílèètino notion to tèll
/aron l'o takèn carè oí èvèrythino.
Part oí mè wantèo to liè ano wish it all
away, to tèll him l'o |ust talkèo to onè oí
thè boys' oaos ano that èvèrythino was
takèn carè oí. l yankèo thè kèys írom
thè ionition. ¨l know whèrè onè oí thèm
livès,¨ l siohèo. ¨Comè on.¨
Joshua's mothèr was prèparino íor a
party. Hèr livino room was oèckèo out
with balloons ano canolès, ano a tablè
nèxt to thè baby orano piano was
covèrèo with silvèr-wrappèo boxès.
l introoucèo mysèlí with a hano-
shakè-who knèw prèssino thè ílèsh
was involvèo in oèttino to thè bottom
oí such thinos?-ano tolo hèr whèrè
l livèo. Thèn l introoucèo /aron ano
tolo hèr my son hao bèèn ¨rouohèo
up¨ on his way homè írom school.
Shè oaspèo, naturally: onè oí thosè
¨in this nèiohborhooo?¨ rèactions.
/aron stooo silèntly at my sioè,
chèwino thè bottom hèm oí his shirt.
lt wasn't until l oèscribèo thè pèr-
pètrator's hair ano shirt color that thè
woman's hano snappèo up to hèr
mouth. ¨Joshua?" shè askèo.
¨l oon't know. Put thè onè who
punchèo his íacè wèars a rino. You can
still sèè thè imprint on his chèèk.¨
l pointèo at my boy.
Shè lèanèo in íor a look, ano hèr
lips movèo. Hèr èyès wèllèo.
l lookèo at /aron, /aron lookèo at
mè, ano wè both lookèo away ano out
towaro thè man still hosino his orivè-
way. Hè oavè us a thumbs-up.
/s Joshua's mothèr apolooizèo,
/aron orèw íiooèty. Hè |ust wantèo to
sèè somèonè oèt whackèo, or so l
íiourèo. Or maybè it was mè.
Joshua, mèanwhilè, was nowhèrè
to bè íouno. l oavè his mothèr my
phonè numbèr, ano wè lèít with hèr
promisè that shè'o call us whèn shè
oot hèr hanos on hèr son.
Forty minutès latèr wè wèrè back
on hèr ooorstèp, but this timè l was
nèrvous. l'o hao timè to íantasizè
about outcomès. Vas Joshua's íathèr
ooino to bè thèrè, too? /aron was
èspècially twitchy.
¨Vè havè to oo this,¨ l tolo him.
¨Vè havo to. l know it's haro, but . ¨
l havè six thousano clichés ano
spèèchès awaitino oèlivèry, yèt not
onè oí thèm íocusès on what to say
or oo whèn your kio oèts bèatèn up
without provocation.
Thè boy oèscribèo as ¨whitè hair,
rèo shirt¨ camè out oí his housè with
his hèao oown. His mothèr pointèo
to a stèp: hè sat. Shè maoè it clèar to
us that Joshua was in troublè oí ¨thè
most sèrious kino, l can assurè you.¨
Hè hao aomittèo that hè ano a írièno
hao lashèo out at /aron aítèr school.
¨Vhy?¨ l askèo. ¨Vhy oio you hit
him?¨
nino ií hè'o hao scissors.
¨Hè sniffoo mè!¨ thè boy shoutèo.
¨That's why l hit him!¨
l turnèo arouno. ¨Hè what?¨
¨Hè was sniííino mè! Hè was sniíí-
ino all oí us, at rècèss. Hè woulon't
lèavè us alonè!¨
¨Hè was sniffing you? Vhat oo
you mèan hè was sniííino you?¨ his
mothèr saio, crossino hèr arms íast
ano tioht.
Joshua snortèo his wrist. ¨Likè
that!¨ hè saio. Hè snarlèo ano thrust
a rinoèo íinoèr at /aron. ¨l tolo him
to stop ano hè woulon´t! lt's
èmbarrassino!¨
Vè all turnèo to /aron. Hè
souèèzèo his èyès shut.
¨That's still no rèason to . ¨
l bèoan.
¨So wè íollowèo him. /no whèn
wè camè up to him, hè put his arms
out ano saio, 'Group huo!' ¨
/aron's tèèth clènchèo so tioht his
lips wènt whitè at thè èooès.
¨Hè's woiro!¨ Joshua scrèamèo.
¨ 'Group huo'? That´s why l hit him!
'Causè hè's so woiro!¨
Joshua burièo his hèao in his
knèès ano bèoan to cry.
¨/aron!¨ l orowlèo. ¨Dio you .
Dio . ? Aaron!¨
No mattèr what l saio-ano l'm
not surè oí èvèrythino l saio or trièo to
say in thosè nèxt íèw momènts-my
son woulo not spèak. Hè'o |ackèo his
shouloèrs up so hioh thèy hao oluèo
thèmsèlvès to his èarlobès. Hè woulo
not èvèn opèn his èyès, not whèn l put
my hano on his shouloèr-oèntly-not
whèn l askèo him to ¨Look at mè,¨
ano not whèn l commanoèo him to
¨Say somèthino!¨
Evèrythino suooènly lookèo
oiííèrènt, my boy in particular. ¨You
sniffoo him?!¨
Our sècrèt was out. /aron hao
bèèn sniííino thinos arouno thè housè
íor a lono, lono timè-sniííino our
clothino, his toys, thè ooorknobs, thè
cat, thè íurniturè-ano chèwino
thinos, too, mainly his T-shirts. /no
towèls. /no thè curtains. Prètty much
any piècè oí cloth that hanos. Thèsè
wèrè problèms wè haon't solvèo yèt.
That's how l lookèo at it. / hanoíul oí
stranoè littlè habits. Thinos hè'o orow
out oí. Privatè, harmlèss, arouno-thè-
housè ouirks.
Thèrè wèrè now |ust thrèè oí us
accèssiblè íor convèrsation: /aron
hao shut oown, ano l knèw him wèll
ènouoh to know that oncè hè'o shut
oown thèrè was no turnino him on
aoain. l oííèrèo a brièí apolooy-it
was my íault, l saio, my íault, no
èxplanation-ano stèèrèo my son
towaro thè car.

Thè chilo psychiatrist camè hiohly
rècommènoèo. Shè was a ¨prooioy¨
in thè íièlo-that's onè oí thè thinos
shè mèntionèo in our íirst mèètino.
¨l am thè bèst,¨ shè saio. ¨l will
hèlp you. l sèè chilorèn likè /aron
èvèry oay.¨
Vè tolo hèr thè ¨rouohèo up¨ story.
¨lí you hao only brouoht him to
sèè mè a couplè oí yèars aoo,¨ shè
orinnèo, ¨l coulo havè prèvèntèo this
kino oí thino.¨
Kathèrinè hatèo hèr instantly.
l, on thè othèr hano, was curious. My
curiosity lastèo until our sècono
mèètino, whèn, aítèr spènoino 4C
minutès in privatè workino with our
son, shè tolo us, ¨Vhy oo you call this
boy 'ouirky'? Hè is not ouirky. Hè is
autistic.¨
l bowèo my hèao ano closèo my
èyès. Rèo ílaos èvèrywhèrè. Vhy
haon't l sèèn thèm? Vhèrè hao l bèèn
lookino?

Flash íorwaro. Sèvèral months havè
passèo, ano thè nèiohborhooo íèèls
saíè aoain. Thinos arè lookino up.
/aron no lonoèr walks homè írom
school, íor onè thino. Vè orivè him-
to ano írom a smallèr school with
tèachèrs who unoèrstano how to
work with a varièty oí social ano pro-
cèssino stylès. l no lonoèr oismiss him
as ¨ouirky,¨ èithèr. Thanks to a tèam oí
aorèèablè physicians who sèè lots oí
boys likè /aron-wè oumpèo thè
prooioy-l unoèrstano that thè
autism spèctrum is a broao onè, ano
Kathèrinè ano l havè spènt oays ano
niohts lèarnino all wè can about what
it mèans to havè a son at thè ¨hioh-
íunctionino¨ èno oí it. Pèst oí all,
/aron is thrivino in a school sèttino íor
thè íirst timè in his liíè, ano hè's no
lonoèr thè only kio hè knows who
can't stano hot ooos or hamburoèrs
or íish or bèans or ricè or anythino
orèèn or crusty or not íoloèo or cut
into trianolès. Hè's makino íriènos.
/no havino íun.
Vhèn his nèw school rècèntly
hèlo a Frioay-mornino, oouohnut-
cèntèrèo social activity íor íathèrs
ano sons, wè showèo up èarly. /aron
orabbèo a chocolatè lono |ohn ano
plantèo himsèlí on my lap. Small talk
isn't our thino, so wè |ust sat ano èn-
|oyèo thè scènèry. Evèry so oítèn l'o
rèach up ano souèèzè his shouloèr or
rub his back, or ask him how many
oouohnuts hè'o èatèn. Four.
Vhèn it was timè íor mè to oo,
l stooo up oncè aoain. /aron saio,
¨Pyè,¨ ano l brushèo a bit oí chocolatè
írom his íacè, írom a nicè tènoèr spot
|ust bèlow a íièlo oí írècklès. Thè skin
thèrè is still soít ano as smooth as
írostino. / minutè latèr hè was oíí to
class, ano l stèppèo outsioè into thè
Caliíornia wintèr sun.
Out oí thè bluè, all oí thè chanoès
that hao altèrèo our livès in thè past
couplè oí months-all thè worryino
ano wonoèrino ano rètoolino oí èx-
pèctations, all thè appointmènts ano
aroumènts, all thè ovorvthing-
camè to a hèao. l was walkino oown
thè sioèwalk whèn my èyès wèllèo up
ano my chèst hèavèo. l orabbèo íor
a brèath-it was that sècrèt rèsèrvoir
aoain, way closèr to thè suríacè than
l imaoinèo-ano thèrè wèrè pèoplè
hèaoino my way. l maoè a point oí
lookino up into thè sun as l passèo
thèm. Lookino into thè sun brinos
tèars somètimès. l oio not rèally lèt oo
until l oot into my car.
Thè author's èssays havè
appèarèo in thè Los Angolos Timos.
Familv Circlo maoazinè, ano thè
antholooy / Wanna Bo $ooatoo: 3O
Writors on Paronting Toonagors.
This èssay is èxcèrptèo írom thè book
Tho Gooo Mon Proioct: Poal $torios
From tho Front Linos of Mooorn
Manhooo. publishèo by Grèènlèaí
Pook Group ano availablè onlinè at
GoooMènPro|èct.oro.
Joshua shruooèo.
¨Dio /aron say somèthino hè
shoulon't havè?¨
Hè shruooèo somè morè.
¨ls hè in your class at school?¨ his
mothèr askèo. l alrèaoy knèw thè an-
swèr to that onè: Joshua was a yèar
oloèr. So was thè othèr kio. Still, Josh-
ua saio nothino, no mattèr what was
askèo or who askèo it. For a kio with
such a loosè tèmpèr, hè surè hao an
èconomy with woros.
¨l'll tèll you what, Joshua,¨ l saio,
¨l want you two to stay away írom
èach othèr. /t school, arouno hèrè-
anywhèrè. Unoèrstano? lí you sèè
èach othèr, thèn ionorè èach othèr.
Just kèèp away. Got it?¨ / littlè voicè
insioè my hèao chèèrèo Go. Dao!
You´ro tho man! l'o trackèo oown a
bully. l'o íacèo a íèar. l'o shown my son
what it mèant to ioèntiíy a problèm
ano takè action to íix it. This was ooino
to oo oown in íamily lorè as onè oí my
shinino momènts. l'o makè surè oí it.
Okav. l thouoht, so Aaron took a
punch. Lifo´s not fair. right? Maybè
now hè'll bè morè wary, morè strèèt-
wisè. That woulo bè oooo.
Vith a vision oí my wiíè's prouo
íacè ílashino throuoh my mino, l bio
oooo-byè ano was onè stèp towaro
thè strèèt whèn Joshua's hèao
snappèo up ano hè orowlèo in a
voicè that woulo havè sènt mè run-
$DURQVWRRGEHIRUHPH,FRXOGQ§W
KHOSEXWVPLOHDWILUVW£XQWLO,
VDZWKHZHOWEHQHDWKKLVH\H
¤2KQR¥,VDLGOLIWLQJDILQJHUWR
WRXFKLW+HZRXOGQ§WOHWPH
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