Home of Iron, Part 2
October 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
Here’s the second part, which was not done on the train. I did it yesterday, because I’m smart.
I smile. I like kids. He just looks at me.
I eat my lunch slowly, because my stomach isn’t very strong. I eat a lot and Mom says it will make me fat, but I like to eat too much to stop. I carefully dip each fry, measuring enough ketchup per bite. I’m very careful. Mom made sure I learned good manners when I was younger. She was always telling me to eat properly and to sit up straight and to not lean forward when I ate soup.
But of all the manners she taught me I can only remember one clearly. I was smaller and I remember it because this was when I could still hear out of both ears and before Dad went away and before Dr. Pokahanni and before the operation. I was sick and I tried to tell Mom that I didn’t want to eat but she couldn’t understand. I didn’t know why because I kept saying I was sick. But she kept asking me to eat more soup so I did. I like it when Mom is happy, and I cry when Mom cries.
I ate too much and was too sick and threw up on the table. It was on the kitchen table, the little white table that we ate breakfast and dinner at. The big table was always empty. I didn’t throw up very much, and I felt better once I barfed so I tried to keep eating. I had another spoonful of soup that tasted bad before Mom yelled at me. She was angry. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was red and open.
“What are you doing? Stop! Don’t eat that! John, stop!”
I stopped and felt sick again. I was very sad and cried. My fists balled up and I put them in front of my eyes. I don’t like looking at people when I’m crying and they don’t like to see me cry either. They get a weird look on their face and I don’t want to make them sad just because I’m sad. I coughed again, and Mom hugged me.
“It’s ok, it’s ok. Do you feel better? It’s ok.”
She was warm and she hugged me to her chest. I only cried a little bit, because I was sick and sad that I made Mom angry, but she rubbed my head. I liked it when she did that. It made me feel like our cat, Bart, who liked to be rubbed on his head, and I stopped crying.
Mom wiped up my mouth and helped me change into my pajamas. I felt better.
“Let’s watch Jeopardy.” I said. We watched it together. I never guessed the answers, but I liked watching the contestants get the right answers. I helped them by thinking really hard about the answer, and they would get it right. Sometimes I didn’t think hard enough or it was about American geography and they wouldn’t get it, but when they got it right it was like we were sharing a secret. I clapped every time they got a right answer because I knew I helped.
Mom sat me down on the couch but didn’t turn on the TV. She must not have heard me, so I said it again.
“Let’s watch Jeopardy.” I remembered she was teaching me manners, so I added, “Please.”
She smiled and brushed her hair out of her eyes. Mom always brushed the hair out of her face before she said something important, so I went all quiet. I love her hair. It’s grey like the subway, and I like riding the subway.
“In a minute, John. I need to talk to you about why you’re learning your manners.”
I nodded. When she brushed her hair out of her eyes, it was important to Be A Very Good Boy and Listen. I was a Very Good Boy, so I listened.
“You know you’re a very special boy, right John?” She asked, her fingers playing with the black blanket. I didn’t like the blanket because it had holes in it. Mom called it an Afghan, but I called it the toe-blanket because my toes poked out. I nodded again.
“Father Fulton says we’re all special because we’re all God’s children, but you know you’re very special, right? Part of what makes you so special is that you have something called Down’s syndrome. Do you know what that is?”
I shook my head, but just a little. My ears hurt if I moved them too quickly. She put her hand on my chest and tapped my heart.
“It’s inside you, John, but so tiny little you couldn’t see it without a microscope. And it’s what makes you special. Well, one of the things. You’re also my only little boy!” And she kissed my forehead, her lips warm but dry.
“Is that why I’m in the special class at school? B-because I’m special?” I asked. Because that would mean Meghan and Donald and James and Ichiro and Sophie were special too. Were we all special?
“Yes. And it’s wonderful and great, but it means you need a little more care and attention. That’s why Mrs. Chang and Mr. David take such good care of you at school everyday. You’re very special, but you need more attention to be that special.”
Mom took my hand and squeezed it. I looked at the clock on the VCR. It was 7:05. I wondered if they had gotten the first Daily Double. I wondered if Alex Trebek had shaved his moustache again.
“Listen, John. Some people don’t…understand how special you are. They think you’re broken, or strange because of your Down’s syndrome.”
“Am I b-b-broken?” I asked. The word was hard to get out. B’s are hard sometimes.
“No.” Mom put both her hands on my face. She looked like Mrs. Chang looked when class wasn’t behaving. We always had to behave, or Mrs. Chang would make her face all tight and we’d know we weren’t behaving. “No. You aren’t broken or sick. Never let anyone say that. You aren’t.” She squeezed, but not very tight.
“They just don’t understand how all you need is a little more time than everyone else. Or for them to speak louder, or slower. And that’s bad, because they don’t understand, but you can help them understand. If you’re polite, and clean, and always behave like a good boy, then they’ll understand better.”
I smiled and nodded. I did understand. I was always a good boy anyway, so I would just keep being a good boy. It made Mom happy, so I did it.
“Can we watch Jeopardy…p-p-please Mom?” I asked, being a good boy.
She smiled and all the lines in her face pulled back. “Yes, John. We can.” We sat together and she rubbed my back. “Always be a good boy and they won’t be able to get you.” Mom whispered, but I heard it. I didn’t know what she meant, but she was rubbing my back and I liked that, so I didn’t ask.