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A + for The A-Word: The most authentic look at Autism on screen.

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I worked for several years with a succession of autistic children—which mostly means boys—kids who were mainstreamed in regular education classrooms, with a classroom aide assigned to shadow them. That was me, the shadow. 

We also lived next door to a family who had an autistic son who became one of our son’s closest playmates, until we moved away at the end of elementary school. Chris, with his funny idiosyncrasies is the source of some very sweet memories, as well as moments of high drama. That’s what you get with autism, children who can be deeply involved when their needs and passions are directed and shared but who can sometimes find it frustrating when those needs are brushed aside. 

It’s typical for an autistic child to want to talk about dinosaurs—or whatever the passion is—and be frustrated while the rest of the kids have moved on to another topic. The autistic child is focused on that stegasaurus and exactly how cool it is, just not quite getting that the others don't shar…

A guy, a girl, and a GTO [Memoir—also on iTunes and SoundCloud]



We were such a cliché. We sat in Dereks car for hours that night. Just talking. His dark blue and white GTO parked in front of my apartment building, everything quiet, the street dark, the grocery store parking lot across the road, empty. Once I noticed a shaft of yellow shine down from our 2nd story living room window; someone, my sister, my parents maybe, pulling back the curtain to peek down and check on me. I looked away quickly, like a kid covering her eyes—if I cant see you, you cant see me—praying no one came down and made a scene. The way my parents had when I didnt get home from Disneyland until after 2 oclock in the morning.

Songs must have played on Dereks tape deck. Or maybe it was the radio. It could have been the Stones, it could have been the long version of American Pie. Like a soundtrack to a movie it was just background music. The audience might notice it but to the actors, wrapped up in their scene, it isn’t really there.

We sat in his car, on his dark leather seats, facing each other but leaning away from each other as far as we could, our backs pushed up against the faux leather doors of the car, oblivious to the door handle pushing into our skin, taking each other in.The gear shift in the center console between us was like a bundling board, our faces stuck in that absurd state of suspended disbelief when you just can’t get over the inane fact that you are the object of desire for the object of your own desire. Every move they make becomes a tell. Every motion an overture. The fingertip trailing the top stitch on the leather seam of the upholstery. Back and forth, back and forth. The scratching of the chin with the back of the hand. The shake of the head, sending hair tumbling forward. The hand, skimming over it, smoothing it back into place. The fingers turning the metal knob on the AM radio dial, between thumb and forefinger, gently, gently, to the right.

Later, months later, I would make him take me to the The Brown Derby and we’d sit in a dark leather booth and I’d sneer at him over the menu of the famous high-priced restaurant I knew he couldn’t afford. I’d sit, straight-faced, defiantly voicing the most expensive menu choices aloud, raising my eyebrows disdainfully if he mentioned money. Punishing him for loving me, disgusted he could allow me to be so cruel, I did everything I could to make him break up with me. 

But that was later, months later. First would come sit-com happy days that went on forever. Days that started with that night, sitting in his car, stupid smiles on our faces. Stupefied by our imagined moments to come, savoring the sensation, ignorant of what was to be. Me, aching to reach across the divide and touch the woven strip of leather circling his wrist. Him, telling me he liked me the very first time he saw me. The very first time.


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I’ve been writing about old boyfriends for awhile. My last entry about Derek is In the Cups


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