Wednesday, 09 February 2011
Alex dashes in from the afternoon school bus and rockets ahead of me. I grab for the hood of his jacket and come up with air as he darts inside the front door of our building. He’s racing for the elevator.
“Alex wait a minute-”
As we head into the elevator – thank God there’s no one else waiting – he boxes me out then darts or slithers or springs or whatever other verb you’d want to think of that means “fast” or “kind of insane” right past me to the button panel of the elevator. He spreads his fingers as if making the hand sign for the Texas Longhorns and punches floors 3, 4, 6, and maybe 7 or 8, or almost any combination thereof. Sometimes he gets three floors with two fingers; I have no idea how.
We live on 9. “Alex cut it out! Don’t do that!”
This has gotten physical: I take his wrists and arms and chest and try to hold him back or block him from the buttons. But Alex weighed 21 ounces when he was born; now that he’s pushing 13 (years old, not the floor number), one of his forearms weighs about twice that.
Since I need exercise and I figure creative and constructive discipline is better than trying to wrestle in a little box with a sprouting pre-teen, I initially tell Alex that he can punch buttons but that we’re getting off at the lowest floor he picks and taking the stairs. It works until he punches two and I wind up walking seven flights. I will try this again, I swear.
I may especially try the stair tactic when neighbors are using the elevator. Some neighbors stare at Alex (though this was the daughter of a guy who almost set the whole building on fire a few years ago, so screw it). Some neighbors say – worse than stares, somehow – kind words about Alex being a kid and kids do that and on and on while they never mention autism. Usually I don’t care for or about the stares of near-strangers over Alex and his condition, but this time he is interfering with people getting around in their own building. This line must be drawn.
Sometimes I find something else to do and wonder why he’s doing this button thing and wondering how long it’s going to last. I find myself going to get the mail if someone’s getting on, even if that sometimes means going to a mailbox I’ve already cleaned out that day. Sometimes, if there’s no one else on the elevator, I turn to Alex and say, “Okay, just one floor as long as there’s no one else on the elevator.”