Garrett put the phone on the table and slid it towards Gloria. He kept his eyes on his hands, quietly reciting the colors around him.


Hand tan. Phone black. Table brown.


Gloria took the phone, smiling at him. “Thank you, Garrett. See? Chris will be back in a couple days. No reason to be upset. I miss her, too, you know.”


Gloria—so nice, always nice to Garrett. Bright smile. Pink lips.


Garrett never looked straight at her, sideways yes, but never straight. Couldn’t concentrate that way. Too uncomfortable. That didn’t mean Garrett didn’t see what was right in front of him.


“Well, now that you feel better, I think we should get the grocery shopping done,” she said cheerfully.


Garrett moaned. No. Hate store. Hate store. Hate store.

“Come on, sweetheart, it will be a quick trip. We’ll buy lasagna to cook for dinner. It’s your favorite.”


Lasagna good. Sauce red. Pasta white. Cheese white.


“Let me grab my keys and the grocery list.”


Keys gray. List white.


Garrett knew he wasn’t “normal.” Autism was his official diagnosis. He understood most things, knew more than he was given credit for. He could do a puzzle faster than anyone else, Sissy said. His brain worked differently.

Information wasn’t the problem. The doctors said he most likely had more info than most people in his brain. It was communication that was the hard part.


People called him stupid. They thought he didn’t hear just because he didn’t respond. Sissy said it was them that was stupid and people just didn’t understand.


Love Sissy. Miss Sissy.

Gloria came back into the room. “Come on, Garrett. Let’s go.”


He stood and followed her, right behind her, never touching. His eyes were on the ground as he walked. Sidewalk white, shoes black. They reached the car. Car silver.


He got in the passenger seat, put his seatbelt on, locked the door. It was a step-by-step sequence to follow when in the car. He looked at his hands as they rode.


Dashboard gray, belt black, floor mat black.


Sissy asked him once if he realized he never smiled. The answer was yes and no. He felt emotion. Sometimes he felt happy, sometimes he felt like smiling. But, he couldn’t show it. The communication thing. It was a prison cell inside his own brain, a thing that he understood at times, and other times not.


Sissy stayed gone a lot. He missed Sissy. Sissy was his only family.


Garrett knew he was a burden to his sister. She never said that she minded, but he did. He hated his inner prison. He wanted to be a man that worked and took care of himself. He wished he was normal, even if that meant less information in his brain, even if he couldn’t do all his puzzles anymore.


“What should we have with the lasagna?” Gloria asked.


“Lasagna red. Red. Red.”


“Right. What goes good with red?”


“Asparagus green. Rolls white.”


“Perfect suggestions, Garrett. I knew you would have a good idea.”


Gloria so nice. Nice. Nice.


At the store, Garrett followed Gloria around, keeping his eyes downcast. Floor white. Buggy gray.


He counted products on the shelves and recited their colors as they walked from aisle to aisle. Though he kept his eyes down, though he was counting, he could still see the looks of customers that went by him. Some wouldn’t look, some stared with wide eyes, some frowned, some tried a fake smile, but all looked uncomfortable.


Before they went to the checkout line, Gloria announced she needed to use the restroom before they left. Gloria always needed the restroom. No matter where they went, she couldn’t get from A to Z without stopping to potty at A, B, C, D, E, F … and so on to Z, whether it was a two-hour or two-minute trip.


“Stay right with the buggy. I’ll be just a minute.”


He waited. He was used to it.


A store employee walked over to him, and Garrett cringed inwardly. It was the mean boy.


So mean, mean, mean.


The mean boy was always here, always. Every time, the mean boy tried to get Garrett alone. They were alone now.


“Hey retard!”


The mean boy pushed at Garrett’s arm as he called him names. Garrett wished Sissy was there. Sissy would get rid of the mean boy. Like a hero, a real hero.


Sissy was Garrett’s hero. He wished he was like her—normal, better than normal. He wished he could get rid of the mean boy.


Garrett tried to tell the boy to go away, but the words wouldn’t come out. Instead, he wrapped his arms around himself, rocking and moaning as the mean boy bullied him, waiting for Gloria to finish in the bathroom so they could leave.

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