He was waiting to pick Curtis up outside the library. I spoke to Curtis briefly and told him not to go outside until I came in to get him. He would basically do whatever he was told, even if it meant obeying someone else, in this and many cases his father, who told him to be ready at precisely 7:30pm.
The entire walk to the car consisted of doubt, wondering if I had any business involving myself like this. I’d heard rumours about their relationship, but they came from unreliable sources. Of course he knows his son is mentally challenged. How could he not? I knocked on the passenger side window and startled him awake, but eventually he rolled down the automatic window.
Me: Hi, you’re Curtis’s dad right?
Me: Can we talk for a minute?
Bao: Uh, okay.
I opened the car door and sat beside him. I faced directly ahead, looking out the windshield as I spoke.
Me: So I was speaking to your son and he mentioned he was having a lot of trouble with some of his courses.
Bao: Yes, he needs to study more.
Me: That is a possibility, sure, but it’s not the primary issue. I feel like he would benefit from a lighter course load and more individual attention.
Bao: He will be fine. He needs to stop wasting time clicking on his computer.
It became obvious he was uncomfortable with my intrusion, but I could tell he would allow me to plead my case. I decided on a direct approach.
Me: Curtis has a serious learning disability and he will never be happy until he gets help. That starts with you.
Bao: I give him everything he needs. The rest is up to him.
Me: Last week he peeked over the top of the stall to watch Brent who was sitting on the toilet. Yesterday when Tracy was leaving the library, he ran up to her, knocked the books out of her hand, and demanded a smooch. Are you aware that while Curtis is newly exploring this world called life, he remains utterly oblivious to social norms.
Bao: He is not. There must have been a misunderstanding.
Me: You believe you’re helping him by pretending he is like everyone else. I understand that. But I know you want what’s best for him. You’re doing real damage to him.
Bao: You know nothing, Joe Blow.
Me: Ygritte, let’s leave all this behind. We’ll get a farm and farm some tasty ‘tatoes and have a zillion kids and leave the war to the others. We can be happy. We will.
Bao: You know nothing, Joe Blow…