He is wearing casual clothes and he walks along the bit of the beach where no one goes.
He would like to say that he is at ‘One’ with nature. He thinks that that sounds a bit too poetic and unachievable (given the circumstances). An ice cream with a chocolate flake would bring him back, but he has deliberately walked away from the obvious. He has walked too far along the beach and he knows it. He doesn’t want to be wearing these jeans and knitted sweater. He doesn’t want to be wearing these socks and trainers. he doesn’t want to be wearing this face. And then a dog appears in the distance. A dog appearing in the distance means that it is taking it’s owner out for a walk on the beach. He does not want to see them and, for some strange reason, he is more worried about the dog seeing the face he is wearing than the owner.
If the owner of the dog comes from behind the dunes calling for the dog , he will cope. Will he cope? – Yes, he will cope. He is still capable of saying something like “It’s a bit breezy today”. He is still capable of smiling alongside the phatic exchange. But the dog will see through him. The dog will smell every thought that is going through his mind. He will throw his thoughts away, just for a moment until they have walked past him to another part of the beach. He will throw his thoughts away just for a moment and hope that the dog does not think that they are a stick to bring back to him.
They have gone.
I want to be wearing a dress he says to himself. I want to be wearing a dress he says to the sea, the slack sea. I want to be holding a pink bucket and spade he says to himself. I want to be looking for pretty sea shells he says to himself.
He is alarmed when the sea whispers a phatic, affirmative response -” You can” she yawns.
I must go home, he thinks. I must go home, he says.
One day, when the tide turns – I will be ready.
The owner of the dog says “Hello” to the Woman. The Woman is reading the Sunday papers and she greets them with a smile. The dog waits and sits by the hatchback, convinced that one day the handle will be dog friendly and a wet nose will open the catch. He opens the catch and the dog jumps up into the warmth. He sits in the car with her, finds one of the soggy tomato sandwiches and scrums for the sports pages.
“Was there anyone else on the beach?” she asks him (glancing up from a theatre review).
“Yes” he responds.
“That’s strange” she says
“Yes” he replies.
“Do waiters have to be patient”?
James is at the Job Centre and his ‘Back to Work’ interview with Mrs. Spicer is not going well.
“What, exactly are they waiting for? – is table no. 3 taking too long to order”?
Mrs. Spicer is, seriously, thinking about putting in for early retirement, she has just had her 42nd birthday.
“Will there be lots of noise in the restaurant and kitchen, usually there is too much noise in restaurants and kitchens and people will be talking won’t they?”
“OK”, she offers, “If restaurants are out of the question – what about Gardening, Parks and Leisure industries?”
James holds up his hands and stares at his fingers. He moves and stretches each finger like a dancer limbering up. The palms of both hands are face up now and he is determined to make the tips of two of the fingers on each hand touch. All those lines and movements are his hands. Now he takes the soft pad of each index finger and watches it intently.
Eventually after what seems like eons, he lifts his face to hers. “I don’t like leisure Mrs. Spicer – I don’t think there is a job for someone like me”.
“Well you would be working James – you wouldn’t have to do the leisure bit” she replies with great patience.
He suddenly jolts up out of the chair and excitedly exclaims and explains something in a loud voice, seemingly to everyone in the Job Centre.
The security guard shuffles slightly (him and Mrs. Spicer do an eye contact thing which confirms that she is OK with the Excitable Young Client)
“I could work in a nice garden. I used to collect leaves!”. He Shouts
Mrs. Spicer asks him to sit down and talk some more about his leaf collection.
I had 4,876 at one point – but Dad asked me to take them out of my bedroom because they began to smell.
I collected several obcordate leaves. They are the same shape as a heart you see Mrs. Spicer. I loved those leaves and now they have gone gone gone gone”. James is slightly rocking now in his chair as he mourns the loss of his leaf collection.
“Maybe not gardening” gently suggests Mrs. Spicer.
She left home this morning and took her autistic son to school. Robert is 6 years old and it took him seven minutes to cut ten pieces of jam sandwich into a perfectly formed tiny cubes. Just this morning, she watched him run across the playground into his classroom. She is allowed to kiss him, firmly, on his head and she does so because it gives her great pleasure. She thinks that it also gives her son pleasure because if she forgets to kiss him. He stands still, cocks his head and looks to the sky. He will stand like this for several minutes before she realises she has forgotten to kiss him on the head.
This morning she felt a wave of panic and terror sweep over her. She was thinking of him in the future trying to survive in a world of world and even more world. And his being so different.
She knows James Dawson, siting in front of her, has Asperger Syndrome. She knows because she read his application form and her colleague Maureen had said
“your 9.30am appointment has Ass something or another”
Mrs. Spicer knows all about ‘Ass something or another’ – Which is why, she too, watched him – watch his hands – watch his watch – watch her back – watching him – watch his hands before coming back to the dialogue.
James is quite impressed. with Mrs. Spicer.
Not many people allow him time to think about everything he needs to say and think about.
And if his needs are neglected he could combust like a big fat toad full of porridge and the legs of the toad will shoot across the galaxy with an almighty bang and the world will come to and end just like that while people are watching the TV with Noel Edmunds and the sausages which are cooking under the grill will burn and spit and then the fire engine will come. And then the fire engines might not be able to save the toad because the fire people are out on strike (well, technically, inside outside on strike)
That’s what can happen if James is interrupted from thinking about his heart shaped leaves.
“I could do your job!’ he suddenly declares, beaming with enthusiasm.
They laugh. They laugh together. They both laugh. Together at the same time.
“Yes James” she hoots “ You could do my job”
He is a 19 year old man and he cocks his head and his dreamy pool eyes are wide open. They are directed at the invisible cobweb tucked up in the Job Centre ceiling. It is invisible but James can see it.
They sigh. They sigh together. They loth sigh. Together at the same time.
James leaves the Job Centre excitedly promising to work on his application as the:
Lead Space Director General of NASA in charge of the sub engines, risk and assessment and technical overseeing… “just in case a job like that comes up!”
“And if it does” mumbles Mrs. Spicer to the cobweb “ If you don’t get it – maybe, one day Robert will.