The Boy with the Rolling Suitcase

posted Friday March 9th, 2012

He stood on the edge of the track, away from everyone else; he’d arrived late and missed most of the stretching exercises.

I noticed him right away. Others brought water bottles to Special Olympics practice, and Sophie had her special purple javelin with her, but this boy — probably in his mid to late teens — he had a suitcase. A standard-issue, black rolling suitcase, the kind businessmen hoist all day long into overhead bins on airplanes. This one was pretty beat up, dusty. The boy was a little dusty, too. He had dark, messy hair, a slender build, and he wore all black.

Except for the suitcase, I might have thought at first that he was a family member, rather than an athlete. My guess, when I realized what was going on, was autism. It’s a little game I’ve been playing in my head during this, Sophie’s first Special Olympics experience. Not particularly polite, but you tell me that you stand in a crowd of people with developmental disabilities and don’t wonder about diagnoses. Liar.

There’s one girl I’ve wondered about a lot. She has no tics, no tilt of the head, she doesn’t wave her arms even a little, she doesn’t make any sounds. That’s it, I realized during the second practice. She doesn’t make any sounds. She’s really lovely, this girl, with dark curly hair framing her face. I’m going to keep wondering about her.

And I’m going to wonder what’s inside that suitcase. It makes sense, after all. I carry a big purse. Hell, I still sleep with my baby blanket. I get the attachment thing. But when this boy’s group gathered to practice the 100 m dash, I wondered what would happen.

You know everyone else did, too, but people were so cool — no one, no athletes, no family members, no coaches, so much as smirked as he took his place at the starting mark, rolling suitcase handle in hand.

He did pretty well, too.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome, Special Olympics by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “The Boy with the Rolling Suitcase”

  1. I want to go with you next time. :)

  2. Every now and then I get a little insight why I love you. You sleep with your baby blanket. I did to until 5 years ago. Now it sits in a zip-lock baggie in my security/fire proof box. I would still sleep with it if my children didn’t start claiming the things that are mine as theirs and then proceeding to destroy them. One day when they leave the house I’ll take it back out. I even had someone recrochet the edges and holes about 10 years ago :)

  3. i know so many adults with baby blankets! I guard mine very carefully — the girls know not to come near her (yes, it’s a she), even Sophie, though she does love to see and talk about her!

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