Remember Harold and his purple crayon? Harold draws his way in and out of a series of adventures—a dragon, a sailboat, a picnic of pies, a cityscape of skyscrapers like so many children’s block towers piling up, a certain window through which he steps——and he is back safe and sound in his own bed, the purple crayon nearby.
That was the kind of journey Charlie had this Monday night, one new adventure unfolding into the next.
It all started when he got off the schoolbus on this coldest yet of winter days. Jim was waiting by the mailbox; Charlie ran inside, put down his backpack, had a snack (“I want eat bread!”) and then they were off to catch a train to Newark, which turned into a PATH train ride to Journal Square in Jersey City.
“He with you?” a cop asked Jim as Charlie moseyed around the station until I appeared, having walked down Bergen Avenue from my office to the station. We hurried down the stairs and there was a PATH train to WTC-33rd Street just pulling in.
We got off at 9th Street in New York and, just as we were at the top of the stairs, a taxi appeared. Jim hailed it and—with Charlie requesting “buckle up” and looking perplexed when we told him there wasn’t one—we rode over to Avenue A. We walked down and over in the icey air, Charlie holding Jim’s hand and looking all around. We found the subway and Jim and Charlie took a slow D train up to Columbus Circle, a “H’oh Fooodz” store, and Jim’s office, where they dined on sushi and soup (guess who had which) and then back into the cold. They rode the subway again to meet me at a bar/café where Charlie, with serious gaze and steady eyes, said “hi” to Roy Richard Grinker, whom I had just heard reading from and talking about Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.
We had to walk a little farther north up Avenue A to catch another taxi back to 9th street and the PATH station; this time, Charlie did not ask to buckle up. “Sit,” said Charlie while we on the train. “You can stand for now, pal,” said Jim and Charlie did, until a place opened up.
We hurried up the stairs at Journal Square and past the clock that reads “Port Authority of NY and NJ” and down to Kennedy Boulevard. Now it was genuinely freezing cold, all the better for a fine fast walk back to the black car, gleaming dully over the gravel of the parking lot. “Turn on,” said Charlie. “Beatles?” we asked. “Bee ulls,” said Charlie. And, after a track or two, “Bank-kett.”
We drove into our driveway and Charlie jumped and kicked and rolled and laughed with glee on our bed and put on his pajamas without us asking. “S’eeps,” he announced to me. He got up, blanket and squishy ball and all, and went to his own bed.
If I may paraphrase something I heard tonight: After you travel, you come home (as Harold ends up in his own bed with the crescent moon framed just so in the window) and you see things differently.