Two Plus Two Always Equals Four

December 2, 2009
Two Plus Two Always Equals Four

Is there always a reason why things happen? I don’t think so, because people make mistakes and they screw everything up. And why is it that my brother Tommy is autistic and I’m not? Why does he have to be the one judged by people who don’t get him? But they can’t possibly understand. I don’t understand it myself, why some things are the way they are. But will you understand why I did what I did?

29 31…

I like prime numbers. They’re unique. There’s a lot of them in math, but every time I calculate a new prime number, I get real excited. It’s like meeting a new person.

I remember when I told Tommy that we were going to go to an actual high school. I warned him that there would be a lot of people and it would get crowded and some people might say things to him that they didn’t really mean. He seemed to understand. I said,

“No shouting. No swearing. No tantrums.” He nodded several times and repeated,

“No shouting. No swearing. No tantrums. No shouting. No swearing. No tantrums.”

I held out my hand in a thumbs-up position. Tommy did the same and we touched our thumbs together.

May 4, 3210 will be on a Tuesday.

I wonder what will happen in 3210. Maybe the Earth will be destroyed and everyone dead.

November 11, 1111 was on a Saturday.

I wasn’t alive back then.

Christmas will be on a Friday this year.

I hope Dad will come home for Christmas. But he won’t.

Mom dropped us off at Corey High School before the students arrived. She promised to pick us up when the last bell rang in front of the main building. I felt like we were repeating the first day of kindergarten all over again. Tommy was neatly dressed in a blue striped polo and jeans with his short cropped brown hair brushed into place. My hair was longer and definitely not as neat as Tommy’s so I had just covered it with baseball cap.

Before she left, she looked at me through the passenger seat-side open window and said, “Take care of him, Dave. Please.”

“I will. I promise,” I said. “We’ll see you soon, Ma.”

“Yes. We’ll see you soon, Mom,” Tommy grinned.

We walked toward the main building and Mom drove off after waving until she couldn’t see us anymore. I knew she was stalling; she wanted to stay there in that car in front of the school in case we changed our minds and ran out saying we didn’t want to go to school. But I wanted to stay. And I think Tommy wanted to stay too. I knew he wanted to be a teenager, too.

School was fun. I made lots of new friends. I waved at people in the hallways and they all waved back. It made me smile. I played basketball in gym class. I made three baskets! People cheered me on. During lunch, I got to pick which food I wanted to eat. There was pizza, cheeseburgers, pasta, cold sandwiches, and salad. I wanted to eat all of it, but I could only pick one. I chose cheese pizza, except it was really hot when I bit into it, but it was still delicious.

At school, at home, and everywhere else, I try to help Mom because I know how hard it must be for her to take care of Tommy.

Don’t take it the wrong way, I’m not blaming Tommy, it’s just that…well, it sucks. It’s hard. But how could Dad leave? I can’t believe how…how weak he is. He doesn’t even deserve to be called “Dad.” Does he seriously think sending a check every month gives him the right to call every now and then to “check up on how Tommy’s doing?” I can tell by the way Tommy answers dully on the phone that Tommy knows and can sense things. I just know that there is something in him that can feel and understand why his father left us, why he left him. That’s why I can never forgive Dad for his cowardice.

Dad doesn’t live with us anymore. One day, he said something to me and Mom and he left and didn’t come back ever again. He still calls sometimes. I don’t really know why he will call but not come home. That’s why I like math. There’s always an answer to every equation. But in life, there are so many unanswered questions.

At school, Tommy and I went to the cafeteria. He got very excited when he saw all of the food. I told him to pick one, and he wanted each kind. There was a line forming behind us, and one of the cafeteria ladies told him to pick something already. But Tommy couldn’t decide which food he wanted.

The cafeteria lady called the next person in line. I was getting irritated, by everything. It wasn’t solely because of the situation. It was a combination of all the emotions I had kept bottled up inside since I found out my boy Tommy had autism. With an exasperated sigh, I said,

“Oh c’mon, Tommy. Just pick the damn food. Stop being so slow.”

I really didn’t mean to say that last part. But it just came out and I immediately regretted it. I quickly held out my fist in a thumbs-up position. I wanted to say something to make up for being so abusive, but I couldn’t think of anything at the moment. Tommy slowly closed his own hand into a fist. But rather than sticking up his thumb, he stood there with his fist out in front of him. And then he punched me. Hard.

It was a shock, but I deserved it. I shouldn’t have lost control of myself and should have been more patient, like Mom. The last person that had called Tommy slow was Dad. He probably lost control just like I did right there. But I didn’t want to be like Dad. That was the last thing I ever wanted.

If I really went to that school and was popular and was good at basketball, then Dad wouldn’t have left. But I didn’t go to that school. I really wish I did.

I still don’t understand why I can’t go. It’s not fair. Mom won’t let me. She tells me that she loves me and always smells nice and I like being with her, but I don’t know why I can’t go to the same school as the other kids. I don’t like being homeschooled. I think I’m being punished for punching Dad one time. But he called me slow! That wasn’t nice at all. I got really angry. So I hit him. After that, Dad didn’t say anything and I just stood there. I went to my room to calculate pi and I forgot that I hit him.


After Tommy punched me, he stood there, obviously terrified of what I would do. It was awful to look at him, with his fist still tense next to his thigh, waiting to defense himself if necessary. That is, defense himself from me. I told him to go to his room. I mean, his homeroom. At Corey High School. No…I can’t do this anymore.

I’m sorry Tommy. I’m sorry for leaving you and your mother. It was the biggest mistake I ever made. I just didn’t know how to be understanding and patient like Mary, I mean your mom, is. I don’t know if I can come back though.

I’m sorry for calling you slow. That was wrong and insulting to you, a bright boy. But I don’t think coming home will make things better. I’m afraid that you’ll be too scared to talk to me now. I’m afraid of reading the doubt in Mary’s eyes if I say I’m home for good. I’m afraid that I won’t bring you up properly. I know you heard this before and it sounds like a lousy excuse, but I’m just not good enough.

I know you wanted to go to school, and you’re perfectly capable of doing so. We visited Corey High School and you were so excited, just pretending to be one of the students. However, I agree with your mom. She’s not trying to be unfair. She just wants to protect her only baby. I love you Tommy. And it’s okay that you will never read this or ever love me back. I deserve all of this. But not you. I mean, I don’t deserve you. I just hope some part of you understands why I left, not because of you, but for you. But I can’t come back. I really can’t. I’m sorry, son.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback