I watch her van drive up through the gap in the curtain, where I am waiting on the couch. I watch her get out of her car, organize her things and check our address with her notes. I close the curtain and go to the door.
She is our first specialist appointment. There will be two more of her in the next week. A speech therapist, a developmental specialist, but first her.
"Knock, knock!" she says. She has kind eyes and a clipboard. "I'm here to ask you a lot of questions is all. I'll make it painless."
Too late. We should be at the park right now. We should be nibbling crackers in the sand.
"Great," I say.
She takes a seat on the couch so I sprawl out on the floor.
"Do you want anything to drink?" I say.
"No thank you."
I pick at my nail polish. Stop picking at your nail polish. I can't help it. It's flaking everywhere.
She starts down her list of questions. I answer her quietly. Honestly.
She asks about my pregnancy and Archer's birth and his development. When he sat up for the first time. When he started to crawl. When he walked. How he communicates with us.
"Does he point? Does he wave? Does he hug?"
"Yes. Yes. Yes," I say. "But only sometimes."
She nods and writes something down.
Archer reaches for a glass of water, so naturally she asks us questions about his glass.
"Can he hold it himself?"
"Does he use a spoon and fork?"
She looks me dead in the eye when she asks me questions and it makes me want to look away. I go back to picking my nails and she goes back to watching Archer. I want to read her thoughts. What is she thinking.
"What is your top level of education?" She suddenly asks.
I hate this question. It has nothing to do with anything. It says nothing about me or my intelligence. It says nothing about my work ethic. And surely, it says nothing about Archer.
"Actually, I decided that college wasn't for me," I say. "I explored other options."
"So you're high school educated."
"I'm high school educated," I repeat back to her, knowing that that means something to her on her sheet of notes and statistics. Just like Archer's inability to speak .
And I think about how someone will go down her list of notes and think they know me. Someone will go down her list of notes and think they know Archer.
Why do I have to be so sensitive? She has to ask these questions. It isn't up to her. It's on her sheet. She's doing her job.
But I know she is here to make an assessment. What I say matters. Everything matters.
I cross my arms. I become paranoid, Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles, and I pace the room as Archer runs around in circles over and over, screaming and laughing.
He never runs around in circles like this but suddenly I'm sensitive of the clipboard and her smiling eyes. She watches him and takes notes and I wonder if his running around in circles is "bad" or "not normal" or "cause for concern."
Circles. He runs in circles," I imagine she is thinking. "And his mother has a high school education, nothing more."
I feel very small-- like a little girl, like I have to restrain myself to keep from running in circles, too.
I answer all of the questions. I don't know what the answers mean to us but I do. I pretend I am comfortable with her in my house, asking me all of these things. Watching Archer. She's a nice woman and I feel terrible for not wanting her, here. But I can't help it. I want her to leave. Now.
"He stacks blocks and spins wheels and smells every flower," I tell her and I love that he does these things but am unsure if I should. She nods and scribbles a note or two.
"I don't think anything is wrong," I say. "Archer's very different. He's special. He's not like the other children but it's by choice. It's because he is unique. I want him to realize that. I want him to grow up knowing what a beautiful thing it is-- to be different. I don't want him to follow the leader or feel comfortable in a crowd. I want him to feel comfortable on his own. With himself. I want his growth to be organic. Hormone-free," I say.
"But it's free of charge, this therapy. And it helps," she says. "I don't know why anyone wouldn't do it. It will be good for him!"
I feel torn. I don't know what to do.
"Hormone-free," I think.
"It helps," she says.
And I don't know who to believe. Myself or this strange woman with kind eyes.
"I guess we'll just wait to hear back and decide what to do from there," I say.
I sign a stack of paperwork. Archer's name is spelled wrong and I wonder if it's a sign. She doesn't know him...
"Shut up," I tell myself. "Just give it a chance. Just see what they have to say."
I thank her for her time. Archer waves goodbye, and together we watch her drive away through the curtains and out of sight.