In the Middle School Office; in the Library
As Charlie is only wearing the helmet at his public middle school, that is where the helmet will be.
Wednesday, after Charlie got off the bus and pulled at the two black straps on the helmet (the school ties them together so I guess it makes it harder to take them off?) and I took it off his head, we got in the black car and drove to the middle school.
A group of students was sitting and standing—I don't know the latest way to say "hanging around and looking cool"—-by the bicycle rack. I parked the car and Charlie said "open door." As he got out and I was taking the helmet out of the trunk, I noticed a medium-sized white SUV drive up behind us. A dark-haired woman in a smock imprinted with smiling teeth and toothbrushes got out.
She walked straight to the middle school entrance and pulled on two of the doors. They were locked and I mentioned that the buzzer was to the right. She rang it and went in and I held the door open for Charlie.
Charlie stood in the hallway just outside the office door while the other mother and I went in. Behind the front desk, to the left of a hallway leading to a shadowy corridor with doors, was a low bench. Two boys, gangly legs splayed out and heads and shoulders drooping, sat and looked at nothing in particular.
"Can I just see my son first?" the dark-haired mother asked softly.
She looked straight ahead.
"Yes of course," said one of the secretaries, and opened the half-door that separates the back of the office from the front.
I asked if Charlie's teacher was still in. She had (they said) just left and one of the aides appeared and I handed the helmet to him.
Charlie and I went to the bank and the drug store. He pulled out his bike for a ride with Jim but the ride was shorter than planned as Charlie saw the big whitish dog that has become his nemesis, got off his bike, and paced back and forth. Jim called me and, soon as he saw the car, Charlie wanted to get in; we told him that he had to get his bike helmet. He didn't budge from where he stood but after I wheeled over his bike, Charlie put his bike helmet on and got back on his bike and rode home.
It was just as well the bike ride was brief. Jim was speaking at our town's library and, after loading the black car's trunk with books, we drove over and dropped Jim off. Charlie asked for a burger and we drove to a local hamburger place, but he said "no, no" just as I pulled into the parking lot I said, ok, and added that—with so much going on—things have been confusing. We drove back to our local grocery store and maybe Charlie didn't have world's most nutritious dinner (ok, he did get some protein in the form of edamame), but he was very eager to hop back in the car and return to the library to see Jim (who is a very good speaker yes I am terribly biased, and gladly!—you can see him in action in this video). Charlie paced the aisles in the upper floor of the library while I checked out some of the new books (I went for Nudge over an "everything you need to know about vaccines" book). Charlie stayed cheerful as Jim and I stood around afterward and chatted; Charlie ran right to his bed after we got back home.
Charlie was lying on top of his blankets when I went to check on him. I gently spread an old alphabet blanket (a present from one of my cousins in 1997) over him. It didn't quite cover his feet.
As I looked over my shoulder at my sleeping boy, I thought of the dark-haired mother, and I thought of her son.