The clock reads 11:09 PM as I sit alone, eyes barely open, surrounded only by the photo-covered walls of my dorm room, completely overcome by exhaustion. 11:10 PM, only a minute more until I can fall asleep. After what seems like an eternity, the clock ticks on my dimly lit cell phone, 11:11 PM. In this moment most people are contemplating their wish, but I am not one of them. I already know mine. Every penny I have thrown in the mall’s fountain, every shooting star, every wishbone I have broken with my mother, and every 11:11 has yielded the same exact wish for as long as I can remember. As I squeeze my eyes tightly shut, I think to myself, “I wish that one day my brother will be able to talk.”
I feel the pressure mounting. One word, one noise, could set David off in an instant. As we walk through the glass doors to my family’s favorite pizzeria, I see my brother attempt to make the transition from the green mat outside, to the red and white tiled floor inside. I know this could very easily be that moment. He stops, his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder paralyzing him in his tracks. His hands begin to flap uncontrollably, and a puzzled family stops behind him, unsure of how to proceed.
“David!” I hear my dad yell from the counter where he is busy placing our order. However, his plea is not convincing enough to persuade David to move further into the restaurant. I quickly make my way over to the door and muster all of my strength to push my 190-pound brother through the doorway. The family then passes through the entrance, and I look at them apologetically, hoping they will understand. Meanwhile, David runs over to the pizzeria’s refrigerator where he pulls out a bottle of his favorite purely synthetic, neon yellow lemonade. However, not even the lemonade is enough to pacify him today, as his tantrum begins to escalate even further. He begins to loudly stomp his feet on the ground to express his rage to everyone in the pizzeria. I feel the eyes of the held-up family burning through me and see their mother whispering to her scared children.
There have been many times when having an Autistic brother has made me feel extremely alone, left with no one to talk to, and no one to understand how I feel. Even so, on his good days, David’s smile can light up a room, and his laugh can instantly make anyone feel better. Despite his unpredictable tantrums, David has truly been my greatest teacher, teaching me lessons that no classroom ever could. He has given me the gifts of empathy, understanding, and patience for those who are different.
After a long day of packing and traveling, I have finally arrived home from school for the summer. As always, my parents welcome me with a family outing to my favorite restaurant, Leone’s. Today, my brother is in higher spirits, sitting across from me in the loud restaurant, completely unfazed by the neighboring table’s chatter. As he rocks back and forth, with his earphones tucked snugly in his ears, listening to Disney tunes, he stares intently at me. I return his stare and shoot a smile in his direction. He giggles loudly, and an adorable grin spreads across his round face. My mom looks at me, smiles, and says, “I think he missed you, Sophia!”
Every night, as the clock strikes 11:11 PM, I still wish that someday David will be able to talk. I wish for this in hopes that he can one day live a traditionally full life, complete with a job and friends. However, remarkably, despite his inability to speak, David has taught me more about life than anyone else ever could.