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A William Mind Apart

A William Mind Apart Chapter 6 William A World without Metaphor William is very tall and very thin. He wears a blue sweatshirt, blue jeans, and a white turtleneck. The sweatshirt has a logo of a cartoon character, Sailor Moon, on it. William is fourteen years old and is visiting me today because his parents are worried he might be depressed. They report that he spends a lot of time in his room, asks the same set of questions over and over again, and generally appears more anxious and withdrawn than usual. I notice his long, finely tapered fingers and his clear, almost blue fingernails. He is as delicate as an antique China vase. William looks down at the carpet, a posture that accentuates his long eyelashes. He rarely looks at me during our conversation. I try to find out if William is depressed. The difficulty is that he prefers to talk about other things. “How are you today?” I ask politely. “I saw the round doors going east at 8:50,” he replies. “I beg your pardon, I missed that,” I answer. “The round doors of what?” “The subway train,” he informs me. Now I understand. William has always loved the subways. He has memorized the subway map of Toronto and knows the names of all the stations, what color they are, and in what direction the trains travel from station to station. Since there are over fifty stations in the system, that is quite an accomplishment. Every Saturday for years, he and his father traveled the subways as a treat. William would sit in a seat by the window and look at all the stations going by, the people coming in and out, noticing the individual 79

Free ebooks ==> 80 A MIND APART decor of each station and each change in direction of the train. He travels the subways by himself now and experiences the same joy and pleasure. “I remember that you like subways. Can you tell me why?” “The way they look, the way the doors open and close, the way the trains move. I like the Royal York station because that’s where you get a certain kind of door. There is a new subway on the Young–University line.” He tells me all this as if I am as interested as he. He begins to talk faster and with much animation as he describes this new line. For the life of me, I can’t get him to talk about being depressed. I try a simpler tack and ask him about school: “What did you do at school yesterday?” “Math.” “What else?” I ask, trying to get him to elaborate. He pauses briefly, then starts out again: “Last week I took the subway south from Davisville to Bloor. That is what came when I was going to Bloor and Lawrence, at the Royal York to Bloor line in the subway going east. Then we walked to Pamela’s place. Then because John was getting T-shirts, I would not leave there until I saw the round doors going west. Because I wanted to catch them when they came east. And I saw one going west at three-thirty-five.” The speech comes in waves—slow and strained when talking about his day, fast and animated when talking about the subways. He refers to people I do not know, clauses have ambiguous references, and unexpected words pop up frequently. William never looks at me to see if I understand. His long, thinly tapered fingers rest easily in his lap as he pretends to roll something. His cheeks are flushed. I tried several times in that interview to steer the conversation back to the issue of depression but without success. It was not that he was avoiding an emotionally laden or uncomfortable topic. I could not even get William to talk about neutral subjects such as the weather or school or sports. The closest I could come to the issue of depression was music. His mother told me that William had developed a fondness for the songs of George Hamilton, especially the ones about heartache and loneliness. “I understand you like George Hamilton. How come?” I ask, trying not to sound incredulous. William briefly tells me that listening to these songs makes him feel better. But then he quickly returns to the trains at the Royal York Station. For the most part, I have very little idea what William is talking about and I easily become confused between trains going in every direction. The conversation is a vortex of colors, shapes, and times. William cannot help me out. I do not even think he knows I