Bikram was an Indian autistic man that I worked with for several years.
He looked like a Bollywood version of Sam the Eagle.
Every day, Bikram dressed in business casual, even in 90 degree heat.
He rarely smiled.
Occasionally he would shave an eyebrow one day, than both eyebrows the next, than a leg, and finally his whole body.
His voice was quite low and almost always monotone, unless circumstances or his own echolalia demanded a change in pitch.
For example, when you told Bikram to speak Spanish to our Puerto Rican students, he would end his sentences by blurting out the word "Romento!" in a high falsetto.
"She doesn't understand, Bikram, ask her in Spanish."
"Would you like some juice......ROMENTO!?!?!
Bikram's impulse control was quite poor.
Around Christmas time, he would terrorize the fabric store we worked in by smashing the shiny Christmas globes.
There would be no warning.
Bikram would be happily sweeping the floors, mumbling his rotating comfort phrases to himself.
"Danit is an interplanetary flying space saucer." 'Saucer' was always said like 'sore-cer'.
"King Peter the Persnickety was positively peachy."
"I will kick you right in the butt." He pronounced 'butt' like 'baht'.
You would let your guard down for a moment, and then it would happen.
An otherworldly scream, old ladies running in terror, and everywhere, everywhere, shards of thin Christmas glass exploding on the floor.
When Bikram saw you running for him, he would only escalate his smashing.
The first time he did it, I tried to pick him up and run him out of the store.
He was about an inch shorter than me, and roughly my same weight.
It was like two young hippos battling over a mate; so fat, so loud, so very dangerous.
As I finally managed to heft him onto my hip and propel him towards the door, he strained backwards over my shoulder to take out a few more, and then airplaned his arm so he could clear another shelf as we went past.
The kind women of the fabric store suggested Bikram not return.
I found some of Bikram's drawings the other day.
This one was pronounced "Wussy Cat."
He would say, "I'm going to Wussy Cat, that's what I'm going to do."
And sometimes he would get stuck on that last part, and just keep saying "going to do" over and over again.
Here you see the autistic mind wrestle with an abstract concept.
This picture he made for me on the occasion of the birth of my first child.
He originally drew a naked baby with large genitalia.
"Get rid of that wiener," a staff person scolded him.
Bikram then drew an Elmo diaper on the baby, and gave Elmo the genitalia instead.
Up in the right corner there, he wrote "It's a boy!" in bubble letters.
And here are a couple of Danit, his preferred picture to draw.
Danit often had a slight melancholy expression, like in the picture above.
I actually spent a summer taking care of Bikram in his home.
Because he liked to run and he liked to eat, there were locks on everything.
His dad's study was barricaded by a mountain of piled furniture.
Bikram's room was utterly bare, his only companion a tattered ALF doll.
"Do you know who that is?" I asked him, pointing to the doll.
"It's ALF" he said, in his typical monotone.
"Do you like that show?"
He furrowed his brow. "I like that show."
"Do you really?"
He reached up and rubbed my head.
"Bald head," he said.
His hand stayed up there a bit longer than I was comfortable with.
I have learned that the casual physical contact of developmentally disabled men is not always as innocent as it seems.
The very first time I worked a night shift in the group home, a young man named Billy came and sat with me in the office.
I was filling out logbooks and barely noticed when he put his hand lightly on my elbow.
After awhile, I became aware of a certain commotion taking place in his pajama pants.
I leapt up from my chair and ran screaming from the room.
Thinking of Billy, thinking of all the men I have worked with, I brushed Bikram's hand off my head.
"No thanks." I said,"My head, not yours."
He groaned and went back to staring out the bedroom window.
Bikram had the most amazing dance he could do.
It was a perfectly vertical leap, at the apex of which he would awkwardly clack his heels together.
His expression would not change while he did it. Not even a slight smile, or a bit of slackening from exertion.
Sometimes, on those long summer days, I would call for Bikram to dance for me.
Both of us would sit there, not smiling, not laughing, while he propelled himself around the room to the beat of utter silence.