Sam stood in his bedroom, eyes pinpointed on the photo above his light switch. He gazed at it quietly for several minutes never taking his eyes off it. The photo was of his parents standing on a bridge. His mother and father had their arms wrapped around each other, smiling at one and other. Their smiles beautifully integrated and passed on to Sam. The photo was all Sam had left to remember his family by. Sadly, his parents never made it home from their trip. When Sam was told the terrible news of his parent’s death, it was not explained in terms he could understand. Instead, he was given the photo and sent away to a care facility. In his mind, his mother and father were always waiting for him on the bridge. Every day, Sam folded his clothes in anticipation of a trip that would never come.
Each fold of Sam’s jeans was carefully planned out. His stubby round hand pressed across the seams of his pants; every pass of his palms seemed to take an eternity. In Sam’s mind, everything had to be in order. Carefully, Sam placed his clothing into his blue denim suitcase, gently, as to prevent wrinkles. Everything needed to be in correct order. Running his fingers over the hardened edges several times, he found the zipper. Methodically, he pulled the zipper, but each time, it snagged on a corner of his suitcase, and each time, he would restart the process. It had to be exact, perfect. Several minutes elapsed as he struggled closing his luggage, but the time never bothered him, as long as it was done pristinely.
Finally having closed his suitcase, he bent down to slide the full suitcase under his bed, but again, he had to stop and repeat the process, as the handle continually snagged on the iron frame of his colorless bed. The compulsiveness of his disorder easily made any of the care providers furious, leaving Sam alone, forcing him to live in his own world.
A solid knock on Sam’s heavy wood door jarred him from his work. Shortly after the sturdy bang, the door swung open with extreme force. A tall man stood at the entrance of the room. The fair-skinned man had a heavy beard and a constant scowl printed on his face. His tarnished look and frown made the people he encountered shy away from him. The tall man was dressed in all white with a gold barred nametag that said “Fred.”
“Let’s go, Downy, lunch is ready.” Fred said in his usual degrading voice. Sam raised his head towards the man but did not say a word. “Come on!” Fred barked, raising his voice towards Sam. This time Sam gave a soft “oh,” as was his usual response. Sam slowly rose to his feet and began walking sluggishly towards the door. As he reached up to his light switch, he touched his favorite photo, rubbing his fingers across the glossy smooth finish of the Kodak image. Gazing deeply into the photo, Sam began to smile.
His life-lifting grin was short lived as Fred grabbed Sam’s light cotton shirt, pulling Sam away from the photo. “Get moving, now!” roared Fred. Shocked and scared, Sam pulled back in fear, crying out. “Hey, no!”
“If you’re going to waste my time, then you don’t deserve to eat,” yelled Fred, shoving Sam back into his room. Fred grabbed the doorknob and slammed the door. Sam moved towards the door, pressing his head tightly against the heavy wood, just in time to hear Fred grumble from the other side
“ I can’t believe Downs Syndrome people are this dumb.”
Sam slumped into his chair, trying to rub the crease out of his soft shirt as a tear breached his lower lashes. The droplet drifted down his face, catching on his upper lip. He softly sniffled as he wiped his lip against the back of his hand. Sam brought his head up, returning his attention to the photo above his light switch. Gazing into the photo, his eyes trained on the boats floating gracefully under the Bridge of Sighs. Slowly, Sam began to drift into his own world, away from the sorrow he felt.
He began to dream.
Sam stood on the Bridge of Sighs, feeling the dampness of the ancient stone railing coming through his light cotton t-shirt. All around him, tourist chattered like birds, taking pictures, and locals came and went, most hardly acknowledging the view they saw twice a day, every day. Sam looked across the water as the sun dropped down to cast the city in a evening gold. He smoothed over his damp shirt trying to dry the soft cotton with his hand. Rubbing the fabric of his t-shirt only once, he stopped because he was ok with the wet spot. On this evening, it did not matter if his clothes were perfect. Sam smiled as he was wrapped in the arms of his mother and father. In his own world, his dream, Sam was perfect. Here, he was safe, and no one could hurt him.