Aaron rolled out of bed, his feet hitting the floor before he realized what had woken him up. Somewhere in the apartment he could hear Joel. His younger brother’s voice was loud, panicked as he repeated the same phrase over and over.
“Hey JJ, buddy. I’m right here. Listen to me, be with me.” Aaron grabbed a shirt and pulled it on over his bare chest. He went to the door on a run, tracking the desperate voice through the small rooms. He found Joel in the bathroom, his fingers fastened on a red toothbrush.
“Time to go, time to go, time to go.” Joel’s long dark hair was wet, evidence he’d already been in the shower. As if to backup the fact there was a towel folded in fourths on the toilet seat.
“Hey Joel. We’re not late. It’s Sunday, nothing to do today.” He spoke in the light tones that worked best with his autistic brother. With a sigh he sat on top of the damp towel and drug his hands through his bangs. “Nothing to do. Not late.”
“Late, tardy, delayed, behind, overdue, behind schedule, behind time, belated.” Joel stared down into the clean porcelain of the sink, his fingers locating the toothpaste by touch. Aaron sighed.
“Not belated or overdue. You’re talking at me not to me Joel.” Joel ignored him and finished putting the paste on his toothbrush. He brushed his teeth without looking in the mirror, running the brush and counting under his breath.
“Time to go.” The younger man repeated, spitting into the sink and wiping his hand across his mouth. Aaron grabbed his own toothbrush.
“Wanna go to breakfast? Go see dad? Anything you want.” Joel stepped away, facing into the corner to narrow his world down to a small slice of steamy wall. He placed his hands on either side of his head and began counting again, this time in Latin. “You’re hiding Joel. Be with me buddy.”
“Buddy, pal, friend, compadre, amigo, companion, ally, comrade, chum, mate.” Joel’s voice didn’t waver. He spoke monotonously, his eyes never leaving the small area he’d boxed himself into. Aaron sighed and ran the toothpaste over the damp bristles of his toothbrush.