We enter the slowest Taco shop on the planet and stand in a line of about 15 people . . . all ahead of us. I can see Jake taking in the crowd, eyes darting faster and faster, as they are all teenage boys his age, his size and his appetite. They were joking around while waiting for the their food and were speaking loudly.
We waited and waited and I could see Jake growing more nervous as the noise level climbed and the rowdy teens started sneaking each others' phones and laughing!
I didn't say anything to Jake, at risk of him forming judgement based on my face or tone. I just watched and chuckled a few times. He watched them; eyes darting from one to the other, studying long hair, cool hats, and pants belted below the butt. He looked confused at times, but afraid to ask me anything at the moment.
Once we were sitting down and eating, he was focused on his plate, that is until two teens exited. They had run outside and were 'play boxing' each other just outside the glass doors. You know, the soft, fake punching and sound effects you do with your siblings to piss off mom!
Jake spotted them fighting, but couldn't tell they were playing. Faster than he inhaled his taco, Jake was up, phone in hand and running for the door. He was about to go outside to stop the fight, then call police!
I turned around and screamed, "Jake". At the same time, another kid (not part of the crowd) was up right behind Jake. He was going to grab him!
Now Jake was really scared!
He came back to the table, shaking, 9 & 1 dialed on his phone. "They're fighting, they're fighting! It's not safe, I'm calling the police!"
I tried to explain, as calmly as I could, that he had to look at the faces. The kids were smiling and joking while punching. A social cue completely missed in the emotion of the moment.
Two tacos and a nachos down, the guy seated by the window came over the introduce himself as Kenyon. The twenty-something explained to me that he has a little brother who "his mom can't leave alone for one minute, not even to go to the bathroom. He can't even sit in a chair, ma'am! I can't remember what he has though, what's that word?" I asked if he's trying to explain Autism? He answered yes, then continued, as soon as he saw Jake run towards those guys he felt he needed to protect him. He explained he knew because, "he (Jake) didn't act like the other boys, he seemed like a good kid and he was about to get really hurt!"
I was pretty amazed by this kid. I wanted to give him a hug for even caring to begin with, but at the risk of embarrassing him in front of the others I just shook his hand with my cheesy, greasy fingers.
Jake refilled his drink while I watched two other group members make fun of his uneven socks, too tightly tied shoes and felt a pit form in my stomach. He was bigger than most of them, but "younger" than all.
I didn't say anything, I was waiting to see if Jake even noticed the comments.
Nope. (I call that "beautifully oblivious".)
While I answered the barrage of questions from Jake on the way home, we talked about the police man rule "protect the officer first". He understood that and was excited to be compared to being a police man.
There were many quiet moments though too . . . he was thinking . . . shaking . . . confused.
I was emotionally exhausted from the lunch. My stomach was sick from the experience as I forced myself to think of what we learned. I thought back to Kenyon. He was our miracle of the moment and put there for a reason.