I only met Matthew a week or so ago, his not even really a friend of mine.
The story of how we met is an important, yet interesting one, that goes something like this!
So, it was late… Gone half past one in the morning. A friend was staying over at mine which meant she was able to watch the children while I dashed to the 24hr petrol garage at the end of my road. Now I don’t normally make a habit of taking late night trips to the garage, but there are times when a girl needs some chocolate and this was very much one of those times.
So… Moving on… Matthew who I was yet to meet, was being quite loud as he walked across the car park leading to the garage. I thought that maybe a couple of lads had likely drunk to much and were now on their way over! Well, I was wrong!
Matthew, around 20 years old, dressed in all the latest clobber (stylish trainers, jeans and a hoody) was walking with a middle aged man and a dog. By now I was busy trying to direct the woman on the other side of the glass window around the shop floor like some crazy lady as I demonstrated a string of erratic arm movements and silly actions in order for her to select the items that I wanted! (seriously, her face when I showed her 5 fingers indicating that I wanted 5 cream eggs was a picture.)
Matthew was now stood staring at me, admittedly, I did feel a little uncomfortable at first! Back at the glass window Matthew then started speaking to me. In all honesty, he wasn’t making much sense when he grabbed ahold of my arm while laying his head on my shoulder and requesting I take him home.
By now a reasonable length queue had formed. People were trying to keep their distance from Matthew who was now making his way down the queue asking those in it a string of strange &random questions mainly surrounding the topic of what car they were driving.
I looked at the guy with the dog, he smiled and shook his head saying… “I’ve just met the young lad can’t seem to shake him off” I nodded as I stroked his dog.
“How do you know his name?” I asked.
“He told me” he replied.
He then went on to state…
“Actually he wouldn’t stop talking about motoring, how certain vehicles are made, who makes them and so forth”
With that something clicked within my head…
“No…. surely not! No… I’m reading to much into it” I thought.
Now, I had paid for my items and should have been heading home. It was late after-all and I didn’t want my friend to worry but something inside me just stopped me from leaving.
Matthew was now stood by my side. He was telling me he was cold and asking for my coat. I explained that I was also cold and that my coat was designed for a woman and wouldn’t actually fit him.
At this point an extremely rowdy woman dressed in very little and so obviously a little worse for wear shouted “For Goodness Sake, he don’t want your coat his going to rob you, you silly cow”
Moving my eyes in her direction, my request for her was that she should simply shout up.
By this point I had decided that I’d probably been gone long enough for my friend to call out a search party so turned around and started to walk away.
The middle aged man and his dog were now ready to leave and I could hear him talking to the dog as he walked behind me. Suddenly I felt the sensation that someone was incredibly close to me. Before I knew it these hands just grabbed ahold of my shoulders. Throwing my whole body around I see Matthew!
“Oi Matthew, Get Off her” Cried the guy with the dog.
“What do you want?” I asked. Followed by the question… “Matthew.. Are you Ok?”
He was now crying, begging that I’ll walk him home. He then went on to tell me through muffled speech that the drunk lady had gone and told him to fuck off!
Something wasn’t right! Matthew may have looked the part, young fresh faced, nicely clothed with one or two cheeky one liners.
Matthew so clearly wasn’t drunk and if he was planning on robbing me I’m sure he would have done so by now!
As I took hold of his arms to move them from me (his grip had become tight and uncomfortable) His sleeve slightly shifted from his wrist and there it was… An ID bracelet. Taking his arm I held it into the light to get a closer look. “Matthew… Do you have autism” I asked as I looked up into his eyes only for him to quickly look away.
“Well, he can’t have!” said the guy with the dog who had come running to my rescue”
“He… He looks so normal” he said as he shook his head in disbelief. Yes, I guess he was displaying a certain amount of ignorance, though intentional this was not! Actually this man was one of the only people in that queue who actually didn’t misjudge him as a robbing thug.
I took out my phone from my pocket and punched in the numbers that were scripted on his bracelet. I then told him I’d be staying right there with him in till his mother had arrived to collect him.
Matthew seemed pleased with that idea and suddenly peace had been restored. We sat on the wall facing the car park, and as we were sat here Matthew went on to share with me his love in motoring. He was incredibly intelligent and had so obviously self taught himself well on the subject. In many ways he reminded me of my Little man.
Matthews mother was lovely. Turns out that Matthew was thought to have been in his room sleeping. She told me that Matthew had a diagnosis of HFA (high functioning autism) sadly he had never been given much support when in education and as a result his social skills were very poor. I then learnt that although Matthew Is capable of going out alone, at night he struggle as he becomes quite frighted. Regardless of this fact, he has such an interest in checking out the vehicles in the car park that he just goes on autopilot. Its only once he has indulged his interest that he realises how late it is and then starts requesting that strangers assist him home. His mother informs me that the bracelet is handy but he forgets his wearing it. It really was lucky I’d seen it as the last time this happened he had ended up spending the night be hide bars.
We walked up together. Turns out they live just off my road.
My friend looked relieved to see me alive and was just about to wake three sleeping kids to come look for me! Lucky for me she understood once I’d explained.
Let… This be a lesson to you all! You really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Things are not always as they first seem… Matthew is proof of that!