Feb, 20022 In early December, about an hour before closing-time, a customer walked in to the shop and I fell in love with him. My fall took less then a minute. There was something about him- his energy. His curiosity. His openness. His ability to say whatever was on his mind. He was dazzling. His face, his face. We meet so many people at the shop -so many interesting and wonderfully good people- and yet there was something about him- I’ll call him Julio -that captured me. I focused on him and I ignored all other customers. I couldn’t help myself.
Entering the shop with his iphone in hand, he immediately began taking photos. He quickly moved from one display to the next, shooting away. Curios, I asked to see his shots. Sure, he said, sliding his finger from one image to the next. He had an eye for composition and he understood textures, too. Who is this guy, I wondered. He choose interesting subjects and that’s when I motioned for Jody, who possess a natural eye for photography and who performs most of Cultural Cloth’s photography work, to come and meet him. I thought she’d enjoy viewing our shop from his fresh perspective.
In exchange, Jody opened her phone to show Julio some of her photos. Examining her phone, I heard Julio suggest, "You really should update your system - your camera will function better,” and reaching for her phone he added, “here, let me.” And then, “Hey- can I jump on your wifi- I want to show you something!” Handing Julio our password, so he could access the internet, he looked at Jody and asked: “Do you want me to shorten your password- your password is really long and complicated.” And -just like that- Julio was improving our IT system, a thing we’d been putting off since forever. Following Jody to the back of the shop, where our office is located, the two disappeared, workinghisphone to syncourwireless printers and computer to the new password.
Twenty minutes later, emerging from the office, he smiled at me and shrugged: “I thought I’d be photographing art in here today but I guess I’m doing IT work instead!”
Julio’s grandmother, who was focused on shopping for a rug, told me that Julio has Asperger Syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum. He also has a stunning capacity for IT. She explained that he can build websites, trouble-shoot systems and how he charges $1-$3/hr, depending. Listening to her describe Julio’s condition, and having now fallen in love with this enchanting eleven year old, I felt the mama lion in me begin to stretch and stir- the protective lioness who has been slumbering since my daughter left childhood…To be fair, I have no idea if Julio needs protection from anyone, let alone, me. But I found myself hoping his peers stand in awe of his uniqueness and talent. As he left the shop with his grandmother, and as Jody & I walked them out the door, we sent silent prayers to the Universe: gratitude for his presence; may he flourish and thrive.