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“I don’t want to talk today,” Giulio said in Italian, head down and bottom lip puffed out as he walked out of the classroom after I had velcroed him into his converse sneakers.

Wow, good afternoon to you too, kiddo. I was thinking of even bringing him back to our house – Rami was off today and we could’ve hung out in the garden, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. So we started out of the piazza and down the street, and I try to heed his request (he never has asked for this before) while still being a competent caregiver and guiding him through the city. As we walked, he kept his promise, not uttering a sound, no distractions from the dogs or the busses or the colors or the bikes to break his silence.

I remembered sitting in the car with my Dad as he drove us down the road in Plaistow, going to do some errand and I had just started driving so I must have been sixteen, I reached to turn on the radio and he asked me if I ever just drove without it. If I ever just drove and listened to the muffled silence, listened to my own thoughts. In the years after, I did it often. Before then, I hadn’t much.

Today we weren’t in a car, but this little three-year-old made me stop trying to fill every damn minute of the day with sound, with active listening, and so we walked in silence all the way home, and we listened to the passerby, the bus, the siren of an ambulance down the street, to our thoughts – I just wish I could’ve heard his.

As we came close to his building Giulio whimpered that he was tired, and I picked him up and told him to rest, to relax. He put his head on my shoulder and as we reached the gate, I could tell he had already fallen asleep.

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