What the Fuck’s Wrong With You? Part Three: The Competent Man

by dpreyde

It was the summer between grade six and seven. I was pissed off at everything and everyone, and I wanted to burn the world down.

In this jolly frame of mind, my parents drove me into Toronto to see Rourke. He worked in the bowels of some hospital downtown, in a tiny little room that wasn’t big enough for two people. The four of us managed to squeeze in.

Rourke bore a startling resemblance to the actor Tim Curry, but was thankfully not as sinister. He was quiet and mellow- not chipper like so many of the others- and seemed to know what he was doing.

Of course, by this point I didn’t give a flying fuck. He could’ve diagnosed me with leprosy and I wouldn’t have cared. While Rourke was talking to my parents, I leaned back in my chair, stared into space, and had erotic fantasies about the girl I had a crush on.

Eventually my parents left the room and I grumpily returned to reality so Rourke could ask me his questions. But he was different than the others in a way I liked. He was deliberate and respectful, and seemed somehow more real than the other specialists. So I took his questions seriously, even though I’d heard so many of them before.

Then it was my parents’ turn to answer the same questions they’d been asked before, so I went out to the hallway and had more erotic fantasies.


I didn’t really know anything about Rourke, or the disability he suspected I might have, because I didn’t care. I figured the whole thing would blow over like everything else. He’d refer me to some specialist in Scarborough, who’d refer me to someone in Whitby, who’d refer me to another person in Toronto, and it’d go on and on like this until the Earth turned to dust.

Then Rourke actually fucking diagnosed me with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder.

“Well, what is it?” I asked my mom.

What it is, is surprisingly easy to explain, especially compared to autism.

The brain has different parts. There are parts that are responsible for verbal functioning and linguistics and stuff like that, and there are other parts that are responsible for spatial reasoning, physical co-ordination, math and stuff like that.

In folks with N.L.D., the different parts of the brain have difficulty communicating with each other. For some reason, this leads the math parts of the brain to be fork-in-an-electric-socket retarded. The verbal parts of the brain, on the other hand, turn into a goddamn genius.

That finally explained the results of the gifted test I’d taken years beforehand, as well as seemingly everything else.

“How come I’ve never heard of this thing before?” I asked my mom. “Are you sure Rourke didn’t just make it up?”

Well, no, Rourke didn’t make it up. His father was the one who’d discovered it. Rourke Sr. studied a whole bunch of folks with N.L.D. and concluded that while they were very intelligent, they were particularly susceptible to depression and anxiety, and whatreyagonnado.

“So what, I’m just doomed to misery?” I asked my mom.

“No! Because now that we know you have N.L.D. we can accommodate you properly at school.”

“And what’s that going to look like?” I asked.

At the start of the school year they brought in an educational assistant for me who was present for most of my classes. She sat next to me during lessons, summarized what I was expected to do, kept me on track while I completed the work, and often took me off to another room to help me finish assignments.

Because hiring a marching band to follow me around carrying a banner that says, “David Preyde Is Retarded” was deemed economically unviable.