A delicate imagination

“Walter wants to start a new business?”


“What kind?”



“He wants to make more money.”

“How do you know that?”

“He told me.”

This is what my new student told me today, that a character in a play spoke to him.

I’ve started teaching part-time again. A US boarding school student is in Korea for spring break, and I was asked to teach him two books over the next two and half weeks. Short-term privates somehow always turn out to be the best, unfortunately; when they end after that brief, predetermined period, I get sad. I get sad just like a child who wishes the fun didn’t have to stop.

I was startled as soon as he started speaking to me for the first time. There was a nervous air about him; he spoke quickly and voiced every small concern that occurred to him or bothered him or entertained him. He even muttered predicted problems as he worked.

While he wrote his freewrite, we talked (he was a natural multitasker) and I learned more about him. He was a math prodigy, and this later became clear to me in examining his writing; it had a precision and order that could only come from an exceedingly logical, mathematical mind. Though afflicted with grammatical and stylistic failings, each sentence of his rang clear and provided information bit by bit at a measured, steady pace. A freewrite almost always fails to be objective, lending itself to an opinion-laden stream-of-consciousness, but his was as removed and empirical as can be. This also was unique and gave me pause.

At one point, he revealed to me (indirectly, as was his usual style, by way of a nifty app on his phone that could auto-tune voices) that he hated writing. I presume he finds it tedious and unsatisfying, not worth the toil and trouble. I don’t blame him; I often feel the same way. But at another point, he revealed that he wants to write a book someday. “What kind of book?” I asked. For his sake, I cannot divulge his plan, but I will say that it involves breaking the fourth wall, and not in the traditional way.

Once in a blue moon, I get to teach rare, imaginative minds who inspire me more than I probably inspire them (though of course, I try my best). Amidst discussions of characters, we get lost in spinning new tales for them and inventing heroes of our own. We travel to better places, places where the seemingly impossible can happen, as long as we will it. And when we come across someone new, someone interesting, someone so magnetically intriguing, our curiosity overpowers our introversion and we approach the mysterious creature. “I believe we haven’t met,” we say. “But we must know about you. If you tell us your story, we’ll tell you ours.” And in sharing stories and fabricating new ones together, we fuel each other’s minds and find ourselves in places we couldn’t have imagined before we’d met.





  1. greg said:

    “He even muttered predicted problems as he worked.” – this is a GREAT sign for potential software developers … and then I kept reading and saw the “empiricism” =P

    Feels familiar.

    • n said:

      Ha! Maybe you’ll meet him in the industry someday. 😉

  2. j said:

    the boy is right lol

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