I was never good with words. Give me a textbook, any textbook, and I’d absorb it like a sponge, but give me a Nicholas Sparks novel and you could squeeze the enthusiasm out of my pores. When I was a kid I played with rocks, not comics. I oozed intelligence and lacked creativity; a world in neat black and white print bound tightly with silver coils.
“Mom,” I sighed, slumping in my seat at the kitchen. It was Wednesday morning, the most ’blah’ day of the entire week. “I can’t write for crap.”
She sipped her tea and said most monotonously. “Then do something about it.”
As annoyed as I was with her response, I held my tongue and realized my mother was right. You can’t learn to write by reading about it in a textbook or watching a documentary on Shakespeare. No, you have to go out there and find yourself!…
… A tutor.
Enduring all my science courses of the morning was agonizing. Yeah, being around others like you is great for a while, but you begin to see that you’re all too alike and find yourself stunted in growth. Choosing to socialize with those who aren’t in your circle of friends is enriching, socially, emotionally and mentally, and there’s probably the science to back that up. I did, in fact, craved enlightenment, and I was too hungry to let fear stop me from getting it.
I asked my distant friend, Luke, for help on my English skills three hours later, during lunch. He was the smartest guy I knew when it came to words; a modern day Shakespeare and a male Siren. Never been lured to death by a boy, stanza by stanza? You haven’t met Luke.
“It’s not that hard,” he whispered, bouncing his pen on the library desk. “You literally just say what you want to say.”
“That’s my problem.” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know how. Before I say anything I run it through my head a thousand times and realize it wasn’t important anyway.”
“Don’t do that,” Luke frowned. “We’ll start off with something simple. What kind of books do you read?”
I blinked. “Textbooks.”
His face contorted with disgust. “Okay, nevermind.” Luke closed all the books he had open in front of us and I felt like I was failing some kind of unspoken exam. “Tell me a story.”
My face became hot. “I-I don’t have anything prepared.”
“I don’t care.”
“I thought you were supposed to be tutoring me.”
“I am. Everyone has a story inside them, there’s no need to prepare anything.” His voice was tight. I recoiled, wondering if asking him to help me was a mistake. “Just tell me anything,” he continued, gentler this time. “Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Tell me your biggest fear.”
“I’ll save that for the last lesson,” I laughed uneasily.
“Then tell me about your biggest dream.”
I thought for a second. “My biggest dream… is to travel the world.” I shook my head and laughed again. It was so cliché, but it was the only thing I could think of. “I want to meet new people. I want-“
“You’re talking in short sentences,” Luke pointed out. “Using different lengthen sentences creates dimension in writing pieces. But that’s good.”
I was a sweaty mess, but I nodded. “I want to meet new people across the world, to get to know their cultures, what they eat, how they speak, how they say hello. I want to eat real, authentic food; food that wouldn’t be found at the mall collecting dust on a lunch tray.”
“Be more specific,” Luke whispered.
“I want to be a part of a riot in New York,” I whispered back. “To become a mere speck in the giant collage of people, fighting for the same rights and reasons. I want to burn to a crisp in Aruba and laugh as someone has to rub me sore back with bottles and bottles of aloe vera in the hotel room, asking me over and over again why I hadn’t reapplied sunscreen after I swam to which I would reply, ‘I was having too much fun and forgot.’ I want to stomp around in Greece and feel the aura of the Greek Gods all around me, seeping through my pores and giving me enough strength to rule modern Greece myself.”
My heart was racing by the time I turned to Luke. He was slouching in his seat, his arms folded across his chest. “And that’s how it’s done.”
Words by Anita C. // Photography by Johanna Mariel