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Here he is, on the screen in a darkened bedroom. I am invading his privacy because he is still on the run-up to graduation, the run-up to college acceptances, the run-up to escaping the continual run-ups. He’s a good student, a senior, and he knows the game. He’s particularly bright in math and science, his favorite subjects, which is why I’m the current invader, the English tutor. Currently on the screen via Zoom.

“We can go over the new sections today, how’s that?” I say.

“Okay,” he says. He is not chatty, he doesn’t waste words, and is often guarded. The words he has pour out on the page in long sentences.

“Can you please read me the new section to get us started?”

“The research on stem cells can be divided into three categories,” he reads.

This is his senior project, a research essay of his creation. It’s about 16 pages right now, and I’m concerned that he may want to write more. We’ll have to cut, and that’s hard for him, hard for anybody who has written and been happy to get it on the page.

We continue, him reading, me asking questions, giving him options. At the 50 minute mark I slide in a comment. “We’ll just keep going so you can finish today, but I won’t be charging you any more.”

“Okay,” he says. There’s noise and flashes of light in the room. The noise continues. It’s his mother, vacuuming. She has made it clear she will not authorize tutoring sessions beyond 50 minutes, but this is his senior project and it’s due. I’m not going to leave it half-revised. I know how much it means to him.

We finally finish, wasting no time. I’d like to ask him about his process, but there’s no time.

“This is a very ambitious and comprehensive research paper, ” I say. “You’ve surpassed your previous work.”

“i’ve really learned a lot from this paper,” he says.

“Good luck!” I say, knowing he has AP tests next week. “It has been a pleasure.”

“Okay,” he says.

Later after I know he has graduated, I send a congratulations email. He doesn’t answer. His mother, in charge of all things in his life, does not want to incur additional expenses.


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