Scenes from 826 Seattle
I’m a volunteer at 826 Seattle, a free drop-in tutoring center for kids in kindergarten through high school. Originally, I was supposed to be a writing tutor, but every Tuesday, I find myself hunkered down with the same group of kids doing math.
The most talkative of them all is a sixth grader named Jinhee. She says things like:
“Once, my grandmother bought me $600 worth of rocks. Really nice rocks. She was my favorite grandmother. Until my other grandmother bought me an iPod. I always change my mind on who is my favorite grandmother. It depends who buys me more things. Also who even wants rocks? “
“I already finished my homework. This? This isn’t homework. It’s an optional worksheet.”
“I could knit a whole blanket it in two hours. Yeah, I could. But I’m not going to because knitting is boring. And blankets are dumb.”
“I have a new baby brother! No, just kidding. That was joke.”
Also, according to Jinhee, my dimples are “stupid.”
Once, I referenced Jay-Z, and none of the kids knew who he was. Which prompted me to ask what kind of music they listened to. Alex, a sixth grader, really, really likes Slipknot.
“I would estimate that at least 3% of the world is a Slipknot fan. They are probably the most popular band, after the Motley Crue.”
How do eighth graders even know the Motley Crue?
Every day, there’s a rebus puzzle posted at the front of the room, and anyone who figures it out gets a prize––which is usually something cute, like an eraser shaped like an ice-cream cone.
David is in the seventh grade, but he’s been doing extra credit math assignments from a Kumon Learning Center for so long that he’s already working on calculus. But as bright as David is, he is terrible at rebuses.
What goes up… must goes up.
So it’s like, the first secret. It comes before other secrets. It’s on top of the other secrets. It’s… the first secret?
For a while, I thought the kids didn’t like me very much. It’s hard to be confident when a seventh grader is constantly making you feel self-conscious about your dimples. Then I read what Ryan, another seventh grader, wrote about me in the 826 Newsletter for a tutor profile. “Kevin… The first time I ever saw him, I thought he was a senior in high school. Kevin is such a funny and wicked awesome guy. Whether it is making fun of me about ‘unleashing my skills,’ or even taking me to Neptune Coffee for a cup of Italian soda, Kevin is always the man. When it comes to math homework on Tuesday, I always go to the same guy: Kevin. He actually makes doing homework fun for me. And when I talk too much while doing homework, he always just says, ‘get your work done.’”
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.