A high school boy finds out that in both love and algebra, solving for 'x' may not always get you the result you expect.
When I was born—in the depths of winter some nineteen years ago—I’m almost certain that I read the world in binary. The interesting thing about binary code is that it is comprised entirely of 1s and 0s. It is simple. If the trees were 1, the grass was 0. The sky might have been 11001. The entire world might be described in terms of those two figures. There were no 2s, no 8s, and certainly no variables. Looking back, I wonder what my sense of color was like. Did I understand the hues and intricacies that give life its own, strange brand of vivacity? Certainly I was a product of blending, of experimentation. All odd people are.
Cut and dried. I was good at rules. The warden of the fourth grade, one Ms. Elisabeth Tilden, sent off for a private tutor on the first day of school. “I won’t stand for boredom in this grade,” she told me. She seemed to think that this was a good thing. I didn’t quite understand. I wasn’t bored. I enjoyed understanding everything my teachers told me. I enjoyed knowing the game, and how to play it.
I hated the letter x.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my tutor drove in from the local high school and sat with me at a small, trapezoidal table in an empty room while the rest of my grade learned multiplication and long division. I’d mastered them the year before by reading my sister’s textbook.
My tutor had his own textbook. It was smooth and gray and very thick. The illustrations were in black and white. The text was large and uniform. It was a very inviting book. And for the first few days of tutoring, it was just as I expected. I inhaled the properties of numbers and operations. I drank math with every meal. My tutor—I’ve forgotten his name by now—smiled down on me with large teeth and gleaming eyes. I imagine that, having only taught high schoolers, he’d never seen the promise of raw, untampered youth.