Monday, October 3, 2011

Smothery

From Chapter XVIII of Huck Finn:

Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't.

I just noticed the mother in the center of the word. Wonder if Mark Twain saw it.

I was in my 20s when I read this book with a boy I was tutoring at the Prep for Prep program. Tonight I found a paper he wrote for me, in the book. I was not a Mickey Mouse tutor. Inside the book's back flap is a list of vocabulary words I looked up in the OED, and on the last page is the phone number for a man named Luke.

I had an enormous, speechless crush on Luke, and could never bring myself to admit it to anybody, not even to the mutual friends who introduced us.

We didn't have much to talk about. He knew about horses and I didn't. I knew about books and he didn't. When, for a chaste five minutes, we entered some horrible, grotty apartment on the Upper East Side--I recall it as dark, narrow, bachelor-bare, and non-furnished--the space between us widened. I could not begin to imagine how he could live in such blah circumstances. He was full of life. His apartment was about as interesting as a pocket protector. At the time, such things mattered to me.

We wouldn't make it through many more non-conversations together.

I couldn't have much of a conversation with my student, either. One day he asked me what reading Huck Finn had to do with his getting a job when he grew up, and I didn't really have an answer for him. I myself had never asked the question.

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