I’ve only ever seen I— write one sentence. On the first day of Butler Writers, he came in, looked around, took a chair from a nearby table and moved it over, nonchalantly, so he could join his cousin at the table. Self-assured and confident, he took out a piece of paper and gave it a wry grin.
And then, pencil sitting proudly on the not-quite-blank page, he started dancing to the music from his headphones.
They’re pink headphones, the kind of pink that looks almost metallic. Large. Plush. Sometimes they’re on his ears; when they are, he moves his arms in an unheard rhythm and just grins back when I give him an inquisitive look. Most of the time, they’re around his neck — and I’m not sure if they’re playing anything or not, because he’s still dancing. Every now and then, another student grabs them. She (the girls seem to take them the most) will ignore I—‘s stutters and mild protests and claim them as her own. I don’t usually see how, but they always end up right back with him.
By the end of the first session at Broad Ripple, I— had his list, and he had his headphones. And, over the course of the hour, he wrote one word.
In subsequent sessions, I— hasn’t written that much else. The platinum-pink headphones may make an appearance. When they don’t, he still dances anyway, giving homage to his mental music and grinning all the while at my confusion and curiosity. He sits back, lets his friends play with his hair and switching phones back and forth with another student. He walks around the room, greeting everyone, naming himself as someone other than his real name, often happily claiming to be a teacher or official. He seems as content sitting still and watching as he does running around, and he’s already figuring out what he can get away with in front of us mentors.
For all of that, he can’t sit still and write. I could blame distractions, because he attracts them naturally. Except, whenever a distraction arises, usually in the form of one of his friends, he expresses disinterest in entertaining them right then. I could blame lack of ideas, but I know he has them. He asks questions regularly, reading other papers and offering advice, generating ideas constantly.
He just doesn’t want to write himself.
During one session, I decided to start pestering. “I—, I just want one sentence. That’s all I want.” He nodded, and put his pencil to the paper…and started dancing again.
“You liked my last one, right?”
“Yeah!” he responded, seemingly proud. “See, I wrote that time!”
“What about this time?”
He puts his pencil to the paper. It scratches away, finally.
He wrote one line. I— said it was the first part of a rap he created.
That’s all I’ve seen him write. And yet, I think when he finally gets even more on the page, it’ll be great.
Justina Kaiser is a senior Mathematics major.