I’ve been working with one “tutoring student” for a few years, now. The relationship that we have has morphed and grown, just like he and I have. Meeting up with him once a week isn’t so much of a job as it is something that I look forward to. He always shows up on time.
Today was our last session for this school year. We walked around and chatted, as he likes to do. We popped into a few shops to look at different things and he wanted something from everywhere. I asked him what he wanted as a gift to celebrate our year together while we were walking up Yonge Street.
I told him about all of the things that I had considered getting him. A necktie, but he’ll never wear it. School supplies, but he’ll lose them before the summer begins. A loop machine, but the affordable ones aren’t worth the money. A Meccano set, but he’s not likely to build it.
As of late, he’s become somewhat obsessed with his upper body strength. He does pushups in the library, in the cafe, leaning against a counter when we’re getting a smoothie. He just does pushups wherever there’s room enough to. He always makes sure that I’m watching before he lowers himself toward the floor and then presses his way back up slowly.
He told me that he wanted a chin-up bar. We made our way to SportChek. When we got there, he picked out the most expensive one. I did my due diligence and looked for a cheaper but comparable option. He agreed to it, so I agreed when he picked up a Gatorade water bottle and some Gatorade powder, too.
While he was carrying the bag with his new fitness equipment in it down Yonge back toward the library where we meet, he complained about how heavy it was. I laughed at him and he threw the plastic bag over his shoulder.
Somebody was walking toward us with a frappuccino and he wanted one so we walked into the next Starbucks.
I asked him who he’s taking to his middle school graduation. He told me that he doesn’t know yet. He asked me about my girlfriend and how things are going with her.
Then, he looked up from his phone and said, “We’ve opened up a lot to each other over the years.”
There was a sincerity in his voice that resonated with me; it made the girder wobble on its piles. I told him that I enjoy spending the time with him, even when I get mad or upset with him.
While walking home, I was thinking about what impact I’m having on him and him on me. I thought about the smile that the woman at SportChek gave us as I called him over from playing with something in the store to grab his stuff off the counter so we could leave. I thought about how he looked over to me while ordering his drink at Starbucks and I told him to get a size up. I thought about how he is constantly showing me what he has done and what he is capable of, whether it’s a video he’s edited, a rhyme he spits, a finger-board trick he’s learned, or a pushup he can do fluidly. I thought about how he shakes my hand in a way that is so familiar to him but so foreign to me when we end our meetups.
With him, I get to try different things. He has given me the opportunity – trust – to try to push him in different ways to achieve different objectives. He’s not motivated by me to do his school work or study. He doesn’t show up to learn more about what he’s being taught in school. With me, he’s more interested in the life of things. With him, I’m more relaxed than I would be with the students in “my” classroom. Even my manner of speaking changes when we’re talking, becoming more country or urban or relaxed or normal.
We have a certain, peculiar familiarity that is comfortable and organic, despite coming from different worlds separated by a couple of decades.
It’s taken years for him to feel comfortable enough to willingly out how he feels about what he gets out of the meetups. How long he’s actually felt that we have an open, honest, and reciprocating relationship, I don’t know. But, he shows up to every session on time.