The author, at left, has a cochlear implant that enables him to hear. His student, Seth, has no desire to get one. Photograph by James Kegley.
I’d never mentored a writer before, and Seth’s senior thesis didn’t begin well. He missed deadlines—computer issues mainly. Laptops broke, froze, got water spilled on them, refused to save, were locked in rooms that had no keys for the weekend. And then there were his physical ailments—fevers, chills, and mysterious illnesses that left him without the energy to type an e-mail explaining where he was.
I met with his academic adviser, and we agreed I should try to dissuade Seth from taking on such a challenging project. Writing a book of short stories while undertaking a full class load—that was a lot of work.
Seth fought back: “I want to do this.”
“No, you don’t,” I said.
“Yes, I do.”
He rubbed his stubble-flecked chin, stared at the ceiling, looked back at me. “I want to share what it’s like. What this”—he pointed at his ears—“is like.”