I teach too much. I’ve been teaching from the same four books for seven months now. I’m not magical but I’ve come to foresee every question, every laugh and every mispronounced word like a sorcerer sees a shrew. This can be mind numbing at times but sometimes, rarely my student’s unravel strange things about the world with their adventures into the feral jungles of the English language.

The other day I was teaching two university-aged students named Lilly and Frank and towards the end of class after learning how to describe people I ask them to envision and describe their dream husband and wife.

The boy’s usually grin in silence while the girl’s start rattling off lists. Of course, Lilly went first. Ladies always go first in Chinese English class. Frank listened carefully. Lilly’s very attractive. Frank would be lucky to have Lilly. I think Frank secretly likes Lilly.

She started saying things about height and muscles and about how caring and generous he should be. She pontificated (as if she had thought about this question before) about eyes, hair, job, bank account and family and then she paused for a moment caught in the thick underbrush she said, “He should . . . uh . . . uhmm . . . what’s the adjective?”

What’s the adjective? I don’t know Lilly but keep searching.

It’s in these remote canopies that I think about my family and friends back home. I think about funny little things like blazing stars and the mystery of language and why creatures are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside . . . but now I’m thinking about adjectives and why we can’t be all of them.

In scope, I haven’t been doing this for very long but I’ve learnt a few things along the way. For example, it’s very important to look away when a girl’s searching for the proper adjective. It’s only polite . . . you’ve got to give ‘em space.

It’s funny how a glance in the other direction can clear the way. So I looked under the table. The shiny glass balls dotting Lilly’s red shoes were shimmering in defiance against the cancerous glare above. The answers to the universe seemed to be caught somewhere in the flux of those beguiling rays. I couldn’t help but think that Lilly was going to be disappointed by whatever adjective she finally pounded into her sentence. Most women are.

Meanwhile, while Lilly was busy being inarticulate I looked at the other pioneer in the room, Frank. Frank was wondering about what an “adjective” actually was. No matter what it was he desperately wanted to become it. Whatever “adjective” meant it now merited the transformative attention of his cerebral cortex. He was determined to become “adjective” for Lilly’s sake.

Frank has forgotten that he and Lilly are both nouns. Adjectives describe nouns. Frank, the noun, is a cluster of sticky adjectives. Adjectives give expression to Frank’s Frank-ness.

God made Frank and Frank is . . .

Lilly’s answer escapes me now. I’m sure it was rapturous or something like that. But that’s beside the point. What incites me is of another sort. Something in my soul tells me that God made you and you’ve been trying on all sorts of adjectives ever since. My question is, what adjectives are you running to and what adjectives are you running from?

I’ll be a gentleman and look away.

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