Burning Night

javier's picture

Having graduated high school, many former classmates and I will certainly miss and try keeping contact with teachers who stood with us since the beginning. But a teacher who arrived from nowhere, suddenly became everyone's favorite english teacher -- from the worst behaved to the annoying pseudo intellects, all appreciated his class.

We spoke mostly of human nature, logic, literature, philosophy, and humor occasionally. He was quite a character very eccentric, giving off the impression of a happy existentialist. And we always had a good laugh.

Books, short stories read dealt with humanity at its core, works of art people my age usually cannot appreciate. Some that have made a place in my mind: The Stranger, Child by Tiger, Portrait of the Artist, Death of a salesman, so forth. Very challenging ideas presented which did not stir feelings of resentment and hatred but of intrigue and curiousity. I longed to understand, to see the truth by opening eyes shut off from a complex world.

But it was his intelligence that ignited an interest in the class as well as in him. Well, he didn't have much communication with students, he spoke matters concerning academics. Once, last year prepping for college essays I returned after school to retrieve a proofread essay. On his desk stood piles and piles of school work, articles, assignments, an overload of papers. He could not find it immediately so I waited. Finding an article of F fitzgerald, I read passing the time. Finally, in a rare moment, he said this: Who's your favorite actor?

Instantly my mind raced to answer the question so I blurted this: Robert de Niro.

"What do you like about him?

"I like hsi voice how he uses it to convey a range of emotions

And we spoke like humans. Some of the conversation I cannot remember but I remember saying something about Nicholson and recommended I'd see five easy pieces, and the last detail. Looking for a pen and any paper, I wrote that so I wouldnt forget. I think we spoke for 5 minutes and finally he found what I came for. But I found something else instead. Then my cellphone rang zzzzz, zzzzz, and I ignored it. He then said something about where he gets his movies in hollywood though he forgot the place. Without thinking, I asked knowing the answer: Amoeba? Yes.

"Oh I go there too but I always find weird people.

He said something like this casually
"Well you do need to find some inspiration from others

By the time he said that, we were out of the class, he already taking his lunch and work bag, and that's when we said our goodbyes and left. Turns out I was getting phone calls from sister to go outside, she was waiting with mother. They could wait, but meaningful conversations come and go without much thought.

Another time, he asked the class to create a movie scene from a poem we read. Volunteers raised hands then he asked those who kept silence. He said "Javier, you're a director. How would you create it?" I suppose I am I said. How did he know my interest in filmmaking? I never expressed it directly perhaps I did in a subtle manner. And even then, another student in the class had said to me he was going to study filmmaking in college. Yet he was not the director.

Days leading up to graduation he lectured about how our society now was becoming conformist, how some people were dumb, the usual things that give me angst. So I told him after class "I really liked what you said."

I talked about how conformity was taking over and he continued with something else. Then he asked what Im doing when I get older. I said I dont know but for sure something with the arts like acting or photography and he said "Do what you want in life." Six words. Simple. New meaning to what I expect in life and I had been thinking beforehand perhaps I don't know in what direction im going but I'll go for the ride, enjoy what I have, and adjust to anything unexpected.

On our last day, he signed yearbooks and I made sure mine was too before my inevitable departure. When class was over he gave a speech about life from there to wherever it takes us. I read what he wrote that day. That was it. Cherishing our conversations, and what I learned in the class and never forget a man who impacted my way of thinking and life, a figure I looked up to for a brief amount of time. Despite not going to english class in the morning anymore, I'd rather this end than never have happened at all.

Three days ago around 11 pm I was on twitter when I learned he had been arrested for allegedly raping a female relative. At first i laughed nervously, because it could not be true, thiswas a lie. He could not do such a thing. Say it aint so. It is I thought. It felt surreal and as I write this I still cant believe it. Some say the victim might be his stepdaughter, others argue he is innocent until proven guilty but all of us are afflicted with the pain of knowing a man we thought highly of, who we admired greatly, could do such a thing.

I then told my bestfriend about the news. She did not believe it at first. It saddened her, angered her too because she was molested by her father too and went into the foster system, going from one house to another.

She told us three, maybe four years ago her father might be doing innapropiate things to her, saying how much she reminded him of her mother when she was young. I was shocked, thinking this needs to be reported but powerless at the same time. What could I do? That night I could not sleep thinking about what she told me. Then she told a teacher and from there she became a foster child. And now I know all I needed to do was be her friend and support her as she went through tumultuous times.

Should I have felt disgusted that it might be true what my teacher did, or sympthatetic that it happened? I guess I felt sad that he was accused of such a thing and he let his sinful desire take over, thus making this a true tragedy.


elph's picture

What a great exposition... and yet so tragic... possibly?

I'm so sorry that your image of such an inspiring mentor had to be shattered like this...

But your telling of these events is done so well... eloquently... and so efficiently!

No doubt about it... some aspect of the language arts lies in your future!

jeff's picture


"Others argue he is innocent until proven guilty"

That's not really an argument, but factual, and I'd say the same. Anyone can be accused of a crime, but that doesn't necessarily mean they did it.

Costs you nothing to wait until the facts reveal themselves soon enough.

"You don't know you're beautiful." - Harry Styles

radiosilence95's picture

I read The Stranger and

I read The Stranger and Death of a Salesman. The Stranger was...odd. I feel like I need to revisit it because existentialism is something I have a hard time grasping. I liked Death of a Salesman better.

Anyway, the thing that sucks about a rape accusation is that even if it turns out to be false, just the accusation itself is so damaging. Even if he is proven innocent, you still have that "what if" factor going on. But yeah, I know it's hard not to, but one should never jump to conclusions.