On Friday I got news that a close friend at work had died. Tomorrow I go to his funeral, where students and staff will try to be strong for the rest of what must be a wonderful family. I felt like remembering him tonight.
So you’re dead now, which is pretty rough. 52 seems far too young for that sort of thing. I heard today that you were texting one of the girls from the ambulance, and were midway through a conversation when all contact suddenly ceased. You always had a flair for the dramatic pause.
I remember standing in your classroom as you held your coat for me to try on. Original World War 1, you told me. Proper flying aces coat that you wore with a white scarf. You were ever the gentleman and there was real joy in your eyes as you watched me swish the heavy thing around you, humming the tune to Dambusters.
We sat once in midsummer, surrounded by children and shared a moment of chaste intimacy. You told me that you really weren’t looking for a relationship right now, I laughed and said you fundamentally weren’t my type anyway. I think we became friends that day.
I made you a spider out of pipecleaners so you could use it in your stop motion class. You had a stop motion class, of course you did. I loved that it made you laugh.
You shared with me the stresses and the highs of buying my house, and made all the right noises when I showed you tiny pictures of living rooms and wallpaper swatches on my smartphone. I was going to cook for you, I really was.
Listening to you talk about your children. You talked about them the way every child hopes their parents talk about them when they're not around.
You made me iced tea, regular tea, tomato soup and the most evil little cups of black coffee using a vintage coffee press that looked designed by the Marquis de Sade. Rocket fuel, you called it. You weren’t kidding.
Sitting on low seats, hands wrapped around mugs of tea as you showed me the work your students had done. Listening to prog rock with the volume up to give those students inspiration. Together showing our charges that being uncool and geeky and silly is one of the coolest things you can be. No wonder they loved you.
Talking in the middle of a busy staffroom as though it was midnight and the fire was burning low in the grate. It sometimes felt like you had so much you wanted to teach me and not the time to do it. You were that purest of teachers, one who has risen in the ranks and realised they were born for the classroom, not the boardroom. You knew where you needed to be.
I stood in the doorway of your room this morning and looked into your domain. Your appropriately quirky mugs. The tiny yellow fridge where you kept your beverages. Your posters. Your handwriting still on the board, complete with silly quotes and admonishments to your various media crew. It seemed impossible, seeing the chaos in that room, that you would not be returning to it. I was going to go in, but I can't. Not yet.