A misunderstanding between a French teacher and myself.
Rivalries are among the greatest things on earth.
Having a rival is like finding true love, it's hard to capture, but darn near impossible to hold on to once you've caught it.
Everyone, I believe, needs a rival. It keeps you motivated, makes you sharper, wittier and above all else develops your personality in ways few other things can.
6 years ago I was 12 going on 13 and had managed to survive halfway through my 2nd year of high-school. I'd overcome the Herculean feat of mixing with every student in my class until we all knew each other by first name and/or nickname. My education was going from strength to strength and for a brief moment in my stressed out life I felt content.
I could argue many reasons for feeling so good at that time, but the biggest and best one would have to be my French teacher, Mr Boyer (pronounced Boy-Yay).
I considered him my rival, my equal and basically someone whom I could respect within the confounds of teaching.
Mr Boyer was by no means a nice person, nor was he likeable, funny, or even engaging. His French classes were often strict and old fashioned.
Every day Mr Boyer would force everyone to sit apart, a rule that only ever applied to his class.
On several occasions he would publicly decimate a student’s spirit, harbouring a knack of knowing exactly where someones insecurities lay.
Sometimes he'd take the nervous girl or boy to the front of the class and ask them to write a French phrase on the board. Only to take great pleasure in getting angry at what he called 'inexcusable' handwriting, wiping their efforts off the board and demanding they redo it.
Other times Mr Boyer would go after the more capable students, most of which worked extra hard to avoid his wrath. Instead of seeing this as a sign of respect he saw it as an incentive to push them harder, to keep them on their toes.
I remember one such incident when he asked a classmate of mine to give him directions to the post office in French by using a map on the whiteboard. The student easily completed it without fail. Instead of moving onto the next pupil, Mr Boyer then gave a 10 minute speech on why you should pronounce every word correctly or you'll give out the wrong information.
By the end of his rant, he'd brought the bright learner close to tears and ended up making her storm out of the classroom. She chose a different French teacher after that little episode.
So to divert his malice away from the people I cared for, I made him my rival. Though I was under no illusion that he saw me as an equal. I doubt he even registered my as a threat. Oh well, his mistake.
I have, to my awareness at least, a certain amazing capability. For the longest time I have always been able to stand up to bullies.
I am by no means athletic, nor terribly strong either, but whenever someone belittles another, I am unable to stop myself from intervening.
I never have to engage bullies in physical combat. Instead I choose to
disarm through razor sharp verbal skills. That doesn't mean calling them hurtful names, it means I break their mind away from attacking others.
Most bullies, for reasons beyond my understanding, find me amusing? This, I’ve noticed, makes them docile.
Anyway, back to my favourite teacher.
Mr Boyer had a sophisticated appearance, he kept a thin, bristly salt & peppery beard that spread all the way from his ears to his mouth. His hair, or what was left of it, was silver and short, usually streaked back over his large cranium. HIs granite jaw and heavily sculpted features, even I must admit, gave him a regal silver screen persona.
While a little on the short and plump side, he retained a charismatic and dignified air. Mr Boyer always kept himself neat, and fragrant. I soon found out that he had a very good reason for doing so.
Aside from being French, which according to him instantly meant he took care of his appearance more than his fellow British colleagues, Mr Boyer had a fantastic wife.
In my first year of High-school, Mrs Boyer was my French teacher, and her classes were always brilliant. She would hand out French delicacies and chocolates at the beginning of every class, and would more often than not allow us to leave early. She was also exceptionally beautiful.
Mrs Boyer has blushed cheeks, glowing sun kissed skin, a short brunette tomboy haircut and massive, glossy turquoise eyes.
So how she ended up with Mr Boyer, who to most girls was likened to having the characteristic traits of a troll, I'll never know.
After nearly a year of breaking Mr Boyer down into a gibbering wreck (Though I had a little help in my sadistic endeavours), something happened that no one could have foreseen.
It was to be the last time I saw Mr Boyer and was to be the final straw in our ongoing rivalry.
Pardon my French
Running straight from home; I'd taken too long to eat lunch, I rushed past the port-a-cabins of students sitting outside on the football field. Ignoring their laughs and jeers, I finally vaulted over the wire fence, bringing me onto the grounds of my local high-school.
The afternoon was blisteringly hot. The sun was so bright I couldn't even look at the world levelly. Instead I was forced to wince at the ground and contend with the heat scorching my sizzling back and neck.
It wasn't unusual for me to be late to French, in fact, it was routine.
Climbing 3 flights of stairs after running like a madman in a swelteringly hot summer’s day is not advisable.
Upon my arrival to the 4th floor I strolled down the wooden corridor, desperate to catch my breath. Stepping up to the oversized dark pine door, the plaque emblazoned across its side read 'D12-French Language Class. Mr. D. Boyer'. To this day I still don't know what the D in his name stands for.
Tentatively, I pressed my head against the side of the thick door and listened to the class taking place within. The only voice to be heard was Mr Boyers, all nasal and violinic.
Gathering my courage I braced myself for the awkwardness, embarrassment and onslaught of grief Mr Boyer and some of my peers would give me.
I creaked open the sturdy door and slipped in, trying to shut it as quietly as possible With my head held low, I entered the tepid classroom and was greeted by a succession of sly looks and knowing glances from my friends.
Mr Boyer meanwhile, who sat on the edge of his desk halfway through explaining something he'd written on the white board, gave me a dispassionate look. Clicking the top back onto his biro and folding his arms around his side he drooped his head. I could tell he was struggling to control his fiery temper.
Not wanting to show my nervousness I scurried to the back of the classroom and slunk into my corner desk. To my immediate relief it was situated right next to an open window. I'd made it.
Then there was a silence that I thought would never end.
Mr Boyer was the first to break it.
"Are you ready, Kyle"? He asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
I furrowed my brow and nodded as my stomoch churned. He was leading up to something, Going on past observations I doubted he was making idle conversation.
"I'm only asking because you seem to think it's alright to disrupt the rest of the class, that somehow the standards of decency don't apply to you". He continued, anger slithering its way into his voice.
Some of the students stared at me, others glared, it seems he'd managed to make some believe him. My only weakness was losing the respect of others whom I admire, and slowly but surely my vindictive French teacher was accomplishing that.
I didn't reply, he was waiting for one but I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of cutting me off halfway through an apology.
"Well?” He asked, standing at the top of the class.
I shuffled uncomfortably; there was no way to dodge this.
"What was the question again?” I asked, knowing it would only infuriate him further.
Mr Boyer held his head in his hand, rubbing at his temples to soothe his rage. Full respect had to go to the man, he'd remained calm despite my attitude.
"Do you believe you're above everyone else?” He asked firmly.
I stared directly at him doing my level best to show no fear, as he peered at me beneath his hand.
"Absolutely not". I stated proudly, then, along with the entire class, I flinched when he shouted.
"THEN HOW ABOUT TURNING UP ON TIME IN FUTURE, HMMM". He yelled, his metallic blue eyes wide with madness.
As my heart tried to beat its way out of my chest, I could tell some of the students had lost a little more respect for someone. Whether it was for me or our teacher though I couldn't tell.
Mr Boyer returned to his desk, sitting ungainly on one of the square corners.
"Thanks to Mr Miller's disruption we've wasted 5 minutes of time we could have spent learning". He mused to his slightly terrified pupils.
My mind urged him to "Continue the class", hoping he'd be able to read my thoughts.
Thankfully the class resumed as normal, until about 15 minutes before the bell, when he dropped the equivalent of a bombshell on all of us.
"I'd like you to all pair up; we'll be doing an exercise in which you" he spoke as he walked around the room, handing out question paper "will be naming all the objects in the house on the sheet I’m giving you. I'd like you to tell me in what room I'd find them".
I prayed, begged and yearned for him to say 'pair up now'. I would easily partner up with one of my friends. But this was Mr Boyer, and as if our minds were connected he did the exact opposite.
"I want you in pairs of boy/girl, boy/girl". He revealed, smiling at all of our groans of annoyance.
The general feeling was as if we were about to be fed to sharks. So I sat anxiously, galvanised with dread.
Seeing no-one else buddy up, I watched with growing distain as the benevolent Mr Boyer sentenced the most unlikely of couples to work together.
"You" He pointed at me. "sit next to Rebecca".
Rising up from my desk just slow enough to let everyone know I didn't want to do this, but fast enough to let them know that I was going to go through with it anyway. I dragged myself over to Rebecca's, or as we knew her 'Becky's', desk.
Becky was a strong-minded young girl I'd known since child-hood. She always had slightly unkempt swirly blonde hair.
We never talked much and when we did it was only to exchange mild abuse at each other. Since she owned and rode horses for a living, her hips were much more pronounced than most, which was where I aimed most of my insults. Whereas she would constantly remark at my foolishness in class. Funnily enough, this oblique relationship made our bond stronger. Go figure.
Sitting a little closer than I found comfortable, we set to work on the question. With her knowledge of French, and the fact I knew several friends outside of school who were not only fluent but were far better at teaching than Mr Boyer. We completed the exercise within minutes.
The classroom was hushed. Mr Boyer had only just finished telling everyone to be quiet or they'd all get extra homework. Which to me seemed a bit stupid, why bother pairing people up to cooperate with each other if you’re not going to encourage discussion? Like I said, he's a rotten teacher.
Becky nudged my side and slipped me a note. It read:
'This is boring'.
I smiled at her grumpy face, then scrawled back my own note:
'I know, we should be allowed to leave when we're finished".
She nodded. With malicious eyes we spied on Mr Boyer, who drifted like a serpent around the desks, making sure we were doing or had done what he had asked. I just knew he was simply searching for a reason to get incensed
Becky turned the piece of paper over and scribbled another message.
'If this were Mrs Boyer’s class we would have been able to sit with whoever we like'.
Those were my sentiments exactly. Seeing as we were of of the same mind, I decided to make a drastic decision. It was to be the biggest mistake I ever made... that year.
I squiggled a tiny limerick on a small piece of paper.
It was to read 'Mr Boyer sucks, Mrs Boyer doesn't'. I know it sounds silly, but I just knew Becky would get it. Before I could finish writing, a silent figure loomed over my right shoulder, feeling my heart lurch into my mouth I scrambled to crumple up the note.
Mr Boyer slowly snatched it up, turned it over and studied it with supreme calmness.
'Oh damn'. I cringed.
Becky bit her bottom lip, I could see the worry in her eyes. She wondered what I could have written that was so bad.
I hunched my shoulders, waiting for the bawl from him to leave.
For you see, since I hadn't finished the note it now read.
'Mr Boyer sucks Mrs Boyer'.
Can you imagine how that might sound?
Can you imagine how someone might interpret that as a rude gesture?
Because that is exactly what Mr Boyer did.
Very, VERY slowly Mr Boyer placed the note on the table face down and whispered into my ear. He was so close I could smell his old spice aftershave, his hot breath unnerved me.
"Get out". He hissed through clenched teeth.
I immediately started to tremble, picking up my pencil case and turning to collect my schoolbag.
Before I had a chance to even sit up, he slammed his palm on the table and roared.
Shaking like a leaf I left my possessions behind and quickly made my escape. As the large door swung shut behind me I began to amble away in no particular direction. Walking unsteadily down the lonely corridor I contemplated the enormity of what had just happened.
'What the hell is he going to think of me now. I know I'm hard on him but I'd never go that far?’ I thought, fighting to catch my breath.
'And what if he tells his wife?’ I cringed
'What if he gets me expelled?’
Unable to pin my scattered thoughts down I left the school and headed home. Tomorrow didn't look quite as bright as it had only 20 minutes prior.
Only much later did I discover why he'd taken it so badly. His glorious wife had just being diagnosed with cancer at the time and was undergoing chemotherapy, which obviously made his reaction rather understandable. Had I known this before, perhaps I wouldn't have gotten myself into the awkward muddle.
I've never seen Mr Boyer since that day, but my family & friends have relayed my apologies to him. Trying to make him realise how I didn't mean the note to sound the way it did.
Apparently he has forgiven me, but refuses to ever come near the boy who slandered him and his wife ever again. I can't blame him.
It was an apocalyptic ordeal at the time, but now everyone, including me laughs about it. The only person who hasn't found it funny is Mr Boyer. Heck even Mrs Boyer herself said it was just a daft mistake.
I guess it must have ticked him off something proper... or maybe this is his solution to keeping me 100 miles from him at all times. I hope it’s the former, but I think the honest truth is the latter.
Oh, and In case you're wondering Mrs Boyer's cancer went into remission, and she's been healthy now for 9 years.
Nowadays though, whenever a misunderstanding occurs I do my best to immediately resolve the matter there and then.
I've been in far worse situations than that, and look forward to being in even more precarious ones in the future
After all, be it irritated parents, offended college girls or enraged French teachers.
What's life without a bit of danger?