I once taught a boy called Roque (Pron. ‘Rrro – keh’) He insisted, as did his mother too, that it was to be pronounced ‘Rocky’ (as in ‘Balboa’ – Stallone, you remember? The film about the boxer … the one with the music) Well this lad Roque was a real shit. Very bright, but extremely disruptive. He was skilled at orchestrating chaos. I had loads of bust ups with him over the years and had to withdraw him from numerous lessons in the department. He was always in trouble, and it was always something unpleasant: like bullying, or swearing at a member of staff. He was no Artful Dodger, no ‘loveable’ villain. He was a nasty piece of work; and from the ‘knowing glances’ he would now and again shoot you, he knew it and revelled in it
He wasn’t my favourite character, I have to say. I didn’t like teaching him or as a result, sadly, the class he was in. I just grit my teeth before every lesson and went into battle, trying never to lose my sense of humour. The Parkinson’s was begining to ‘bite’ by then, so it was difficult. I wasn’t what I once was. However, I do remember on his last day at school, he insisted on having a picture taken with me – much to his friends’ astonishment (and mine!)
When they sneeringly asked why, he just said ‘Oh he’s alright he is …’
Anyway, it comes up just before Christmas time that I am at the local petrol station. I’ve just put my twenty quids worth in (They don’t bother with the pumps nowadays – they just leave a thimble next to the tank and let you get on with it ) when I noticed said Roque (pron ‘Rocky’) inside the shop. He had just paid and was about to leave. I was very self-conscious because I was a bit ‘Dyskinetic’ (fidgety uncontrolled movements; a Parkinson’s drug, Leva-Dopa side effect,) nevertheless I plough on.
“How’re you doing?” He says, genuinely pleased to see me “You’ll never guess what I’m doing” He was right. I couldn’t. “I’m at uni” He said proudly. “Good for you” I said, genuinely pleased, which I was.
“Yeah” He says, “It’s really hard, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick it out, but I’m going to try” (I’m not altogether sure to what he was referring here – the work, the drinking, the late nights …) He asked about me, so I told him about the Parkinson’s, the early retirement, the battles with drug side effects People only ever ask me once. He listens intently.
“That’s bad news, I’m really sorry. You know, you were alright, you. I’m really sorry”
Then suddenly out of the blue, he hugs me! … Not a limp, insipid hug – like a wet raincoat, but a robust, manly, thumping on the back to signal It’s ‘Time To Release’ sort of hug.
And with that he was gone! The cashier had to come out from behind the till, slap my fallen jaw back up into place and take my twenty quid. It was a good five minutes before I could move. Amazing!
Wonders will never cease.
© Andy Daly 2010