I confess, I was a bit of an apple polisher as a student. A suck-up, if you will. My teachers were generally fond of me, with the exception of two or three (or twelve) who just didn’t get me. Barring people like my Economics teacher who never forgave me for correcting his grammar in class, I was rather a favorite student (again, of some select teachers). I was the one who sat in the front row and sometimes didn’t get caned when others did. I was the one who was picked to read the passage in English class and conjugate the French verbs on the whiteboard.
Obviously, I had quite a few teachers over the years whom I really loved. But, my absolute favorite was Mademoiselle Okwesa, who taught me French for three years.
Now, it wasn’t just her beauty, although she was immensely pretty, so pretty that sometimes you just stared at her instead of listening to her. It wasn’t even because she spoke the most melodious French, or sang like an especially gifted bird. It wasn’t even because French happened to be my favorite subject.
No. I loved Mlle. Okwesa for the simple reason that she loved me. I know. I’m easy like that.
But, yes. She was so fond of me for reasons I didn’t understand. Could be because I was quite adept at her subject, or because I was Catholic (she was also our Catholic mistress), I don’t know. But we had a bond and we both knew it.
I remember once in the second term of my JS1, when I laid hands on an erotic novel called Emmanuelle. I’d never read the like, and I was so enthralled, I read it during French class (it only seemed right, being originally a French novel), under my table. Of course she caught me. I’m not exactly known for my smoothness.
Ah, the disappointment. She looked at the book, looked at me, and I kid you not, my tears just gushed forth. My eyes were like a beach, friends. Actual ocean of tears. Little bacteria surfing at the beach of my eyelashes.
We had so many quiet, love-filled moments. She was that kind of person. Quiet, unassuming, but with a spine of steel. I would go to her house, which was on the same floor as some of our dormitories, and she’d teach me French hymns and Christian songs. I would carry her books to the French Room after classes and just bask in being her favorite. I remember how I always tried to score above 95% in French, just so she could say how proud she was of me.
I saw her once, years after I had left school, at mass in my church at home. It was like seeing a long-lost, much-beloved sister (she was never particularly motherly) and I actually dragged my mother to meet her. When she hugged me and said she was proud of how grown up I was, my chest grew suspiciously tight and my allergies started to cry.
I don’t know if she ever knew how much she meant to me, but I do. And that must count for something, surely.