It was my first teaching job, and I think I wanted to look cool in front of the cool kids, so I said to this student, Hiro, I think his name was, after he told me he liked hip-hop, that he should listen to DJ Rupture – don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him, Hiro hadn’t either – and he said ok, I will, but the next time I taught him, when I asked if he had, he said, no, he’d looked in Tower Records for something by him, but no luck.
I think I didn’t believe him – he didn’t have the look of someone who’d searched and failed to find, he probably forgot the name as soon as I told him, I wasn’t cool – but I ignored that thought and said, I’ll bring his first album in tomorrow, if you like. You can borrow it and burn a copy, and he said, thanks, though really I don’t think he cared either way, or was particularly interested in hearing this DJ Rupture, it would make him look uncool, and even if he did end up liking it, he couldn’t say so, not in public anyway, or to me, though he probably wouldn’t, he liked the music he liked and it was cool. His English teacher’s music taste wasn’t.
Anyway, the next day I brought it in and gave it to him. He was in the hallway by the tuck shop with his friends, and I called out to him to wait there a minute (I probably ignored his scorn and his friends’ laughter), so I could go to the staff room, get the CD and bring it back.
When I got there, he was on his own, and he said, thanks, and smiled as if he was excited, though I think that was me seeing excitement in his face, when actually it was a mocking smile saying, look at this dick giving me a CD thinking I’ll like him if he does. I bet he’d lick my shoes if I asked.
I think I thought I was doing him a favour, making him more interesting and interested, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to be loved. I didn’t even think I was hoping to make a difference. The way he sat in my English class was as if it was the most pointless thing in the world – it probably was, he’d never need it – and he made others think and feel the same. If I could make him like me, he’d like English. Or so I think I thought, though really him liking English was not as important as him liking me.
In the end, it made no difference. The next class he was the same as always. I thought about bringing up the CD, but I think I thought humiliating him would make it worse – look at this guy trying to be down with the kids one minute, then being like all the other teachers the next – so I didn’t say anything until a week later I asked for the CD back – a week’s enough to copy a CD – and he said, sure, I’ll have it next class.
I thought that was the end of it, but next lesson he didn’t have it. Or the lesson after that. The next time I saw him, I said, look if you’ve lost or broken it, that’s fine, just be honest, I can get another copy (how pathetic I was when I should’ve been shouting at him, though maybe he knew and I knew that I couldn’t get angry because I was a teacher and he was a student, I hadn’t lent the album to a friend or peer), but he said, no, he had it, he just kept forgetting to bring it in, and anyway he really liked it, thanks, which made me happy, though I know he was probably only saying that because he knew that’s what I wanted to hear when he was probably using it as an ashtray.
Eventually, after he didn’t bring it in the next two times I saw him, I decided to go to his form tutor about it, he could lean on him, but when I told him what I’d done, he just looked at me as if I was mad. When I asked him what was the matter, he said, you know what I found on that boy’s phone the other week? A snuff movie. One camera angle. A woman tied to a chair screaming her head off. Then a gun placed to her temple, and – bang. You’re never getting that CD back.
He was right. I tried a few more times after that – I think I tried to give him the disappointed look – but in the end I gave up. I never bothered to get another copy either. I didn’t want to. Every time I would listen to it, I’d just remember how pathetic I was.