He made us do the desk thing.
There must have been 25 of us, each 12 or 13 years of age, our first English class in secondary school.
A strange thing to be let call a teacher by his first name but that’s how he introduced himself to us, him in his black cloak staring down from those big glasses and a belly full of good old living.
He said it was time for us to start looking at the world from a different perspective, inviting our idiot minds to circle the top of the class, look at the room from the top of his desk and see everything fresh.
He was no John Keating, was Gerry – the Leaving Cert points system saw to that, for a start – but you had to admire such an unjaded introduction to that glorious teenage misery.
Anyway, just a snapshot, something I got thinking about shortly after midnight when I’d heard Robin Williams was gone.
Died by suicide. Asphyxia. Took his own life. Struggled with addiction. Twitter discovering for the first time that comedians are often hiding a deeper, dark truth and falling over itself to be sadder than the previous 127, 128, 129 characters.
I wasn’t immune. ‘Fuck it.’ That’s all I wrote, and felt bad for wondering whether or not I’d get a retweet. Jesus. Gerry wouldn’t have liked that, rest him.
I went downstairs, poured a bowl of cereal and switched on The War Channel. The same stock footage of Williams japing around on the red carpet, acting the maggot, performing to a crowd of soldiers and wearing a beard in the best way possible played on a loop over some celebrity’s neighbour talking about the syndrome of the sad clown.
It gave me a headache. I went back to bed.
I couldn’t sleep for thinking of the most perfect piece of screen acting I’ve ever seen, one that hasn’t dulled for me in 16 years. Just last week I watched it and reversed it and watched it again. That scene in the park, looking at the ducks, Williams’ soliloquy to a silent Will Hunting and those looks that channelled both warmth and contempt at exactly the same time. Perfectly written, perfectly played, the devastating quiet of it.
Christ. Will I be able to watch it again?
That’s that, then, I suppose. Twitter handles will wear a red nose in tribute and there will be lots of talk about how to listen, how to talk, how to thrive.
There will be talk of some good coming from such a sad loss, such wasted talent, still young at 63, etc. There will be Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Jumanji before the week is out. There will, and have already been, glib catchphrases and celebrity keening. There will be talk of giving the family privacy, while offering anything but, and ultimately there will be...