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Human Relationships
Looking at people looking at me.

I sat on an aeroplane somewhere between Geneva and Heathrow. Bored. Tired. Thoughts drifting here and there, yet not inclined to sleep nor dream, when memories I hadnít sought intruded suddenly.

A teacher of French literature, long forgotten, jumped vividly into my mind and made the impact he had so spectacularly failed to make all those years ago on his class of bored students. He hadnít been a bad teacher, yet only three out of twenty students has passed their examinations.


Iíd be fairly sure that few of his former students can now remember his name.

Iíd be fairly sure that few of his former students can now remember the books he chose as part of that yearís syllabus.

But I do. Suddenly and with startling clarity I remembered one book; or, more significantly, his reasons for choosing it.

"La Porte Etroite" was the bookís title. A great contemporary work of French literature. Arguably. But what is less easy to dispute than its greatness is that the book is an intense study of human relationships, although some might call it cynical and bitter.

Cynical and bitter. Oh yes. He was. Very.

Recently divorced, and so obviously very bitter.  Unable to see merit in any sort of human relationship.

Determined, possibly, to pass on his experiences to his students. A determination that surpassed all else and took priority over anything his undoubted teaching skills might have managed to instil in those young and impressionable minds.

He failed. Predictably, perhaps, boys and girls in their late teens, not long past their own first discoveries of relationships with the opposite sex, have little interest in absorbing the bitterness and rancour of failed and failing relationships. They, we, shut him out, and Ďhisí book along with him.

Or did he fail? That I remember him now so vividly is proof he left something with me. Not his name; I cannot remember that. Not his bitterness nor his mistrust of relationships. My latest and last relationship has comfortably endured seventeen years.

Is that his success? Had he given us all a perfect example of what to avoid? Have his mistakes stayed with us subconsciously all these years, as things to be avoided at all costs?

I have long ago lost contact with all the other students in that class. I wonder if they remember.

And I still cannot remember his name.



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