Some claimed that he had been a CID officer before he came to teach.
I must admit that he did seem like he could actually investigate the crime out of any suspect.
Yet others also claimed he had been expelled from university for having led a students’ strike.
Whatever it is he did before he came to teach, he was a mystery to us and to many others. The stories told of him in hushed tones in the dormitory corridors created a sort of legendary air about him and his past. His eyes had a way of piercing into your soul without intending to. And he had white teeth that would light up whenever he smiled, which was pretty often in that Terror Class between 2005 and 2008.
He was ours and we loved him.
He had a bit of a spring in his step. And walked with his shoulders laid back like he was always driving an imaginary car and had to slightly lean back on the driver’s seat. Many times, his left hand would rest on the left hip while the right hand gently petted his tiny ‘public opinion.’ He had a small beard that was always well kept, as though a gardener brushed a lawn mower over it every few days. And he had a great hairline on a head full of thick black hair punctuated by strands of grey therein. He also spotted a moustache that was neither too small nor too exaggerated, and which was also always neatly trimmed. It made him look dope. He was slim and had hazelnut skin.
It was easy to notice that he never really wore the clothes that other teachers wore. The first day he came to class he was in a well-fitting pair of black jeans and some dark brown diesel shoes, with a white polo shirt that had a red-collar. And a thick brown leather belt. He was neat and smart. And very odd because the other teachers all spotted formal clothes. He always smelled nice too, a deep invigorating and inviting fragrance. Pal’ville and Joab “Pine” would later tell me that that was the scent of Nivea for Men aftershave. All through the four years we were with him, he never once wore a suit or tie or formal pants. He was a maverick. He did not conform to manly regulations and guidelines. I adored him. Damn near worshiped his classes.
“Uuhhmmm…” He would often start as he shrugged his shoulders.
And we’d already know what was going to follow.
“English is dynamic after all!” He would add.
As he threw his open palms ever so slightly in the air. In a fit of exasperation at an answer someone gave to a question he had asked. That was his way of telling you that your answer was dumb. It usually cracked up the entire class. In that baking afternoon heat, after a meal of poorly boiled kales and semi-solid ugali. Most of his afternoon classes, in our final two years, were either held in the Founder’s Park or in the Spring Garden. He had a way of making us like him more. He was practical and a little bit crazy.
We loved it.
And he was the first person who told me the phrase ‘crazy’ does not necessarily connote mental instability.
His speech was punctuated by a great deal of hesitation markers. Especially when he was about to crack a joke. Which he did very often. His classes sounded like a stand-up comedy show, accompanied by some semblance of learning. His tools of choice were sarcasm and irony. He knew how to make the lessons come alive, especially once we were through to Form Three. We could always feel the jealousy of the other streams through the classroom walls.
Unlike most of the other teachers, he never strictly followed the syllabus or the course book. He would mix it up. He was dapper like that. Sometimes it would be random dictations, other times it would be reading from Reader’s Digest. A few times it would be pure storytelling and a great deal of joke cracking. I think he loved hearing us laugh at his jokes. It was never like a real classroom lesson. And there was never a dull moment with him. I have since come to suspect that his teaching methods might have been too advanced for the restless minds of high school students which were tailored to follow a strict syllabus.
Lameck, most of his colleagues called him. The other students in the school called him Ayal (which he always claimed should be pronounced Ali-jyi-all). It was just hilarious how he said it. Those in my stream simply called him Stickman. Not as much for his slim gait, as for his crazy brand of humor. Which I still find refreshing in my flashbacks. His jokes always had a way of containing, or ending in, some sort of sexual innuendo. I think he knew how to read the mood of late-teenage boys, especially in those hot afternoons at Kanga School when many must have been touching themselves under their desks.
Stick-man is not with us anymore…