These are the words that were spoken by Mr. John Keating to describe Todd Anderson to the class in Dead Poets Society.
They were also spoken by my English sir (who shall remain unnamed) when I failed in to report my essay.
Our topic was painfully simple: Write a horror story. 300 words maximum. By that time, I was around 13, I hadn’t seen many horror movies but I had a good idea on how they were like: Blood, sex, masks, weapons, screaming and the like. We were given 2 days to write the essay and that was enough time for me. Within 30 minutes I’d written a very gory story about a man who kills a woman and spills out all her entrails “which fell on the ground with a sickening sound”. Edgar Allen Poe would’ve been so proud.
Anyway, the day finally arrived and one by one everyone stepped to the front of the room and started reading their essays. Sitting in the far left end of the room, I started shaking uncontrollably due to two reasons: Lack of confidence. The others really were great and very well written but they were not very horror enough, which made mine look like as if it was written in collaboration with either Clive Barker or George A. Romero. And the second reason: I stutter. That’s right, since the age of 6, it has been going on. Just the thought of going up there and talking aloud in front of the class was enough to make me shiver in my seat. I discreetly hid my essay in my bag and acted that I’d forgotten about it. After two more essays, the English sir called out:
If you still haven’t guessed, that’s me. Everyone turned around to look at me, some giving me encouraging signals, others indifferent. I started looking around helplessly. Finally I said:
No Sir, I haven’t done my essay
The English sir clicked his tongue and stood up. If I was shaking before, then I was causing a mini-earthquake in my seat. While coming over to me, he addressed the class:
Hamza here thinks that everything inside him is worthless and embarrassing.
Few started to snicker, others not understanding his intentions. He told me to stand up and produce my essay book from my bag and stand in front of the class. I silently obeyed and he sat in my place. Even though I was friends with the whole class, they had suddenly become alien. Complete strangers. When I started speaking, it took me complete 3 minutes just to finish the first line. Not only out of fear, but due to very weak lung power. Stutterers like me will know how it feels like. I painfully read my essay while inwardly cursing my imagination that led me to write 250+ words.
When it was over, it wasn’t greeted with scattering claps like they had done with the others. Instead, I was greeted with silence. Most of them were staring at me with their mouth open as if I’d just come out of the closet.
Then, as if a spell had been lifted off, everyone started clapping and the nearest ones started giving me pats on my back and high-fives. The English sir was visibly impressed and declared it the most violent essay from the class. After when the class ended, everyone snatched the book from me and asked me all sorts of questions and read their favourite lines from the essay. And even though I never got the chance to write another essay (I left school 3 months after that incident) and despite the fact it was all 6 years ago, I still remember it vividly and I like to bring it to the surface time to time, if just in my mind.
This story may seem nondescript in front of other better stories but to me it was an experience. And this is why I connected to that particular scene in Dead Poets Society.
Thank you, Sir, for making me do the one thing that I’ve always declared to be impossible.