Many years ago, when I was teaching english at a Junior High School in Japan, there was a student in one of my Third Year Classes who fell madly in love with me. I was in my twenties and he was fifteen.
Here’s what happened.
This boy hated English with a burning passion. He always sat at the back, and ignored any attempt to make him read or speak English. He hated English, but he didn’t hate me.
None of the kids liked him. They said “he’s weird”.
I suspect he suffered from some kind of learning disorder.
During the after lunch break, I convinced him to copy the word “Hello”.
After a few minutes of painful concentration, repeatedly staring again and again at my Hello, he finished and handed me what he had written. It was scribble. I couldn’t make sense of it.
He wasn’t mocking me. I could tell he had sincerely tried. He looked at me nervously, waiting for word on how he had done. I forced on a smile and said, “good job. Let’s try another word.”
His face went crestfallen. I think he saw through my lies.
Nevertheless, he persisted. Whenever he got called on to read an English sentence out loud I had to position myself nearby to help feed him the words. English didn’t make sense to him. He could not read it.
I heard he hated math for the same reason. He never wrote numbers correctly.
The other students would laugh at his mistakes and whispered that he was stupid. Deep down, he was a sweet boy. A lot of his social mistakes seemed to be from a misunderstanding of social cues.
I started to help him from time to time at lunch or after school. While I didn’t want to seem as though I favored him — that would make his situation worse — I did want to give him the chance to succeed.
It was hard not to feel sorry for him. The Japanese school system had no place for someone like him who didn’t test well and had zero social skills. He was outspoken in the most embarrassing ways, oblivious to how his words sounded, yet very innocent and confused.
He also had the word grades in the school. He failed every test. The other teachers whispered that he had scored borderline on IQ tests. He didn’t fit in.
This put a fire in me. I wanted him to believe in himself. Just for once.
However, things didn’t go quite as planned. Somewhere in my pursuit of helping him, he developed a huge crush on me.
His newfound interest in English was mainly an interest in me. It was entirely innocent. He never did anything lewd or perverse. It was all just him turning red all over at the mere sight of me.
He would look so happy when I asked him a question in English, even if he didn’t know how to answer.
The others students noticed and began to tease him mercilessly. They snickered and mocked his “crush”. His eyes would stare at me with puppy love, as if he didn’t know what to do about these feelings.
A single smile at him and he would look ready to die of happiness.
I had no idea what to do. If I distanced myself, it would hurt him. He wouldn’t understand why I was doing that. Since he would graduate in two months, and his crush was motivating him to better his English, I decided to leave things as they were for the next two months.
He began to study English and really try. For the first time, he almost passed a test in English. Almost. That made both of us happy. He seemed to gain a little confidence in himself.
I think love hit him right between the eye and he didn’t know what to do about it.
When I came into his class for the last time, he nearly cried at the news.
A few days before graduation, he found me in the hallway. A few students stopped to stare. With face beet red and a look of horror, he bowed to the waist and thrust a folded up note at me, belting out “Onegaishimasu!”
No sooner did my fingers close around the note, then he bolted down the hall and around a corner. I never saw him again. He graduated soon after. To this day I don’t know what became of him.
When I returned to my teacher’s desk, I unfolded his note. The writing was mostly legible. He had tried his best. I couldn’t help but smile.
The boy who couldn’t even copy “Hello” had managed to write:
Happy Valentines Day
I love you, Mara-teacher
To this day, it remains the best Valentine’s Card I ever received.
It was all heart.