Nobody actually calls him that of course. He's Eddie for most students and teachers. For us unlucky enough to earn his disdain, he's just Finch. Just as his name suggests, his appearance is much like the small bird. Bulging eyes, squared glasses, always hunched, a mop of blond hair. According to the program, he was supposed to teach us literature, but even now I'm still not quite sure what the class was about. Some days it was discussing movies at length, others criticizing the government. He might not have been a patient tutor, or a tutor at all. He might not have even liked us (I know for a fact he didn't, for we were huge brats at the time and he was never afraid to voice his opinion). But the man was a whirlwind, a pileus. In words of the immortal John Mulaney, "He was the weirdest goddamn person I ever saw in my entire life".
Full of oddly specific opinions and idiosyncrasies, Finch paraded around the classroom full of snobby 15-year-olds, and showered us with the wisdom you'd find inside a drunkard's mouth or a fortune cookie. His moods were as eccentric as his shirts, he was prone to melancholy and more than once left the classroom in a frustration fit. But on the days he felt like life was worth a dime, oh you'd want to see him then. The man sizzled with passion, exploded into a million sparks of something akin to, but that wasn't quite, hope. He was a monster made of mismatched freedom speeches, protest songs, surrealist 80's movies. Finch breathed and moved like art in its purest, most pointless form. Void of any real purpose, enthralled by the mundane and the extravagant, speaking in tongues we're too afraid to listen to. In those moments he was the orchestra, and Leonard Bernstein raising the baton. He was the original sin, as well as the disgraced soul who in the process of biting an apple, created the first fuck-up in history. Both art and artist, and the irony born from trying to separate them. Exclamation point, neon light, little town revolutionary.
Finch was inspiring as an amalgamation of every disgraced, hurting, and perhaps misunderstood artist I've seen (I know, I know. Happy artists exist. But this one is not about them, so don't get worked up over it). In the movement of his hands, in his long monologues, I found big names (Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bowie). But the smaller names, those intrigued me far more. Names that won't go down in history, they will burn as fast as they were lit up. Those stuck inside little artisan markets, inside notebooks that will be thrown away or inside forlorn glances. Names that are cinder as much as they're gunpowder. Names that I'll never know, and neither will the world.
And perhaps on a more important note (the cynic lenses of art are silently pried away, the show lights are shut down. It's all quieter once you look past the mask, isn't it?), Finch was much more than what fits inside my brain. He was wonderfully, shamelessly, heartrendingly human.
"Well, I'm just one of those assholes that only complain but do nothing to change the world," he confessed between laughs once.
"I wasn't any good at school, at your age. And now? Now I haven't got the brains to learn anything anymore,"
"Please don't handle any legal businesses in my class, it gives me a headache to see people your age speak like congressmen,"
And my favorite one, "I hoped for more, from all of you... I'll see you next year, then" And it was neither sweet nor funny, but even then there was a flicker of natural naivety. Not quite hope, but close. I couldn't help but to make a face and giggle. Not many people believed in us those days. Not that we gave them much to believe in. Bunch of stuck-up cherubs. Bunch of bottled-up devils. The biggest joke on the Universe.
And yet, as lost and helpless as everyone seemed to be in the situation, as much of a sleep paralysis of a year that was, Eddie Finch always rose up with the right words to inspire something, somewhere inside me (and once the play is over and I'm alone behind closed curtains, I dare to call it hope).