Life Stories: The Shake

From 1997-1999, my time in middle school was a medicated hellride full of fuck-yous and defiance as I tried my best to become the Stone Cold Steve Austin of Greenfield. I fought authority Monday through Friday with the prescribed tag team of Paxil and Depakote, feeling like an invincible ball of charismatic fat as I fed on the laughs and reactions of my classmates. Even though the outcome of each scenario would result in some form of disciplinary action, it was the closest thing to popularity that I would ever taste.

Suspensions were a regular occurrence, which forced my mom to get a pager in order to be on-call to deal with my bullshit. She always shot down the district suggestions to have me placed in an alternative learning facility. I didn’t have any learning disabilities, and my mom felt that I didn’t belong with students who already boasted credible rap sheets before hitting freshmen year of high school. Unfortunately, my behavior gave faculty members enough pull to kick me out of school two days before my 8th grade graduation. It was all the district needed to make sure I was placed in special education upon my enrollment at El Cajon Valley High School.

That’s where I met The Shake.

I began my freshmen year during the summer session of 1999, which really wasn‘t as bad as it sounds. My teacher, Mr. McLaughlin, was probably in his early 30s at the time. He was tall and lanky, always professionally dressed, and rocked one hell of a gray mustache for a man as young as he was. The only person I recognized in my small class was Trevor, a guy I had known here and there since elementary school. It was a classroom full of characters, myself included, but nobody stood out quite like the Bangladeshi kid from New York; Shake.

Depending on which edition of the yearbook you read, his name was listed as Sheikh Ronal or Ronal Sheikh, but everyone including Mr. McLaughlin called him Shake. Shake couldn’t read or write very well, so I believe he used humor as a way to boost his self-esteem. Like a lot of teenage boys at the time, Shake was obsessed with pro wrestling. His favorite wrestler was The Rock, which is why we started referring to him as “The” Shake. He lacked the Rock’s natural charisma, but the son of a bitch made me bust a stich or two multiple occasions.

I remember this one time we were doing a silent math assignment, because lord knows Mr. McLaughlin deserved a few moments of silence during the days when our noise and constant streams of bullshit commandeered the classroom. He patrolled the room to see who was working and who was fucking off, when he stopped by Shake and stared down at the small piece of paper on his desk. There were no numbers written down, just two words. Mr. McLaughlin picked up the paper and read the scribbling out loud.

“Ass man”.

Shake looked up and smiled. “Yeah! Like the song on WWF!“, he explained. “I’m an ass man!”

I must have laughed for a good five minutes, one of those stupid belly aching laughs that leaves you with tears in the corner of your eyes and a slightly runny nose. Mr. McLaughlin had no idea what Shake was talking about, so the class had to catch him up to speed with the landscape of late 90s WWF programming. The math assignment was a wash, Mr. McLaughlin could now know the difference between Steve Austin the wrestler and The Six Million Dollar Man.

Another time, Shake had decided to share with us the details of a movie he wanted to direct and star in: Cool Sex. He insisted that he do all of his own stunts, and surprised us with a small martial arts demonstration. Shake never really told us what Cool Sex was about, but I’m confident that it would have fallen somewhere between an 70s action flick and softcore porn on Cinemax. What else would you expect from a guy who called himself the Ass Man?

Within the first semester of my freshmen year, I was kicked out and sent to a continuation school called Homestead. I ended up seeing some familiar faces from Mr. McLaughlin’s class during my time at Homestead, but Shake was never one of them. Even though he did outlandish things to make us laugh, Shake wasn’t much for defiance and causing trouble. I did end up as classmates with him again when I first earned the right to return to El Cajon Valley High, but after my second stint at Homestead our interactions were sparse. On occasion, I saw him at the mall while he worked at his dad’s printing kiosk, but that was about it.

I’ve always wondered what happened to Shake. A few internet searches lead me to an old article about Mr. McLaughlin, where Shake was interviewed as a former student. Mr. McLaughlin eventually taught him how to read and write, and he had aspirations of becoming a teacher. I also came across a page that had his head shot and a brief bio. Just like his old idol The Rock, Shake had also gone bald. He may not have made Cool Sex a reality, but I like to believe that he held onto the dream for well over a decade.

Here’s to The Shake. I hope his sex was cool and resplendent with ass.

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