A Soul Named John

“The sex wasn’t good: she had bad breath and I didn’t like the way she said my name.” His eyes briefly glanced over to meet mine, and then he resumed, “Plus, I just wasn’t used to normal hands.”

He was sad and verging on depression about his girlfriend. She only had one finger on each hand, which was a beautiful mistake that he couldn’t find in anyone else. When he talks about her, he speaks with words dripping in bitter regret because he knows their demise was his fault. He cheated on her, yelled at her, and shoved her. He told her to never forget who came inside of her. Then when he knew their relationship was tanked, he had bad sex with a visiting high-school student, who said his name weirdly and had five-fingered hands.

John never defends himself. He never pretends he was right about any of his actions, and he writes beautiful poems. I asked him to read some to me, but they’re all gone. As soon as he writes one, he either gives it to her or he burns it. I suppose real fire burns less than the scalding words he transcribes onto paper. Still, the poems don’t escape his head, so he recounted some to me.

One was about a boy and a girl who kept warm by the heat of a fire, until eventually they jumped into the flames and burned into ashes.

Another was about sex. He recounted writing about each partner’s perspective. The girl in the poem expressed her love of the strength and power of the boy, who in turn lusted for the soft, caring touch of the girl.

There is no way to describe John’s poems in the same way that he described them to me. The love he felt and still feels is tangible; it explodes out of his skin and singes anyone he shares it with, including me. Just by sharing his words about love with me, I feel scarred. His persona left a mark on my thoughts, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what kind of a person John is.

Not a bad one. Not a good one. He is not confused. Not happy. Far from being blank, but nowhere close to fulfillment.

John sometimes posts out, sitting on a patch of grass in front of my dorm building, watching people. There is an equally adequate patch of grass in front of his own dorm about 50 feet to the right, but he chooses to camp out in front of mine because it’s better for people watching. One day, I was routinely walking past that patch of grass, past John, and back to my dorm when he avidly waved me down.

You only have to meet John once to learn that he is comfortable talking about anything, and will eventually tell you everything. This was going to be an ‘everything’ type of talk, inevitably.

I dropped my bags, prepared to skip class, sat down next to him, and turned my head to face his.

“You know you deserved it,” I said about his ex-girlfriend, while I searched his deep brown eyes for a signal of sadness or realization. Nothing: just a nod of his head. John knew his mistakes.

“I’m smoking cigarettes now as a form of punishment to myself.”

He laughed at my expected preachy reaction to try and curb his habit. John wasn’t a smoker to me, because smokers lack acceptance. When people exhale smoke, they blow out a grey blanket of instability, and coat their fears in a veil of opacity. John is open, strong-willed and not plagued with addiction. I believe he really was punishing himself for his actions and not caving into a dependency.

His life is mottled with sadness and I think what John truly wants is to punish the world. Instead, he just hurts himself in suit of his dad. I told John I respect him for his toughness, because I would vaporize under the same situations he has developed from.

He threw away my praise before I could even finish it, and looked ahead. Those deep brown eyes hardened and he looked down to tell a story that I didn’t let him finish.

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