July 14, 2014 by vh1161
He was the spitting image of a young John Lennon, so uncanny that I had to keep sneaking glances at him. I wondered if he gets that a lot (of course he does). His general expression did convey a sort of tenuous forbearance with the world.
He was a weird kid who dreamed in Tetris shapes and meticulously cataloged his Pogs. He liked knowing that things were in order, and since other people tended to disrupt order he simply limited his interactions with other people. During middle school he spent every recess walking countless loops around the schoolyard with his hands in his pockets and his neck craned back, staring at the sky like it owed him an explanation. The other kids knew to not bother speaking to him because he was busy building empires in his head.
In his high school years his parents grew increasingly concerned by their son’s loner tendencies. They decided that he needed A Good Activity to build his confidence, get him out and about with other nice boys. Would he like to join the Eagle Scouts? No, he wouldn’t. He has always been interested in theater, right? No, mom. He liked board games, though. The German ones, like The Settlers of Catan. The principal and the recess monitor found this out and were delighted; they had recently grown tired of chess and decided to try this “Settlers” thing everyone was talking about, but they needed a third player for their lunchtime showdowns. They started occasionally interrupting John’s recess walks to invite him to join. They sat under a tree at the corner of the basketball court so that the monitor could still keep one eye on his charges.
By twelfth grade, John had a standing appointment with these two. He would inhale his sandwich and then run to the Settlers tree and set up the game board on an overturned trash can. He liked his two quiet opponents. They never asked him why he didn’t want to shoot hoops or join the pickup soccer game. They didn’t try to engage him in small talk. They were the first people he’d ever met who concentrated on a game even more closely than he did.
These days John is studying mathematics at GWU and looks forward to building a quiet, calm career as a statistician. He is not popular but he has made one friend on campus – Max, another math major – and they spend their evenings bantering back and forth about the implausibility of each others’ Settlers strategies. Their friendship thrives on disagreement, as tiresome as it sounds to passersby, because they love the game and its nuances with the same tenacity. And they respect the tenacity they see in each other, the refusal to curb the enthusiasm that the world would teach them to replace with shame.