English Paper #3
This is the third paper I’ve written for English this semester. I know I skipped number two, but that’s because it was an in-class essay and I don’t have it at home with me. This one, number 3, is a classification essay written about my friend Matthew Bowerman. It was graded a B+. Enjoy…or somethin’
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In my town, Farmersville – my sweet little suburb of Dallas, there is a certain individual who has been ever-so-accurately described by admirers and rivals alike as the single most unique (and by that they mean weird beyond all measure) man to have ever infiltrated their unwary society. He stands out like a bonsai tree growing straight out of a mechanical, complacent skyscraper; in layman’s terms, “ya can’t miss’em.” Among a people so hopelessly lost in the thrush and rush of opinion and status, he embraces individuality as the spice of life while still adapting to every situation. But despite his ability and tendency to become all things to all men, he is always, first and foremost, Matthew Bowerman.
Towering just a smidge over six feet from the ground, he stands on what he could only describe as “the brink of insanity” – it was actually a sidewalk by the park. His prolonged mischievous stare allows me time to take in his unkempt appearance: Hair that has never so much as seen the shadow cast by a hairbrush and a black tee shirt – large, loose, and faded – worn slightly overhanging the waist of his hole-riddled jeans.
Suddenly a spark of tomfoolery flares in his otherwise mundane brown eyes. Turning to face me, he speaks:
“Want me to pole dance?”
If such an offer doesn’t seem bizarre enough alone, throw in a public park filled with playful children and increasingly concerned mothers. Certainly this is no place for a striptease, but it’s for that very reason that he made the proposal – he’s in the public eye. It’s not that he wants to put on a performance; he wants a reaction from me and the other spectators. At this park, as in any such populated area, Matt’s purpose becomes clear: To be unforgettable. I saw him being just that.
Besides slinking around a few poles and a couple of lamp posts, he may also start taking surveys of a sort at random – just walking right up and asking some purposeless question like “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” “What’s Greg talking about?” or, my personal favorite, “What’s your hair color?” The incredible part isn’t that he possesses the shamelessness necessary for this, but that people will answer his questions and then proceed to chat with him for anywhere between 10 seconds and 3 hours – especially girls (did I mention that he is also quite naturally attractive and charming?).
Now while the antics are fun, Matt truly thrives on these relationships. He has as many facets as the 3,106 carat Cullinan diamond, and this is another one of them. He can’t seem to stop himself from meeting new people; he is so fascinated with people and their lives that he can’t help but get to know them. Last October, as we were walking around town during a small annual festival, every car that zipped by was driven by someone who yelled out of his window at Matt (I won’t repeat what he was yelling), and each time we passed a person on the street, no matter the age, they would stop to chat with my close friend. It seemed to me that he knew everyone, and I said as much. He responded to my statement simply, “Yeah, so?”
Absolutely anyone can understand Matt’s appeal as a friend once they realize that he is, at all times, honest and open. That sounds like an exaggeration – and, used to describe most people, it would be, but it’s the God’s honest truth concerning Matthew Bowerman. Part of his shameless personality translates into a veracity that breaks down barriers and comforts anyone who will let it.
That trait becomes most evident when Matt is at ease – specifically when he’s at Bible Study. I first met Matt when I invited him to join me for Bible Study on a Tuesday night in January two years ago; since then, it’s become his second home. There he disengages almost all of his defenses which, while few and far between, are still quite formidable; the results are stunning. Beneath his goofy and carefree exterior, Matt is actually a deep thinker. Oftentimes he sits all but silent in a corner, indistinguishably relaxed between consciousness and sleep while the rest of us debate and discuss the fabric of our lives. Just when we’re sure that he is down for the night, Matt slowly leans up, allows determination to settle on his brow, and uses one sentence to challenge everything we’ve just said. It’s during these times that I am always reminded of just how intelligent he is and how far he has come over the last two years.
The few barriers still up during Bible Study come down when Matt and I are alone. To understand why that is, you have to know that for as long as he and I have been acquainted our relationship has been that of a mentor and protégé. For some reason or another, I can connect with Matt, and when the crowds are gone and the fans have left, it’s just him and me. I have learned more about Matt in ten minutes of unguarded private discussion than the rest of the time I’ve known him combined. He’s become such a close friend that I am now convinced that some things run deeper, much deeper, than blood.
He’s been through a lot already in life – probably more than I’ll ever go through – including his parents’ separation and a family life that most closely resembles a ten car highway pileup that repeats as soon as it has finished. Still, he’s coped with and moved past each and every obstacle. All of these challenges, heartaches, and decisions have been shared with me, and where he once came to me for advice, I’ve noticed that it now works both ways. Matt has an insight into the emotions of people that surpasses human reason. I could never adequately describe it on paper nor in words, but he can see straight past every wall and every bulwark I’ve erected around my mind and heart. Because he’s been victim to so much distress in his own life, he can perfectly understand my own (or anyone’s it seems). That would scare me if I didn’t know that his empathy would always give priority to his shoulder, which was so obviously custom-tailored for crying on.
I recently had the chance to see Matt in a new setting, a situation I’d never been privy to; I was blessed with the opportunity to watch him as he babysat his little four year-old sister, Bethany. It was a side of Matt I’d never seen.
“Me and Bethany were making brownies.”
“With peanut butter!”
“Bethany, can you go find your shoes and change clothes?”
“Matt, I can’t get my pants button snapped.”
“Come here, I’ll take care of it. There you go, now put on your shoes and come on.”
In two years, I had never seen Matt and his sister together. He had often confided in me his fears and concerns for her, saying that he didn’t always feel comfortable with how his parents acted and how it might affect her, but I had no clue how incredible an older brother he was. He spoke on her level without sacrificing his maturity and authority, and all the time being nothing if not compassionate. I don’t know if he could see it, but it was just so obvious how much she respected him. She stared with big round eyes from under her endless golden curls and hung on his every word as if they were wonderful gifts all wrapped up in ribbon addressed directly and specially to her. My own respect for my dear friend grew in leaps and bounds in just those few minutes, and I know that anyone would be hard-pressed to be that kind of brother to their own sisters.
I will never see Matt in a more intimate setting than those moments in his house with Bethany, but, whether I see it or not, there is one such time. If I was witness to it, or if anyone was for that matter, it wouldn’t be so sacred and precious anymore. I’m talking about when Matt is alone – when no one is around to see or hear. Since I by default cannot observe Matt in those surroundings, I’ve asked him to write this last paragraph himself (unedited and unrestricted):
“Every moment I’m alone, I’m reminded of the pain of being truly alone. I remember the torture i went through as a child, with nobody to talk to or to acknowledge me, and it’s something i would not want anyone else to suffer through. It’s the most painful memory i have and that it hurts me to be alone. I can’t stand it when I am alone because i begin to cry just by remembering. I have friends and family that I care for , I actively search for a companion, and I follow God so I won’t ever be alone. Nobody can defeat loneliness……”