Categories > Original > Drama0 Reviews
A strange new student challenges the thoughts and values of everyone he meets, trying to escape his life and better others.
The funny thing about the city is the way it gets to you after a while. Sure it's comfortable and practical and such, but after a long period of time it feels like it's all too much. The solid routine developed tends to drag and become awfully tedious - and the ever present noises echo subtly throughout the space of living, not too irritating but never going away.
I needed a change from this monotonous regime. I needed to experience something different, something wild and new and something which excited and inspired me. The city held no real promise for me - what I needed was out in the real world, amongst the delicate balance of nature and hidden in glorious monuments and wonders.
But this was not possible though, as my family were indeed hardly wealthy enough to venture out into the world, and our chores made it almost impossible to deviate from our usual way of things. I remember thinking of a quotation I once heard, I think it was from Buddha:
"If you can't bring Buddha to the mountain, bring the mountain to Buddha."
And I guess that's just what happened.
The mountain was Jaspr - he had the will and personality that could crush a mountain into the ground. His mind seemed unmatched and his thoughts always strange but delightful. He came to me that spring, and he brought with him more inspiration and wonder than any other thing in this world.
It was a gloomy Monday when Jaspr arrived, a cold day that was always greeted with utter contempt in the schoolyard. School is often bad enough without nature also making things worse. Me and the boys were out by the old canteen - sitting around waiting for the dreaded bell to explode and send us off to class. A light fog had settled around us, distorting the image of the school and the people in it. It was difficult to see more than twenty feet away and the cold it brought bit into our spongy skin.
I looked up to see a strange figure emerge from the fog in front of us. It appeared blurry and dark at first, only fully recognisable when it was nearly upon us. It was a boy about our age, dressed in the school uniform with a small bag hanging lightly over one shoulder. He had a sly grin plastered onto his face and his casual stride seemed awfully alien for some inexplicable reason.
He stopped in front of me, staring straight at me with two intensely blue eyes. I stared straight back at him and, to my slight annoyance, turned my head away a few seconds later. For some reason, staring into his eyes made me dreadfully uncomfortable. The other boys sized him up, looking at him curiously.
"You can call me Jaspr," the boy said, his grin widening. I looked up at this strange remark and gave him a perplexing look. He seemed satisfied with my reaction and swung the bag over his other shoulder. His voice was calm and crystal clear - a soothing voice that almost belonged in a choir.
"You new here?" I said standing up straight. I almost gasped at how gravelly and ridiculous my voice sounded - it was like a bad actor had delivered a terrible line in a badly written play. This stranger had said one thing and already he'd made me feel like an idiot. At first, I didn't like that.
"You could say that," he replied, giving me a strange look. It was a look of puzzlement, but also laughter. I knew he was laughing at me on the inside but I had no idea why. Suddenly he laughed - a sound I shall remember to my dying days - and it rang out across the schoolyard. We all looked at him, slightly unsure of what to do. Then, Jaspr turned on his heel and walked calmly away from us. As he moved, the fog cleared around him until he was gone from view. The fog settled gently around us again.
I shall never forget that first encounter with Jaspr Chenil. His courage to approach a group of strangers the way he did has always inspired and impressed me. His unwavering ability to speak and act his true mind astounded me, and his will not to hide away made me respect him immediately after he left.
That was the arrival of Jaspr Chenil into my tedious life, and that was when I knew I had found my mountain.
I didn't see Jaspr until my fourth class that day. He just seemed to vanish after our encounter and then reappear as if from nowhere. He strolled in halfway through the class, his grin still stuck firmly on his face. The teacher looked up as the door slammed shut behind him.
"Oh hello," he said a little bit surprised, "You must be Jaspr. The principal told me you would be in my class today but I thought he meant..." the teacher trailed off as Jaspr ignored him and made for a desk. The teacher looked affronted, if not a little hurt. He watched as Jaspr headed straight for the desk next to me, his gaze fixed firmly on me. He gracefully dropped his bag next to the desk and sat down, his grin dropping a little.
The teacher stood straight, attempting to regain a little of his dignity. "Well, I see you've found a friend. Look after him will you?" He gave me a glare and turned back to the board. Everyone seemed to be looking at Jaspr, a look of total surprise on their faces.
Jaspr sat in that chair, staring at me with that stupid grin on his face for the next twenty minutes. I had trouble concentrating on the lesson because I could feel him watching me, his gaze and his eyes never once faltering. Towards the end of the lesson I turned to him, slightly annoyed.
"Can you stop staring at me please?" I said, trying to be commanding but also polite. His grin widened.
"No one else is looking at you," he said, "and I think they have their priorities wrong. People are much more interesting than numbers. Especially you." I looked at him, totally dumbfounded as his words bumped around inside my head. His grin wavered and his glance suddenly shifted to out the window as if he'd suddenly been distracted by something awful. I had no idea what he meant and simply shook my head, returning to my work.
He stopped staring at me though, and he disappeared after class again. I didn't even see him leave. The rest of the day played out in a usual routine way, the only highlight being a five minute early mark in my last period. I grabbed my bag and trudged out the door, the weight of my bag pulling me down like an anchor. No matter how much I shifted my bag around on my back, I couldn't relieve the pressure it was putting on me. As I walked out the gate, Jaspr came out from nowhere and began to walk alongside me.
"Oh hey Jaspr," I said, slowing a little. His grin was gone, and a serious looked now played over his face.
"Do you like school?" he asked, his blue eyes boring a hole into my head. "Do you like learning?"
"I guess," I said, a little surprised. Not knowing what to say, I replied pretty stupidly. "Uh, do you like school?"
He glanced away from me again in that distracted way and took a while to answer. We walked in silence, the only sound being our footsteps clomping along on the pavement.
"I think it's important to learn," he replied finally, "but if you leave it too late, you'll never learn anything. You'll never change." He suddenly broke to the left up a street, his head and shoulders straight and his walk strong and purposeful. I stopped at this sudden change.
I was starting to understand how Jaspr operated though, how he flitted in and out randomly, never really committing to anything. It was a little irritating but also pretty cool. Most things he said were cryptic or just strange, but over the next few weeks I formed a deep friendship and respect for Jaspr, as his mind constantly fascinated me. He was always terribly late for class and he would always vanish for long periods, appearing and disappearing randomly and completely silently. I liked having him around though, mainly because he added a sense of originality and a break from the normal routine. He was the spark that made this boring little life burn a bit brighter.
One day Jaspr came to school early, his face a mask of despair. It was the first time since his arrival three weeks ago that I had seen him at school early and without his trademark grin. He approached me, ignoring the others around me.
"Fate has a fickle hand," he said, his face a sign of sorrow. He had huge bags under his eyes and the right side of his face had a fair sized bruise on it. His chin was cut and his brilliant blue eyes shone with much less light than normal.
"But I guess we play how we've been trained," he continued, "I guess it takes the worst in some people to bring out the best in others." He gave me a wan smile and strode off in the opposite direction. The others looked at me funnily and began asking what was going on.
The trouble was, even though I knew the most about Jaspr, I still knew nothing about him at all. The bruises were very discomforting and I felt for the first time about asking Jaspr what had happened to him. Ever since he had arrived, I had a strange desire not to ask him about his life or his past, as I found I might lose some of the person he was. His past may have been interesting, but I found myself unwilling to delve into that particular part of Jaspr, for it may contain wonders, but it may also contain horrible dangers.
That day I barely saw him at all. The next day he was back to his old self, which continued for the next couple of weeks. The great thing about being around Jaspr was that even though he was just "his old self", he was always so different and surprising that he made every day unique and, dare I say it, wonderful. There were times when he would show up at school with bruising or cuts, but it didn't happen too often. However, each time I saw him like this I felt horrible, just knowing that this brilliant mind was suffering somewhere out of my control. He would never talk about it or anything else.
He always wore sweat bands on his wrists too. I didn't know what to make of it, dismissing it as just another odd thing he did.
So life continued in this way uninterrupted until the O'Shea brothers arrived, and they sure as hell changed our world.
The wonder and mystery that Jaspr brought into my life was sharply contrasted by what the O'Shea brothers brought when they arrived. The polar opposite of what Jaspr represented, that were loud, brash and rude, the type of people who are never intimidated by anything or anyone.
They were twins, and they were big. I don't mean big as in just very overweight, I mean big as in broad shouldered, well built, tall and large around the middle. They were imposing in broad daylight and I disliked them immediately.
On their arrival, they came over to our group by the old canteen, laughing and swearing. One of them approached me and stood straight, standing nearly a head and a half taller than me. I looked up nervously.
"Don't mess with us," he roared, adopting a malicious grin that stretched across his entire enormous face, "or we'll mess with you." On the "you" he jabbed a big, bulgy finger into my chest, pushing me back. I reeled with surprise.
The other one laughed and they high-fived each other. One of them threw a large stone at me and they sauntered off, calling names back to us. I was very shocked by this utter astonishing encounter and a little shaken too. I had never been threatened before and it was not something I enjoyed that day.
I had the misfortune of getting the O'Shea brothers in most of my classes. The brutes always sat up the back of the class, throwing balls of paper at me and swearing their heads off. The teachers had little control and they never ceased their annoying activities.
I was glad when Jaspr showed up for a class that day, because at least I had someone to talk to. I seemed to be with barely anyone I knew in most of my classes, and I just couldn't "click" with anyone else. It hadn't been so bad before, but since the O'Shea brothers arrived I realised how alone I was. I looked up as Jaspr came in, his face holding the usual grin. He scanned the classroom, noticing the O'Shea brothers up the back. Contrary to how I thought he would react, his face exploded into an even bigger grin, seeming to hold back some unknown ecstasy. Even more disheartening, he didn't even look at me or acknowledge me in any way. He headed straight for the back of the class, his gaze fixed on the brothers. The looked up and saw him coming towards them, and they began to laugh.
"Who's this dork?" one said, and the other one laughed like there was nothing else on earth that could be funnier. Jaspr pulled up a desk next to the left O'Shea brother and sat in a calm silence as the brothers eyeballed him.
"Anger breeds hatred," said Jaspr, propping an elbow up under his chin, "and hatred breeds fear. Fear causes destruction and misery to everything true around it. I do not fear you." He laughed, its beauty and calmness ringing out through the classroom. The teacher looked around, surprised, but quickly returned to the board. The O'Shea brothers looked taken aback, not from the comment but from the laugh. Even I was a little bit intimidated by the courage it contained. The brothers looked at each other.
"What the hell d'you think you're doin'?" The one next to Jaspr said. "You tryin' to be a wise guy or something? 'Cause we don't like wise guys around here." He cracked his knuckles menacingly.
"Isn't it funny how there's so much difference between wise guy and a wise man," replied Jaspr. He stood up and gave the brothers a kind smile. "I guess sometimes you can be neither." He laughed again and picked up his bag. He strode out of the classroom, ignoring the teacher's commands for him to come back. The O'Shea brothers looked confused and a little angry as they absorbed Jaspr's comments, the disbelief of his courage still strong in their minds.
I felt good that Jaspr had stood up to the brothers, but that joy soon vanished when they approached me at lunchtime. I happened to be alone at the time, eating my lunch as I made my way back to the boys. I had thought I saw Jaspr making his way to the office and I had wanted to talk to him about the class incident. However as I got to the office he was nowhere to be found and I felt like a bit of an idiot, the second time since I had met Jaspr.
They came towards me, a sign of annoyance but grim satisfaction on their faces. One of them grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me up against the wall.
"Where's your little friend?" he said, his grin and eyes widening malevolently. "We got some business to sort out with him." He looked at me, his eyes glaring menacingly into mine. His breath smelled horrible and up close I could see how ugly the brute really was. I stuttered out a reply about not knowing where he was and his grin widened. "Well then," he said, dropping me back to the ground, "I guess we better sort it out with you then, seeing as though you know him best. Watch your back boy, we're gonna come visit you real soon." With that, he punched me in the stomach, winding me and dropping me to my knees. The brothers laughed and left me as I doubled over in pain.
When the pain had subsided a little, I looked up to see Jaspr standing over me, his face a grim look of pity. "Do not fear them," he said, his voice downcast and deep. "For your fear will destroy you." He held out his hand. I took it and he helped me up. "Fear causes destruction," he said again, "and with destruction there is no light. There is no point to anything. Without fear, we can live how we are meant to without anything holding us back. We have a point to this existence. Life does not become as difficult, or as painful. Accept your fears around you, and you will live well." His face saddened me greatly, for it was one of deep sorrow and unhappiness. He turned and walked slowly off towards the gates.
His words sunk in though. As I watched him walk off, I had a strange instinct that he knew what he was talking about, that his words were true and strong. I turned from Jaspr and headed back to the group, my thought ringing with Jaspr's words.
Another visitor arrived a few weeks after the O'Shea's. They had continued to harass me but I had learnt to either ignore them or to simply put up with their ways, even if it meant being on the receiving end of something physical. Jaspr appeared less and less, his mood becoming more and more gloomier each time I saw him. He had not encountered the O'Shea brothers again which angered them greatly. However, instead of holding their anger and storing it for Jaspr, they took it out on me. After a while I began to get fed up with the O'Shea brothers and part of me wished that Jaspr was around to take their fury. He only ever turned up in the two or three classes which I didn't have with the O'Shea brothers, and even then it was still very rare. I found it odd that no one really noticed or enquired into this.
This new arrival was a timid, nervous boy called Jonathon. On his first day, he sat on a bench in the corner of the yard with a look of anxiety and fear in his eyes. His eyes would flit nervously towards anyone who walked past him and I could sense that everyone was laughing at this strangely shy boy. I walked over towards the boy in the hopes of relieving his fear so he could be happy here. As I approached him he gathered himself up a little tighter. He was afraid but I could not understand why or why it was so deep.
"Hey there," I said, sitting next to him. He nodded and looked down at the ground, holding his bag tightly in his chest. "What's your name?" I said, trying to be warm and comforting. I wanted to make him know that he had nothing to be afraid of.
"Jonathon," he muttered timidly, and slowly looked up at me. "I don't know anyone here. I feel horrible."
I gave him a warm smile and told him there was nothing to be worried about. I invited him over to our group and he followed me reluctantly, still as scared as he had been on the bench. He stood on the edge of our group, staring at the ground and not talking. No one talked to him and he made no effort to get to know anyone.
At lunch, he was back on the bench again, his bag tightly tucked to his chest.
I had reached out to Jonathon but he had refused my help. I didn't approach him again, but the O'Shea brothers did. Jonathon interested them very much, and his timidness and weakness drove them away from me. My will against them had grown annoying and difficult for them and Jonathon was someone else they could bully without fear of resistance. I was saved, but poor Jonathon was going to go through hell for quite a while to come.
Jaspr ignored Jonathon and began to show up a little more regularly. Jonathon sat near to me in class but Jaspr never made any acknowledgment that he was there. He looked worse and worse every day I saw him, with more and more bruises on his face and more sorrow and despair in his eyes. I noticed him looking at Jonathon with utter contempt one lesson, and I asked him why he didn't like him.
"It's got nothing to do with liking anybody," he replied, giving me a steely gaze. I was a little scared to tell the truth as I had never seen Jaspr this upset before. His cheerful and inspiring demeanour had deteriorated rapidly over the past few days and I was feeling more and more disheartened about his situation. "It's about respect. You cannot respect a mind that cannot dissolve fear and move on. You cannot appreciate life if you hide from it." He looked back at Jonathon in annoyance. "Deep fear of everything is a great insult to those who live properly. Whoever lives in fear without a good reason, like our friend here, knows nothing. And I cannot respect him for it." He looked back at me, his sly grin returned. My hope also returned as I saw the real Jaspr in there, the Jaspr who had inspired and encouraged me to become a better person. Jaspr, who had made my life a little bit more exciting and interesting.
"You must never live a life of fear," he said, his grin widening, "for you will never grow stronger. You will never move forward and you will never change the world."
Jaspr was right. Jonathon continued his life of fear, constantly being bullied by the O'Shea brothers. I would see him eating alone at lunch and I would feel pity for him but I would also feel a deep disrespect that he wouldn't - or couldn't - step up and take charge. He couldn't live properly from his fear, and I felt like he was wasting the life he had.
I left Jonathon alone after that, and the O'Shea brothers left me alone. I felt a strange sense of full circle at that point, like everything had been sorted out.
I was wrong. Things were getting much, much worse and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Jaspr began to disappear for days on end and I rarely had the chance to talk to him. I believed he knew no one else at the school and that no one else spoke to him, and I felt that I needed to understand what was going on in his life. He had helped me appreciate the things in life and I wanted to pay him back. I wanted to help him.
One day - his final school day - Jaspr came to me just the way I remember from his arrival. He looked bright and healthy and his face shone with mystery and intrigue. His eyes sparkled brightly as he stood in front of me, his hands calmly draped by his sides.
"What happens when your safe haven no longer becomes safe?" he said cryptically. "What happens when you cannot return to the warmth because it is no longer warm? What happens when cold is all you feel and the light recedes around you?" He tilted his head slightly, looking at me quizzically. "You are not living," he concluded, his brilliant smile fading into a blank look that terrified me. His eyes darkened and suddenly his spirit was gone, taken away into some unknown depths untouched by most men.
"You do not have a point. There is no reason for you to be in the cold. Without warmth and light, life withers and dies." He looked up towards the sun, shielding his eyes from the blinding glow. "All becomes meaningless," he whispered, returning his gaze to me. "There is no life left." With that, he turned on his heel ant marched towards the gate. His words chilled me to the core, and I had a sudden urge to follow him. But I needed to know why he was acting like this; I needed to know what was happening in his life.
I ran to the office and told the principal of Jaspr and asked him to tell me what was going on. He gave me a concerned look and told me to sit down. I told him that I was his only friend and that I was terribly worried about him.
"Son," said the principal, his gaze filled with sorrow, "Jaspr has lots of problems." I looked into his large brown eyes, absorbing every word he spoke. When he had finished, I ran from the office and out of the gate, heading for Jaspr's house, desperate to find him.
Jaspr had been born into a rough family. His mother was a heroine addict and spent most of her life either in rehab or out cold on her bed. His father was an abusive alcoholic and would often beat both Jaspr and his mother. Jaspr had moved here to be closer to the hospital for his mother, but her condition had worsened. Over the past few weeks, she had been admitted over a dozen times to ER and she showed no signs of improving. The doctors said that she would not last much longer if she kept living the way she did. Jaspr had tried to help his mother, but it was no use. Her addiction had become a need for her and she would die either with it or without it.
Jaspr's father would spend each night at the local pub, getting drunk and then coming home where he would beat Jaspr, sometimes to unconsciousness. Jaspr had seen the school counsellor numerous times but he would never admit that he was beaten by his father. He had been sent to a psychologist where an acute depression had been revealed due to the lack of love from his parents. His life was more than just difficult, and the past few months had been extremely hard on him.
In the past few days, his mother had drugged herself into a coma which the doctors suspected she wouldn't recover from. His father had blamed it on Jaspr, saying that he had failed as a son. He had beaten him senseless and had then kicked him out of the house. Jaspr had returned to school one last time to see me, and I was startled at how good he had looked. No sadness at all. His mind continued to amaze me as I ran for his house, fully intent on finding and helping him.
Jaspr's house was a rundown, decrepit two-storey old place in a less than reputable place on town. I ran up onto the sagging porch and knocked sharply on the wooden door. When I heard no answer, I pushed it open cautiously and stepped inside.
The place was a mess. Dozens of broken beer bottles littered the floor and the furniture had been literally destroyed. The windows were grimy, letting very little light into the ramshackle house. Almost every part of the house had been trashed, probably from Jaspr's father's drunken rampage the night before. Suddenly, I heard a noise from upstairs. I called out and made my way slowly upstairs. I was afraid that I would run into his father and he would mistake me for Jaspr in his drunken state. I made it to the top of the stairs and noticed a closed door at the end of the hallway. I could hear footsteps coming from behind it and I made my way over towards it.
I pushed the door open to see that it was Jaspr, standing with his back to me in what seemed to be his room. There were no posters on his wall and the window was boarded up. There was a tiny, dirty bed in the corner and a busted wardrobe on one wall. Jaspr didn't turn around.
"Jaspr," I said, moving forward, "Jaspr, let me help you." I put my hand on his shoulder and spun him around. I reeled backwards in shock at what I saw.
Jaspr's face was a mask of utter, utter despair. His face looked like a giant hole filled with nothing but darkness and I nearly broke down right there from how depressed he looked. But worst of all, something I will never be able to cope with, he wasn't wearing his sweat bands on his wrists.
Blood was pouring out of two deep slits along his wrists. One hand held a very long, very sharp knife that slipped and clunked hollowly to the floor. He looked at me, his eyes a dull grey and tears began pouring down my face.
"Jaspr, no," I cried, rushing to him. He stepped back, his face never once changing.
"There is no light," he said again, "no way to move forward. I am a shell in this cold place, and this world cannot have empty shells." He dropped to his knees and I followed suit, crawling over to him as he fell forward. I caught him in my arms and tried to hold him upright. He looked up at me, and for the last time I saw his eyes sparkle. For the final time, I saw the real Jaspr hidden under that blanket of despair, unable to get out. I cried out in anger.
"Why? Why would you do this?" I screamed and wept on Jaspr's head. He turned up towards me, and spoke his final words.
"Remember what I have said," he whispered. "Live well. Do not cause destruction around you. Appreciate life and treat yourself and others well. Only then will we have our perfect world." He smiled his sly grin one final time, and then his head slipped forward.
Jaspr's death hit was very hard on me. I felt robbed, like a great mind had been stolen away unfairly. I spent the next few days alone, unable to cope with the experience but I emerged eventually with Jaspr's last words ringing in my head. I would take his message and spread it, no matter how hard that would be.
I returned to school to find that not much had changed. No one had been deeply affected by the event as I had been and everyone continued to live as normal. The O'Shea brothers continued to bully Jonathon, the bell would always ring at precisely the same time and lessons would be as boring as ever. But my life had changed significantly. Without Jaspr, I had lost that spark that had freed me from my dull little life, the inspiration and excitement that I always felt around him. But even though Jaspr was gone, his message remained in my head. I'll never forget one thing he said, "Sometimes the worst in some people brings out the best in others". He was right. He had the hardest life with unloving parents and still he was able to appreciate life and everything in it and spread his message of hope and compassion. He was truly an inspiration to me and he did more than just change my life.
I owe a lot of things to Jaspr, but the most prominent is the excitement and wonder he brought into my life. The city had been pressing on me recently, and Jaspr had lifted that pressure, giving me something to look forward to. He made me understand that life was worth living.
And, ironically enough, that is the story of Jaspr Chenil, the greatest human being I have ever met. I continue to live like he did, appreciating life and understanding that life can only be prosperous with warmth, compassion and acceptance.
And I hope you do too.