Dear Jesus Christ,
I went to bed at 3:16 last night and started thinking about John—John who pissed away every paycheck he ever made and only fucked virgins, John who beat up a woman's husband and spent a Christmas in jail, John who shot himself on the front porch of his mother's house. I don't think anyone shed a tear except her. I heard she shed many tears as she cleaned up the mess.
I thought about when I first met him. It was at church. He and I were both eight. He sat down next to me and we stared at that stained glass image of you in your white robe with your outstretched, loving arms, and he leaned into me and asked, "Do you believe in Jesus?"
"Of course," I said. "Don't you?"
He didn't answer. But it was Communion that day and he ate your body and drank your blood just like everyone else, and I thought he had to believe in you because you were inside of him.
I asked him once, Jesus Christ, I asked him if he believed in you and he said, "I want to. But everyone says I have to find him. Why? If he's real and he loves me and died for me and all that, shouldn't he find me? Have you ever seen Jesus before?"
"No," I said.
And then he cried.
I started praying for him after that. You remember, don't you? I asked you to find him, but I don't think you did, and then he ended up in the hospital because his daddy had given him three fractured ribs and a swollen eye. I wasn't allowed to visit, but I had his momma give him a note. In it I begged him to believe in you. He sent one back telling me to go to Hell.
The next time he and I spoke was years later. We were in high school. He was taller, skinnier, and older. Me, I was just older. I said hi to him, but he acted like he didn't know me. I watched him incite fights in the hallways and flirt with random girls. I watched him cuss out teachers and get suspended for hiding a knife in his shorts. He never did anything to me, but I knew he wanted to.
And I prayed for him again, Jesus Christ. I prayed for him as hard as I could.
He left school halfway through Junior year, but he didn't leave town. He had nowhere to go just like the rest of us. I saw him off and on, working jobs, driving around. Two girls said he'd taken their virginity. Later I was told about a third—the one he got pregnant. "He only fucks virgins," I heard. "Something to do with control. Makes him feel all macho, turning young girls into women." And the drinking—oh yes, the lost money and DUIs and bar fights. People said he was drunk when he beat up that woman's husband. They also said the woman's husband resembled his daddy. He supposedly called the man a "child-abusing bastard" as he was cuffed and forced into the cop car. It was a few days before Christmas. If I remember right, when he'd gone to the hospital for the fractured ribs it had been around Christmas time too.
Your birthday. The day you came down here because your daddy so loved the world.
I didn't hear about his suicide until a good month after it happened. I'd come home from college for winter break, and while I was helping my mom do the dishes she said, "By the way, John died. Blew his brains out on his momma's front porch, right in front of her."
I didn't pray for him then, or ever again.
He couldn't believe in you, Jesus Christ. I'm not sure if I can either, but I want to.
I want to.
I thought about John at 3:16 last night, and I shed a tear.