A year later and it still doesn’t seem right that I won’t see John’s smile again. I can look at pictures and see his beautiful face, but I won’t see it move with the light in his eyes or the truth of his intention. It’ll be an empty memory of color and shape but not the feeling.
When John gave a smile, he gave it. It was the real deal, it was a gift and it was just for you.
John was in my extended tribe. That just means I didn’t know him nearly so well as my friends who saw to it that I would know him. But that smile… that smile made it ok. It was true and real as a material thing, as a conversation deep into the night. It told me he saw me, didn’t just skim past me and back to his good friends. It was a gift he made on the spot and it was just for me.
He didn’t do things half way, that’s for sure. He was a born daredevil, from all I’ve heard. But he knew his business. If setting up electrical rigging for a lighting system in a rainstorm didn’t get him, what possibly could? That he would die in a motorcycle accident surprised everyone. All his friends assumed by this point he was more or less immortal.
All Burning Man tales are extraordinary, and of course John managed to go over and above. Literally. He would typically sky dive into camp. In the buff. Of course, I’ve heard of many other stories of his Burn exploits, the elevator in the desert is my favorite. But the sky diving one is the first I heard and it’s the one he told me the way you might recount where you prefer to park your car when you go to the mall.
It’s funny, and fantastic, how someone just passing through my periphery, a friend of a friend, can stop me cold like that. Really, I usually have to meet someone a couple of times before I can really notice them (I try not to be a jerk about these things, I’m just socially myopic), but John had a way of being unavoidable.
Thank God. Thank you, God, for not letting me miss meeting John Pedone.