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Johari Window was written in March 2006.
Johari Window


“Johari Window”


Written by

Tarl N. Telford


            The stolen purple crayon slid and bumped its way down the pitted plaster of the faded wall.  It outlined the four quadrants of an imaginary window.  It drove its point home in a mashed mess at the fourth corner.

            “It’s a Johari Window.”  The young man, Balder, said proudly.  “I know it looks like any other window, but this one is a window into my soul.”  He glanced around at his co-conspirators as if anticipating their questions.  “And into your soul, too, Krabber Dan.”  He brushed his fingers lightly along the upper left quadrant of the purple.  “This is where we are right now.  Everything you see in front of you – all this.”  His hand made a frenzied swirling gesture, and he half-laughed at his manic motion.  “This is what I show you.”

            A silent snicker from the back drew a withering glare.  Balder frowned at the display of nonchalance in the frozen space between them.  He rubbed a hand over his uncombed hair, “I have half a mind …” He raised a fist, and then lowered it, letting his threat hang in the air like acrid smoke – unmoving and utterly unmistakable.

            Balder dropped down to his knees and stared the offender in the face.  Unblinking black eyes matched his searing gaze as the seconds ticked on.  “I’m not crazy.  I heard you.  Whether you admit it or not, I know what I heard.  Voices.  Yours.”  His finger trembled as he pointed it directly between the eyes.  “Yours.  That’s right, Monkeyface, yours.

            “You’d better listen.  This is how we’re getting out of here.  Everybody understand?”  The chorus of silent acquiescence filled the small room.

            Balder stiffly rose to his feet and rubbed his knees with the heel of his hand to erase the hard marks from the floor.  He cupped his hands and shook the fat crayon around in them, juggling his scattered thoughts.  Seconds thundered on, like heartbeats between the four walls.  He turned his back on the group, daring them to interrupt again.

            “No!” he shouted, still facing the wall, and the almost raised hand dropped back down.  Then softer, but still steely firm, “No.  We are not opening up to girls.  No girls.  Not in our club.  We don’t need them.  They don’t understand.”

            The purple window beckoned, and Balder drew diagonal lines in the lower left and upper right quadrants.  “Like I said, this up here is what you see – what I let you see.”  He gestured inconsequently between the two of them.  “What you see, what you don’t see.  Up here is what you see, and this is what you don’t see.   See. Don’t see.”

He placed his palm flatly on the white wall.  “These two here are tricky ones.  I see them, thought.  Watch closely and you’ll see them, too.”

            Balder’s eyes blazed as he wildly scribbled all over the lower left quadrant.  His teeth worked feverishly at his lower lip as he stared in fixed concentration.  “That, you see, is hidden.  You can’t see it now.  I hid it from you.  Those are my places.  My secrets.”

            He snorted out a great exasperated sigh, “No, I can’t tell you, Krabber Dan, because then it wouldn’t be a secret.  And then you’d just go and tell Monkeyface anyway.  Then he’d tell Pinky, and Pinky always talks with Mr. Kennedy when I’m not around.”  He tapped the purple scribbles his stubby crayon.  “This is mine, not yours.”

            A slow smile twisted Balder’s lips as he looked over at Monkeyface.  The two beady eyes stared back.  “I think you know what this is.”  His pink hand circled broadly around the other set of diagonal lines in the upper right corner.  “Yeah.”  He nodded.  “This is me.  That much you know, or that you think you know.  This is when I’ve got milk on my lip and you don’t tell me.  This is when I don’t comb my hair and it sticks up.”

            Krabber Dan fell over.  Balder narrowed his eyes and hissed, “It’s not funny.  It’s for real.”  His fist pounded against the wall, rattling the small night light.  “This is my soul that I can’t see, and you can.  It’s not funny.”  The lump formed hard and immovable in his throat.  He tried to swallow it down, but it grew until it hurt – hurt so much that it made his eyes sting.

            His voice croaked, “Stop laughing at me!”  He choked as the words tumbled out, “Shut up.  You’re all idiots.  You laugh at me and I’ll leave you here.  I’ll leave all of you.  I mean it.  I will.  This is my way out.”  He pointed at the purple outlined window.  “I’m opening that, and I’m going to crawl out into the outside.  Freedom for me.  I’ll leave you here - all of you, to rot and die.”

            Tears streamed down his cheeks.  His face burned hot as the rain of mocking laughter assailed him, echoing from the four encroaching walls.  They couldn’t understand him.  Nobody understood.  Those heartless backstabbers.  Nothing they did ever amounted to anything.  Always too afraid to try.  They never did anything but whisper their plans in the dark – couldn’t even say them out loud.  He’d show them.  He’d leave them here.  Leave each and every one of them.

            The tears dried up in the hot sunlight of brilliant inspiration - he wouldn’t tell them.

            The fourth corner of the Johari Window was the most secret.  He wouldn’t tell them.  Though his eyes stung and his throat was still choked with stone, Balder forced a smile.  He looked down at them, the four gathered conspirators in this plot for a human soul.

            These four walls would be their prison now.  They would never learn the secret fourth corner of the Johari Window.  It was so secret that Balder didn’t even know everything that was in there.  But it was inside his soul.  He would see it; would force himself.  There was nothing about him that he couldn’t know.  He had to know.  He had to open the window.

            Have to know.  Have to open the window.

            His forehead pounded against the wall in the purple fourth corner.

Have to know. Clunk.

Have to know.  Clunk.  Make it stick.  Make it learn.  Have to open the window.

Must know.  Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.  Clunk.

Must know unknown.

The pounding inside Balder’s head drowned out the constant banging on the wall.  What was that noise?  Didn’t they know that he was trying to have a meeting?  Why was someone pounding on the wall?  No respect.

It must have been Monkeyface who squealed.  He always wanted to go through the window first.  Wouldn’t let Balder go.  Never could be trusted.  Crybaby.

The door blasted open, spinning the sock monkey over the cold tile floor into the opposite wall.  A burly orderly rushed in, roughly pulling Balder backwards onto the small bed.

A purple bruise crowned Balder’s sweating forehead.  He pulled away and screamed as the orderly whipped out the restraints.  Balder thrashed and kicked, crying, begging for help, for mercy, but his friends all turned their backs.  Just like all the times before – they couldn’t be trusted.

Hot tears again flooded his eyes.  A howl of infinite pain exploded from Balder’s chest as his fingers clutched out for the Johari Window.  But they stopped just short, snagged by the restraints.  In horrified shock, Balder turned to see his wrist tied to the bed frame.  Stinging tears dripped down his face as he watched the orderly tie the other wrist to the bed frame.  Gasps of horrible rage shook his body as his words tried to fight through the gathered stones in his throat.

“Monkeyface, you worthless … rag!”

The large orderly bent over and picked up the tattered sock monkey from the floor.  His thick fingers touched the beady black eyes.  “Nobody betrayed you, kid.  They just couldn’t handle you anymore.”  His eyes, nearly buried under bushy eyebrows, flashed over to the scribbled purple lines on the recently scrubbed wall.

Orange pain shot through Balder’s eyes as the rough hands pinched his wrist, forcing his fingers open.  “We don’t take crayons from the rec room, kid.  House rules.”  He tossed Monkeyface onto the bed next to Balder and gestured to the purple window.  “It doesn’t go anywhere.  Just in here – in your head.  Sleep tight, kid.”

The door closed with a click that echoed through the eternities.

Balder turned his face away from that lying traitor – that two-faced tattling rag Monkeyface.  No amount of apologizing could make him trust those black eyes again.  After a few moments of painful silence next to that tattletale, Balder contorted his body and thrust Monkeyface off the bed.

He peered upward as far as he could, but he couldn’t see Krabber Dan or Pinky.  There was Mr. Kennedy on the dresser, safe and sound.  He would watch over them when Balder left.

            He focused on the Johari Window – on the elusive fourth corner.  That mysterious part of himself that he didn’t know.  What was more, he didn’t even know that he didn’t know.  But there it was, in purple wax on the wall in front of him.  It was real.  The feeling in his head told him it was real.  It had to be.

            He had to know that part of his soul.  When he did, the window would open, and he would be free.  He would leave these lying cowards behind.  Leave them locked up forever.  Leave them here and forget about them.  Leave them here and pretend they never existed.  Pretend that he couldn’t hear them and lock them away; then close the window behind him.

            Balder turned his head around, finding the opening of the pillowcase.  He twisted and turned, working his head inside, savoring the damp coolness of the sweat-stained pillowcase against his face.  He arched his neck, pulling the pillow under his shoulders.  The pillowcase was tight against his open mouth.  It smelled of unwashed hands, sweaty feet, and broken tears.

            Through the threadbare pillowcase he could just make out the purple Johari Window.

            The orderly peered through the small window in the door and shook his head sadly.  On the floor next to the kid lay his prize possessions – the ragged sock monkey, the lobster bib from Krabber Dan’s restaurant, the pink shoelace, and there was the fifty-cent piece on the dresser, exactly where the kid’s father had put it.

            He shook his head to clear the sentimental cobwebs.  Nobody should ever be that lost and alone.  He doesn’t even know he’s lost.

            If he had bothered to look, Balder would have seen a friendly face looking in the real window.  Instead, he fixated on the unknown corner of the imaginary Johari Window.  His mouth gaped open beneath the pillowcase.  Hot breath filled his nostrils as his eyes dimmed.

            There it was.  Purple and black.  His heartbeat thrummed in his forehead.  Ka-thump.  Ka-thump.  It all made sense.  The Johari Window.  Open.  Closed.  His soul. Open.  Closed.  Locked away.  Silenced.


Balder slowly drifted down into the yawning purple unknown.  He wasn’t coming back.  He would step through the Johari Window and he wouldn’t look back.  No.  Not once.  He would leave them all behind.

Halfway underneath the bed, two black eyes glittered patiently.  A slandered sentinel of a childhood cut tragically short.  Soon the Johari Window would open and let the trapped child back out. Then they would be happy again – best of friends, just like they used to be.  The two eyes glittered loyally upward at the silent boy above.

            In the purple darkness, two points of light watched the boy slip through the open window into madness.  Watched and waited.