Two Voices: "What I Mean" And "A Knight In Shining Armor" This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "What I Mean"



Some days it seems that no one understands me. For instance, my mom will start the morning off with a "hello" and a "you've got to get rid of that awful shirt" not understanding that the shirt is my favorite and I could never throw it away. Then she might comment on how long and straggly my brown hair is and suggest I get it cut. She doesn't even consider that I like my hair long and so does my girlfriend Frieda. Mom, when in a bad mood, may stoop so low as to attack my diamond earring, a present from Frieda, never realizing that it symbolizes more to me than a hole in the ear. It stands for individuality, becoming a man, and having a girlfriend who cares enough to buy such a beautiful present.

When I leave the house for school, Rick and Steve, two kids my age who I really hate, will tease me about basically the same things Mom attacked. They call me a headbanger, whatever that means, and say, "Isn't it time you got a haircut?" For some reason, people automatically believe you're some kind of druggie freak if you're a boy with long hair. Hey, my philosophy is, if girls can take pride in their long hair, why can't guys? I mean, girls expect equal rights for themselves, and men should have no less. Also, some kids think all I do is hang around home listening to heavy metal or partying. In my case, that's not true. I admit to liking some heavy metal bands, but I also enjoy jazz and some classical. Frieda loves classical, and her enthusiasm for it rubbed off on me. Also, I don't do drugs and never have and hopefully never will. I believe they can be deadly and people who take them are stupid and putting their lives at a high risk.

When I get to school, my teachers will give me surly glances, but at least they don't comment on my appearance because they are professionals and it's none of their business. For some reason, they always assume I didn't do my homework. As they collect the work, they'll look at me and say, "I hope we did our homework, Mr. Conneley." I have missed a homework once, ONCE, in the three years I have been at high school. My grades are not exceptional-genius kind, but I get some A's, a lot of B's, and the occasional C. Luckily, I am an only child, so my parents don't have anyone to compare me to. Frieda has an older sister who's an Einstein to the tenth power, and her parents always say, "You should try hard like Olivia does, dear." Frieda's grades aren't bad at all, they're even better than mine, and still her parents are disappointed.

My gym teacher has this weird notion that boys with earrings can't run or play sports. I don't know where he got that from. Every class with him, he'll say to me, "Conneley, if you're not feeling up to this, I can understand. Just sit over there and don't do anything destructive." He's really weird.

But, even on those days when I feel everyone is judging me by my outside, rather than my inside, I know I can count on Frieda to always know what I mean. That's what I like about her, she always listens to me and understands how I feel. She doesn't judge me by my outside and I don't judge her by her outside, even though she is a little too preppy-like. We are a good couple because we try to understand each other, even when it isn't easy. I think if more people tried to understand each other, tried to find out what that person really meant by their actions and appearance, we'd get along a lot better. But hey, what do I know? I'm just a "headbanger," right?n



"A Knight in Shining Armor"



My life was miserable without Eric. He is so sweet, so understanding, that you wonder why everyone can't be that way. My parents, for example, are always trying to get me to be more like my snobby sister Olivia. She gets straight A's without even trying, while I get A's and high B's with a lot of effort. She's also involved in almost every club at the high school and is running for president of the senior class. She has more friends than I could ever dream of. But I don't need all that activity and I think my grades are just fine. All I really need is Eric.

I met Eric in tenth grade, just last year, at one of the school's rallies. I sat down next to him with my friend Teresa who dragged me to the rally so she could see Henry Goodman, the best quarterback our school has ever had. I began reading Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist while Teresa sat engrossed in Henry. Eric tapped me lightly on the shoulder and our eyes met and the first thing I noticed was the clearness of his green eyes, almost like looking into colored crystal. He said, "Do you like Charles Dickens' books? Or is that just a homework assignment?"

I said, "Both," breathing a little heavily. The second thing I noticed about him was his shiny, long brown hair. Most kids I knew with long hair looked as though they never washed it, but Eric's looked clean and soft. "I love Charles Dickens, but this happens to be an assignment. How about you? Do you like Charles Dickens?"

"No. I liked A Christmas Carol because of its message, but otherwise, I think he tries to cram too many words into one sentence. His paragraphs are about a page long. It's just too wordy. Like he's talking but not really saying a thing."

"But that's his technique. Sometimes he uses eloquent words and long sentences for satirical purposes. To make fun of the upper class or the law system for example."

"ABrevity is the wit of the soul,'" he responded and smiled.

The third thing I noticed about him was his perfect smile. It made me feel all warm inside, like it was a lightbulb beaming on my face. I dropped my book. Teresa turned to look at me and picked up my book. "Are you okay, Frieda?" she asked, giggling.

"Your name is Frieda?" he asked me.

"Yes. Awful isn't it? I was named for my grandmother."

"It's a good thing I wasn't named for my grandfather. I don't think I'd like to be called Connor Conneley."

"What's your real name?" I questioned him.

"Eric."

Eric. After that, we talked on the phone, went to the mall together, and he asked me out on a date. Since that date, Eric and I have officially been a couple. I'm glad. My parents aren't. They think his hair is too long and his clothes are too torn and they hate his earring. They think he should get a better job than the one he has working at the Lantern Bookstore. But he loves it there.

Olivia is dating a college freshman named Thad Parker. He attends Harvard, is going to be a lawyer, has a Mercedes, has short blond hair, blue eyes, perfect manners. He makes me sick. He really is so fake. Still, he has softened Olivia and she calls him her "knight in shining armor." Mom and Dad love him.

I don't care what my parents think about me or Eric. We are very happy living our so-called average lives, because we make them special when we're together. The best thing about Eric is that he is so open and easy to talk to. We don't have to go to the movies or a fancy restaurant like Olivia and Thad. We just sit at his house and talk about anything. Maybe Eric's armor seems a little rusty to everyone else, but I'm glad he rode into my life. And I hope we live happily ever after, despite our parents.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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