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The Color of Us
I stared at my reflection as my fingers ran up my neck. I squeezed the outlines of my larynx and felt the air getting hotter. My dried lips parted in pain as the insides of my neck burned. I didn’t want to look at myself again. A pair of dusty glasses, a dirty, unfashionable sweatshirt, and a skirt that I’ve had since third grade… I suppose they had a reason to call me names. I was freak, that’s all. I spent my lunches in the library rather than in the gymnasium, I liked Dickens better than Twilight, and I listened to Tchaikovsky instead of Kanye West. Worst of all, I was an immigrant who could not bring herself to belittle her own country and compatriots.
My black eyes turned red. I stumbled across to the closet and shut the doors tightly from within. Inside the unlighted room where I could barely stretch out my legs, I buried my face in the cloud of ancient clothes and cried. At first I trembled awkwardly and sniffed those silent tears as if afraid to be called a coward, but then I couldn’t help it anymore, I bit furiously into the nightgown draping down to my nose whilst my monstrous hands clutched my dark hairs and yanked. Screams after screams blasted from my throat, a thousand needles pierced my ears. Inside, the heart was stained with another shade of darkness.
I didn’t know what I had done. Every morning before biology I was greeted by that same group of girls and their feign pleasantries. I gave them my homework, every page they asked, and watched as they frantically copied every number and letter. I didn’t act this way out of fear or pride or charity. Frankly, I wanted their respect, and perhaps a little friendliness. I had kept this foolish dream alive for too long, long after they soaked my bowl of pasta with that rancid table rag and hollered in satisfaction as I scooped up the first macaroni and dropped my spoon in horror at dead ants floating about the yellow soup. I kept the dream alive long after that Philadelphia trip during which they told me to order “onion rings” when I asked what’s appropriate for an American lunch, and after I started eating they giggled treacherously and murmured among themselves about “some bad breath.” I still kept the dream alive after they printed a racist slang with sharpie on the raincoat that my mother had bought for my fourteenth birthday when I left it in the gym lockers
I had put up with it all, kept my voice locked. My father use to say that endurance is a virtue, and judgment will come by itself. Over the years I found my sanctuary in literature and classical music, I’d garnered the patience of Austen’s Anne Eliot and the resilience of Bronte’s Jane Eyre. But it wasn’t proof enough, not for today.
“That’s what her country does. Make poor, dirty, ugly people like her.”
These words reverberated in my ears. Even after eight years of coming here, I was still so shaken by the insult upon my homeland as if my lungs were set afire, consuming every piece of my body, mind, and soul. It felt as if the brightest marble in my chest of valuables was violently plucked away, and I’m left with a realm of nothingness.
For minutes I wanted bloody revenge. I wanted to prove to them by physical strength and aggression that my country never makes poor, dirty, ugly people. Yet as I crippled out from the dark closet and into my bedroom—faintly lit by the twilight sun, my eyes lingered upon a new book resting on my desk – “The Color Purple.” I dived into it immediately, the response I give to all books.
“You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.
I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.
Last spring after little Lucious come I heard them fussing. He was pulling on her arm. She say It too soon, Fonso, I ain't well. Finally he leave her alone. A week go by, he pulling on her arm again. She say Naw, I ain't gonna. Can't you see I'm already half dead, an all of these children…”
I didn’t know how many hours passed before I closed the book cover with eyelids swarmed by tears. I had taken a heartening journey just now, the journey to free my voice which has been caged for so long. It was no longer a plea, but an obligation. Those girls were plagued by a singular story, and I must bring a wider field to their perception.
I had done nothing wrong, it was the ignorance of the people in this brave new world that victimized the innocent. I am proud to have the tanned-yellow skin, the silky-soft hair. If any change would foment at all, then I must be the pioneer, just like Celie had became.
It was 12 AM when I powered on my laptop and typed: I stared at my reflection as my fingers ran up my neck…