Look In The Mirror, What Do You See? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   It all started in Global Studies. Of course I was upset. It was only third period and the week was moving so slowly. Almost everything Mrs. Chandelle said went in one ear and out the other. She passed out a passage written by a Nigerian, Oluadah Equiano, one of the slaves who went through the Middle Passage. I had read this account in fifth, eighth, and ninth grade, same person, same passage - yadda yadda yadda. I was not completely impartial to what had happened to the slaves - how could I be, but feelings are intimidating and scary. I normally just "yadda, yadda, yadda" everything: happiness, love, hate, jealously, anguish and depression, everything I fear the most.

Despite my feelings, I had to read the passage. It told how one terrible day, Oluadah's house had been invaded. He and his sister were tied up and taken out of their home, where they exchanged one last look before being sold to different masters. Every time he was sold, he moved further away from home, but he always believed that he would return. Then one day his master took him to the shore to be sold to Europeans. After testing his strength and other abilities, he was packed into a huge ship which carried slaves from Africa to the New World. The trip was horrible. For weeks, slaves were chained together in the lower decks, except when they were taken on the top deck to be hosed down with salt water that burned their open wounds. They were also fed periodically, just enough to keep them alive. Oluadah was frightened, as were the others. The slaves thought they had been taken into the hands of evil spirits when they saw the white skin and heard the strange language. Some were so scared that they tried to jump overboard or starve themselves to death.

Although I had read the passage before I had never understood the horror and pain of their suffering. This time I felt as if I were there. My eyes filled with tears. My skin burned, my stomach dropped and my heart ached.

"Now, if you're finished reading, pull your desks next to your partners and answer the three questions on the bottom of the handout," Mrs. Chandelle ordered. Her dull suit blended with the drab colors of the room.

I dragged my desk over to my partner, Karra, who was not about to meet me half way. She sat up straight with her legs crossed. I rolled my eyes and began reading the questions aloud:

"Number one: Do you think Oluadah and his sister were kidnapped by Europeans?" An uncomfortable silence followed, so I began to answer.

"I think Oluadah and his sister were kidnapped by Africans and sold by Africans. I think he would have mentioned it if they weren't African. Oluadah would have been more terrified."

"What?" she asked.

"Well, he was scared when he was being kidnapped but not as scared as he was when he went to the shore," I said rubbing my arms. My skin felt even stranger than before. Finally we got to the last question: Why did some slaves think death was preferable to enslavement?

I felt as if my skin would jump off my bones if I didn't do something.

"Like I think they wanted to um ... like die because they like wanted to go to heaven and stuff," she said.

My eyes flickered at her in anger and surprise. I had thought stereotypes of white suburban teenagers existed only in movies, but now I realized how true they could be.

"How could they want to go to Heaven if they weren't even Christian?" I asked. Karra looked at me weird. If she thought this, what she did she think of me? I wondered.

"Whatever, they wanted to die because of all the pain they were going through because they were scared. They had seen white people for the first time in their lives. What do you think they thought?" She gave me a look.

I looked down at my arm and I began to rub it even harder. I didn't feel human anymore. I felt everyone's eyes on me. Was I hallucinating? What was going on? I was scared. I was angry, and I was shocked. I sat in that chair for the rest of the period feeling dismal and upset. The colors in the room became brighter. Mrs. Chandelle's suit became blood red; Karra's eyes an icy blue, and her hair a brassy blonde. Why was everything changing?

Finally the period was over. Walking in the hall, I felt all eyes on me. I was relieved to get to Spanish. I sat in my seat, staring at one spot on the blackboard, but Spanish went almost as badly as Global Studies. Tears trickled uncontrollably down my cheeks. I grabbed my arms and cried. Someone wrote on the board "Yo tengo nunca" meaning, "I have nothing." The sentence became a blinding white blur. I stopped crying and stared at that sentence for the whole period.

I could relate to Oluadah. I know how it feels to be torn from a sibling. I remembered my brother, my late brother, and I felt the pain of all these years without him. I remembered the last day I saw him. I knew he hated living in the suburbs, with unfamiliar surroundings and people. The last thing he said was, "I'm going back to the city." I understood why. We understood each other. He stormed out the door with a strength, refinement, grandeur, and freedom I had never seen. I saw in his eyes, in that last look we exchanged, something that let me know I would never see him again.

I wanted to stop him but I didn't. I watched him ride his bike up the driveway. Hours later my parents came home without him. At that moment I knew how it felt to have nothing. I remember waking up the next morning and thinking it was all a dream - that I didn't hear and see my mother's pain.

After Spanish class I saw Marie. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Ah, nothing, I'm just having a bad day. That's all," I said. We began to walk down the stairs.

"You don't look too good," Marie said.

"I just don't feel well," I said with a stronger voice.

"Why?" Marie asked.

"Ahh, I don't know," I said lying through my teeth. I started to feel everyone's eyes on me again, but I tried to ignore it. Marie was still talking to me but I did not hear. We were standing in front of her locker. Billy was talking to someone and suddenly his eyes flickered my way. They were greenish blue and so intense they burned into mine. I felt even sicker.

"Aren't you going to class yet?" Marie asked. Then in an instant her eyes were blue.

"Oh - I, I have gym and left my gym pants at home so I can't play tennis with the rest of them, so I can I be a little late. I might as well go now. I'll see you later, Marie."

"See you later," she called.

I walked into the girls' locker room and looked in the mirror. I saw my short black hair and my weird lips, my long neck, and then the rest of me. I looked around at the brown lockers, the gray floor and the tiled walls. Erica passed by, and I whirled around as I caught sight of her bright red hair and pale white skin. I slowly turned back to the mirror. Big brown eyes flashed back at me, but it wasn't only my eyes that had changed. This time I could see the color of my skin, brown. c


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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