My Brown-Eyed Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 5, 2012
It was years ago, really, that the event occurred. It was a pre-adolescent, junior high, bus stop argument of sorts. The circumstances of the conflict seem trivial now. It could have been anything – a dirty look, a slightly broken heart, a bruised ego.

I had met three of my friends at a local playground in the afternoon. We had been released early from school due to parent-teacher conferences and we were celebrating our holiday with Pepsi and Twinkies. At thirteen we knew all too well that we were the coolest seventh graders in our school, possibly the world.

It was then that the trouble started. A group of ten or twelve eighth-graders approached our territory. Normally this would not have been terribly upsetting, but at first sight of this riotous crowd, I knew I was done for. At the center of this posse was a boy with whom I had long been engaged in a verbal conflict. The week before we had had a loud and upsetting argument in the hallway at school. He was winning the argument and making me out to be a fool. In that moment of desperation I followed the example of the politicians whom I adored by throwing my ethical and moral values out the window. I called him the most insulting name I could think of. I felt awful about it. I knew I had let down my closest friends and I had made myself into an appalling hypocrite. I even considered apologizing to this boy, but I was far too frightened to even speak to him after my ghastly slip of the tongue. I knew that my enemy was coming to the playground this afternoon in order to make me pay for my mistake.

The crowd approached, making slanderous remarks about me. The boy whom I had scorned stepped out of the crowd in order to yell and cuss directly to my face. One of his group, a girl, stepped forth and pushed me to the ground. From my position on the muddy lawn I could see an imposing figure emerging from the mob. She was the tallest, heaviest, most frightening girl I had ever laid eyes on. She had the highest hair and the most hateful, glaring eyes. I thought for sure that I would die at her hands. She walked slowly up to me, stepped over me to a dry patch of grass, and then sat next to me, staring into my eyes the whole time. Once she was seated, she did not touch me, nor did she speak. She simply looked into my soul.

I stared back in awe, and for those few moments I could see all the horrors of the world. Emanating from her dark brown irises was the hatred and sorrow acquired in the lifetime of an African-American girl. In the intensity of her glare I could see the pain and death of millions – the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition. I was trapped in visions of trails of tears, holocausts, and hundreds of years of discontent and submission. She sat there, her silent rage upon me.

The girl stood, still silent. She then reached out her hand to me. There was no emotion in her gesture, no pity or understanding. She simply offered her hand. I took it, and she hoisted me back onto my feet. I began to cry. I knew that I was safe; I had not been beaten and yet I was completely devastated. I had seen all the evils within me. I felt psychologically crushed.

My friends gathered around me. As my rivals dispersed, we gathered up our belongings and started walking home. As we walked, my friends talked about how wonderful it had been. They thought I had stared her down. They saw her as the one who was frightened. I knew that they were only trying to make me feel better and so I laughed, but said nothing. I could see that they would not understand. That girl had destroyed me. With just her eyes she had torn me apart. In doing so, she had laid a foundation for an entirely new person – someone who could now have strength, integrity, understanding, compassion – a bigger, better person than who I had been. I never learned her name, but there are times when I think back to her and the peaceful war that she waged … my brown-eyed girl.

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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