The Boy with the Blue Eyes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 1, 2012
As we stepped out onto the dusty, cracked stone sidewalk I pulled my scarf over my head with one hand, while quickly shoving what few hairs hadn’t fit into my ponytail under with the other, glancing left and right to make sure no one had seen. We were stepping out of a restaurant located in the middle of Tehran, the capital city of the country Iran, and as the sun beat down onto the arid street, I turned towards the front door of the restaurant, hands on my hips, waiting impatiently for my relatives to come out.

They were talking animatedly about when they should meet up again and about dates and times when they were available. It was amazing that, even in public, where speaking of the news, about the government, or even about the country can get you arrested, my family was still able to find a million and one topics to discuss.

“Boy, they sure do talk a lot!” my cousin, Yasmin, chirped.

“Well I hope they hurry it up, I’m dying from all this heat!” my little sister complained as she wiped off her forehead on the end of my scarf.

I quickly snatched it away from her, looking down sadly at the large stain the sweat had left on my favorite green scarf. My sister and cousin did not need to wear the scarves, as they were still under age and hadn’t matured yet. I, on the other hand, being 12, was fully dressed in the heavy, warm and uncomfortable Islamic couture.

Iran is an Islamic Republic, and, by law, women are forced to cover their entire bodies, with the exception of their hands and faces. This means closed toed shoes (preferably black), floor-length pants (thick and black), elongated shirt-like dresses that go down your arms to stop abruptly at your wrists (any dark color is acceptable, but usually black is a good choice), and, above all, a head scarf, called a hijab, which must cover ALL head hair (did you guess it? That’s right, black).

I stared scornfully at my sister, who cackled maliciously. I rolled my eyes and looked around, trying to remember from which direction we had come.

The broken sidewalk was riddled with cracks, bumps and holes, revealing that it had not been repaired in some time. All of Iran’s sidewalks were like this, as no one had bothered to clean up much after the war with Iraq. As I looked around more closely, I noticed the street was almost deserted, except for one or two exceptions. Then I noticed a figure coming closer and closer, and as I squinted, I began to make out a tiny person.

He was a petite, brown-haired boy, no more than 7, and was sprinting towards us, holding in either hand long packages that scraped along on the sidewalk beside him. The packages seemed to be made of plastic with hundreds of what seemed to be flimsy decks of cards, but, as he drew nearer, I saw they were not cards but Kleenex packets. He ran straight up to my relatives, stopping abruptly in front of my aunt and her husband, who were conversing with my great-uncle.

As I looked at the boy, I noticed his sandals were so worn that most of his foot touched the sidewalk. He wore short, frayed corduroy pants and a yellowed t-shirt, which was drenched with sweat and smeared with dirt. His reddened, burnt skin told me that he had been out in the sun quite regularly for some time. But above all this I noticed one distinct feature very clearly--his blue eyes.

These eyes were not just any color blue; they were neither the light blue of the sky, nor the dark blue of the sea. They were somehow a mixture of both and more. To this day I still look for any color that can compare to the eyes of the young boy from then, and even after many years of searching, none that I find do justice to the breathtaking beauty of those from my memory.

The boy quickly caught his breath, and then began promptly, addressing my aunt and her husband, “Hello, good sir and ma’am. I have these Kleenex’s and I’m sure that you could find some use for them. I will give you 1 pack for 100 toman,” (Back then, 100 toman’s were equivalent to 10 U.S. cents).

“I’m sorry, but we really have no need of them,” my uncle replied in an almost automatic voice.

Beggars in Iran weren’t anything new. In fact, there were quite a lot of them, ranging from toddlers to people older than my own grandparents. The problem is, while you would like to help, the things that they try to sell you are usually very dirty. Just one tissue packet could give you all sorts of unfriendly viruses or bacterias. The best way to help out is just to give the people money, but then another problem arises--those people who are trying to sell you something won’t take your money without giving you some of their product. They just refuse, like it might hurt their pride or insult them.

My aunt looked down at the fragile, young boy, and swiftly pulled out her wallet.

“I’ll take five,” she told the boy.

After he gave her the five packets he rushed on to the next group of people, my mother and her best friend.

“Kleenex packets, ma’am? They are very useful,” he asked politely.

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any room in my bag,” my mother’s friend replied.

“Oh, please buy one or two, ma’am,” the boy pleaded, “I do have so many, and they are very useful.”

My mother, who is a very kind-hearted woman and felt pity in the boys despairing look, asked him for 8 packets, explaining to her friend that she was always running low on Kleenex’s. Following my mother’s example, her friend bought two.

During this time my great-uncle and great-aunt had been saying their good-byes and were now heading towards their car. They had just started the engine when the boy sprinted in front of the car and began knocking on their window. My great-aunt forced down the window, and began to yell ferociously at the boy. But he was only concerned about one thing;

“Kleenex’s?” he asked.

“Kleenex’s?!” my great-aunt gasped, astonished, as if she could not believe she had really just heard what she thought she had. Suddenly, her face seemed to turn purple with anger. “Get out of here, boy!”

“Please!” he begged, holding on fiercely to the car.

“No, I don’t need any Kleenex’s!” my aunt told him sternly. “They are dirty and have sickness.”

“They don’t, I promise. Please, please,” the boy moaned.

“We can always wash them,” my uncle offered. My aunt looked at him harshly, then, determining it was better not to argue, she gave the boy his money and seized the packets from his dirty hands.

After this, he finished his round of selling tissues to my family, thanking every one of them kindly and genuinely, and then began sprinting down the street once again.

I watched as he ran, wondering where he was going, and then questioning whether he even knew. I began thinking about what life must be like for him; where he lives, what he eats, and whom he’s with. I wondered if the boy had any parents, and whether or not they sold Kleenex’s also. As all these questions began piling up, I thought about my life and about how lucky I was. I usually never took anything for granted, and was always very grateful, but I never really understood what I had until I saw that boy with the blue eyes.

That day was very memorable for me, as it was the first day of my life where I really experienced “stepping into someone else’s shoes” and realizing how lucky I was to be living with family and in a home. The boy’s perseverance also taught me a great lesson, that of the great fight for life we must battle every day, some harder than others. This lesson is one many people learn, through many different ways and to various different extents, but somehow, I feel mine has impacted me more greatly than anyone could imagine. Those blue eyes are now a symbol for me, for opening my own eyes and for being able to take everything as it comes and never to question anything, as life has it’s own ways of changing around, and you never know what could happen.

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