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I gazed at her, this random beautiful black girl
Who is a stranger to me.
I observed every aspect of her, from her
Thick hair, to her full eyelashes, to her deep dimples, to her full lips
and I saw the twinkle of recollection stirred in her light brown eyes.
The look in those eyes let you know
She was so far gone in thought.
I saw how her cheekbones shifted and lifted
With each memory that brought happiness to her heart,
Like playing hide-n-go seek and arguing over who got to be Johnny 3000
Or playing tag until mama called them in for dinner
That seemed so far away,
So out of grasp.
Then I saw
How her shoulders sagged, and
How that light that had shone so brightly in her eyes;
How it drowned in premature tears, and
How her lips cast the shadow of a diminishing smile.
The dark dreams she had compacted in her small closet
Had found their way out.
Coming home to my grandmother swimming in tears,
Getting a buzz cut because the mammogram confirmed her fears
Running towards her, yelling “mama please don’t swing”
Because if she would have swung at her prodigal son
Well, that would have ruined everything in front of everyone.
Waking to my mother’s sobs trying to be constricted,
‘Cause that knock on the door that morning
Said we were to be evicted
Calling out to deaf ears at 3 a.m. in the morn
Not two days after her baby girl is born
Searching the streets of Shiloh giving her reassuring hugs
Hoping and praying my cousin’s not on another hunt for drugs
Hearing the echo of the despair, worry, and hurt that characterized my desperate cry,
Because my mama’s in the hospital,
So who, what, when, where, and why?
Contemplating whether or not suicide would end my life
At the sorry age of eight
‘Cause I was tired of being sick,
And sick of being hurt,
And hurt ‘cause all the people I thought loved me
Were the ones tearing me down,
And torn down because I allowed those
Bruising actions, and
Searing looks, and
Plant themselves in me.
Rooted in my heart.
Blooming in my ear.
Whispering the things I wished I didn’t believe
Daddy raped mommy so that makes you a mistake.
Don’t you hate it that you look just like him?
You hair is nappy like a thicket
Why don’t you do something with it?
Why you so dark?
Your lips are big.
Your nose is flat.
Your ears stick out.
Your head is massive.
You know what?
You ain’t gon’ ever amount to nothing
You too boyish, ugly, quiet, stupid, chunky, nerdy, whiny, stinky, charcoal black,
You’re stuck up suck up who only knows to muck up
Each and everything you do,
Now, wait a minute, hold up.
That was caged, shackled, bound, and
Thrown into a stone cold prison
Made of metal
Made of hate
Made of resentment
Made of life.
And that was my life.
Gazing into the soul of this strange girl,
I had mistaken empathy for sympathy,
The sick thing is that wasn’t even a fraction of my reality.
No, that didn’t even crack the door of the people, obstacles, and pessimistic trains that I have had to transcend in my thirteen years of life, but
That was me.
Scratch that, this is me.
Realizing this, I was scared to again gaze into the eyes
Of this girl who just told me everything about myself,
Without opening her mouth.
But I finally summed up enough courage.
I sized her up and bravely told her that I
Knew why she was here, I
Knew that I had to stop running away from my problems and my fears, I
Knew that her and I were exactly the same, and
I should have realized this long ago.
With a shaking hand,
I reached out, and
I touched the smooth, hard, transparent hands
Of this stranger with which I had so much in common.
I decided right then and there
That I would put my past behind me
I had decided to live.
I took a brand new breath
And let that impulsive decision
Circulate throughout the veins of my body,
With every stuttering heartbeat.
I silently thanked this girl, who
Simultaneously swiped soul cleansing tears
From her eyes.
Her work here was done.
She had given me all that she could,
Which was self discovery.
My inner epiphany.
A revelation within me.
We nodded farewell to one another, and
With her permission
I then calmly stepped back.
I picked up a heavy brick,
I shattered my reflection in the mirror