I've realized something. People don't like me. They just don't like me, and it's all my parents' fault. See, my mom is black and my dad is white. That makes me "mixed". I mean, I hate those questions asking for your race. I'm Caucasian and African American. I never know which one to check. I dared to ask my mom once. She told me, "Check whatever you want. I don't care." She wasn't very helpful. Other kids at the school don't like me. If I don't know what or who I am, then how are they supposed to know who to like? It makes sense to me. So, right off the bat, I just push them away, not needing anyone. In class, I just keep to myself as much as I can. The only extracurricular activity I have is boxing. I go after school to the arena, suit up, and punch. It feels so good to punch. To throw my arms and hands ahead of me and feel that weight against my swing is pure love. My coach says I have "potential". He doesn't say that I'm good, just that I have this "potential". I don't think he likes me either.
I have one close friend. She lives next door to me, and has been there for years now. Her name is Nalani. She and I have had our … difficulties lately. I told her that I didn't know if I was black or white and she got mad at me and huffed away. So, Nalani hasn't talked to me in a few days. I thought she was the only one in this world who cared, but I suppose I was wrong. We're in Spanish together and she hasn't even looked at me.
After school last Wednesday, we were sitting on my steps outside my house talking. This was before she stormed off, of course. I was asking her why nobody likes me. She smiled at me for a moment, like she thought I was being silly. I was taken aback at her not taking me seriously. She saw I was being serious and that she was on the verge of hurting my feelings. Yes, I'm a guy with feelings. Get over it, people. She told me, "Dom, it's not that nobody likes you. It's … well… you don't like people."
The hell I don't. I like people just fine. They're… well… they're judgmental. Then it dawned on me. She was right. I don't like people. I'm like a silent bully. I throw them down in my mind before I even get to know them. I made a mental promise to myself to try and open my mind more and try not to judge them right away.
That next day, I went to school. I tried to put myself in other people's shoes. Take, for example, Sean in my Biology class. He's gay. He's open about it and comfortable with himself. He doesn't necessarily flaunt it, but I envy his confidence. I tried to put myself in his shoes. He can't help who he is, it's just a part of him, but it's not all of him. I doubted he was one-dimensional. Humans rarely are. We all have our layers. After class, I asked Sean if he had a minute. He followed me down the hall to the stairwell that nobody ever uses. "How is it that you are so confident with who you are?"
"Do I appear confident?" His question racked me.
"Well, yeah. You seem so sure of yourself and of who you are. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous."
Sean seemed confused and surprised at the same time. "I'm only a sophomore, Dominick. I have no clue as to who I am. I question whether I'm even gay or not on a daily basis."
I was totally thrown for a loop by Sean and his reaction. "Dude, I really had no idea. Hey, what are you doing after school today?"
He, in fact, had no big plans. I invited him to the arena, see if he wanted to punch out some bags with me. Sean shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure."
That afternoon, we went to the arena. I suited up. When I came out, Sean was already at a big bag punching the shit out of it. "Whoa, whoa. You have a lot of pent up anger."
That's when Sean admitted that he was being bullied by someone at the school. "He even wrote on everyone's Facebook page. It's gone viral now. Sean Holmes is a faggot. They're laughing at me." He gave a good solid punch to the bag for good measure.
That day, I made a new friend.
I have it all figured out. I need to learn to like people. But two days later, Sean got mad at me. There's a pattern here somewhere, I swear. He asked if I was gay and I said, "Good god, no." I thought I made a good recovery. "But it's cool that you are, you know. It's just not my thing." Apparently my recovery wasn't as smooth as I had thought. So, Sean wasn't speaking to me.
Back to square one, I realize that nobody likes me. I was laying in bed last night, over the covers, thinking back to the past few days. Nalani mentioned that I don't like people. Am I really that judgmental? Am I really so quick to assume they won't like me? What is it that I'm really angry at?
I'm angry at my parents. They're not even together. I live in this shithole of a house with my mom. Did her and my dad decide ahead of time, Hey, let's screw with this kid's life. Let's make a baby, he'll come out mixed. He won't know who he is. Let's give him a white-man's name if he comes out looking black as night.
I'm angry at Nalani. She's supposed to be my friend. Friends stick by each other, not leave them in the dust. It's been four days since our fight.
I'm angry at Sean. I thought we were becoming friends. He seemed like such a nice guy. We were getting along real well. We talked about his bully, we talked about Nalani, and we talked about guy stuff. It was cool. He gets all huffy about some remark that I didn't mean.
I'm angry at…
And then it hit me, like a left clocking me in the jaw. I'm angry at myself. I don't like myself. I didn't know who I was. The black/white thing shouldn't even be an issue. I could check Hispanic on those dumb things; it doesn't mold me into who I am. It shouldn't mold me into who I am. I'm black and white, but it's not all who I am. I'm not a one-dimensional person, either. I have layers. I'm a guy. I'm a guy working his way through school, hitting the arena a few times a week to blow off some steam. I'm just a guy who has these things called feelings. I can feel. And if I can feel, I can empathize. If I can empathize, I can be sympathetic. If I can be those things, then it doesn't matter if I'm black, white, green, or blue. I can't let that tell me who I am. I tell me who I am.
I'm a guy.