The Choice

The Choice
By Carrie Kreth

“Brown?”

“Yes.”

“You’re sure?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well, the girls like blue.”

“Blue, then.”

“Hair?”

“Of course!”

“I mean, which color?”

“Um… brown?”

“Okay, but…”

“Yes?”

“The girls prefer something a bit more drastic, like sheer black, or blond.”

“Black, then.”

“And height?”

“What’s best?”

“Well, short is not ideal, medium is practical, but tall is what the ladies prefer these days.”

“Tall, then.”

“And skin?”

“…Brown?”

Brown?”

“…No?”

“You’re likely to be treated poorly if your skin is colored.”

“Will I? I thought brown was beautiful.”

“But you certainly can’t be too white either.”

“Well then, what is best?”

“A nice, golden tan. With some white teeth, you’ll be very likeable indeed.”

“Then that’s best, isn’t it?”

 

But something went wrong. I was born too early. The body that was to be so likeable was burdened with cerebral palsy. I can’t move my legs properly. My mommy has blue eyes, but my daddy has brown, so I ended up with sewage green. My sickly skin is pale as the aspen trees, purple veins show beneath it at my joints, and everywhere. And now I have to learn to love my defective body because nobody else does.

 

“Black.”

“You don’t want that.”

“Why not?”

“The boys like blond. It’s flashier.”

“Blond sounds beautiful then.”

“And your eyes?”

“Doesn’t blue go good with blond?”

“Oh yes, but it’s too typical.”

“Typical?”

“The guys are over it.”

“Oh… what would they prefer then?”

“Brown. Most definitely brown.”

“I’ll take your word.”

“Height?”

“Short.”

“You’re sure?”

“Aren’t men tall?”

“But short is unattractive to most.”

“Tall, then.”

“But men feel unmanly if their woman is taller than they are.”

“Between, then.”

“Skin?”

“…White.”

“That isn’t really what you want, is it?”

“…Yes?”

“Listen, men like a warm tan. Makes a woman look young and healthy and beautiful.”

“Whatever is most beautiful sounds best then.”

 

But something went wrong. I was never born. My beautiful body was singed within my mother’s comfortable womb then mangled, shredded. In bloody bits it was removed before I could possess it. Dead. Mother was selfish, father was frightened. I don’t understand. They are beautiful. They have enough. We could have been happy, them with their pretty little girl. And now I’ll never be loved the way that I could, because I never existed.

 

“Green.”

“Unique and intriguing, if the right color.”

“Why does that matter?”

“If your eyes are beautiful, people will be attracted to them.”

“That doesn’t matter to me.”

“Hmm. Then your height?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Ladies like tall.”

“Whatever I’m given will be enough.”

“Okay… and skin?”

“I don’t care.”

“Surely you do.”

“I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Hair, eyes, skin, height… what does it matter in the end?”

“It will determine much of your life there.”

“A blip in time, nothing more. What I do will determine the end.”

“How you look determines what you do.”

“Who I am, not what I look like.”

“But what if that’s not good enough for them?”

“It’s good enough for me.”

“Well, what do you want then?”

“A brain. An intelligent one.”

“The most intelligent are sometimes the most unpopular.”

“I want to learn as much as I can.”

“By socializing with others?”

“And I’ll share that knowledge.”

“Wisdom, knowledge… that is what you want?”

“Yes. That sounds best.”

 

But something went wrong. Momma had bad habits. She let them win so I lost my brain. I sit, unaware of most of what happens around me. I hear words, but they are hard to understand. Momma gets mad at me when I don’t know what to do. She says I’m too old to behave that way, and yet I’m not like other people. They have real friends. Some people pretend to be mine and smile at me, talking to me like I’m a baby. I embarrass dada, so he left. And now I think—with what little brain I do have—that I am too dumb to be loved.

 

“Blue would be nice.”

“Very nice indeed.”

“And long, beautiful, flawless hair.”

“Dirty blond?”

“Sounds lovely.”

“Would you like to be tall?”

“Sure, why not?”

“There should be plenty of tall men.”

“But what I want most of all…”

“Yes?”

“…what I’ve dreamed of all this time…”

“I’d love to hear.”

“…is to have fair, bright, softly white skin.”

“Perfect!”

“Not as white as a cloud, but white enough that I’ll glow in the sun.”

“They will notice you, I have no doubt.”

“Then that sounds best.”

 

But something went wrong. I didn’t get the skin I wanted because two browns don’t make a white. I call it chocolate skin, but some of the others call it mud, filth. Sometimes I get frustrated with my hair because it is poofy and crazy and curly and short—not like the other girls who have long and flawless locks. I’m the only chocolate in the box, so everybody sees me, but nobody knows me. I sit alone in my designated area, and in the back of the bus. Ma and pa try to make me feel better when people say cruel things, but sometimes I just want to be like them. And now I question every day what the color of my skin has to do with love.

 

“Green, blond, medium, warm tan.”

“You know what you want.”

“Of course I do.”

“And I guarantee they will like you.”

“I’ve been dreaming for a long time.”

“You can go and live now.”

“I’ll change the world.”

“You can, yes.”

“I’ll be beautiful.”

“That’s what the men want.”

“I’ll be strong.”

“You’ll accomplish many things.”

“I’ll be healthy.”

“You’ll lead a long life.”

“Yes. That sounds best.”

 

But something went wrong. I was born in a forgotten corner of the world. Peace is as foreign to me as fame. I live alone under the edge of a roof because I lost mom and dad in one of many violent raids. The people are desperate, so desperate themselves that they are blind to my scrawny body with its brown skin stretched like leather over my feeble bones. My weak eyes and bulging belly scream for help, but nobody can hear it over the sounds of their own roaring stomachs. I’m deteriorating, dying. And now I am starving for love, which is harder to find than my next meal.

 

“Burgundy.”

“I almost forgot hair comes in that color.”

“It’s glamorous.”

“Eyes?”

“Sapphire blue.”

“Striking.”

“They’ll have to be.”

“You want to attract, huh?”

“Of course.”

“Then may I recommend a handsomely tall height?”

“Yes.”

“And warm, glowing skin to compliment your personality?”

“Yes, yes, it’s all very good.”

“Many guys will envy you. The ladies will adore you.”

“That definitely sounds best.”

 

But something went wrong. I got everything I wanted. I was born in a huge house. I’m the handsomest guy in my school. All the girls want me. I have a mother and father, but no mom and dad. Their voices are unfamiliar to me because we hardly speak. We are ghosts living in an empty house, present, but not there. Father goes on long trips. Mother stays at her office. When they sit together they stare at digits on glowing screens, contemplating how they can make them grow. An outsider cooks, a stranger cleans. I wonder if I know what I want. And now having everything, I have nothing, because I don’t know the comforts of real love.

 

“Eyes?”

“I don’t know.”

“Blue is nice.”

“I’m sure it is.”

“Hair?”

“I don’ know.”

“Black?”

“Sure.”

“Skin?”

“I don’t know.”

“White is nice.”

“Is it? I don’t know.”

“Height?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you know?”

“I know that I’m terrified.”

“You made the decision.”

“I knew what I was doing.”

“If you’re terrified, why did you do it?”

“Because it sounds best.”

 

But something went right. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I got what I needed—funny how they’re the same thing. I have a big problem. Cancer—leukemia. But I don’t face it alone. Mom and dad are here. They hold my hand. I’m sick most of the time, but they support me. They never give up, even when I want to. I like rainy days because they make the dirt smell good. I like sunny days, too, because I go swimming with my family. Although we aren’t always near, we are always together. And now my life isn’t perfect, but it’s worth it, and love helps me see it.