Kenzo looked into the mirror in his bathroom, staring at his small slanted black eyes and limp straight black hair. He wondered how his soul was ever chosen to have black, the color of darkness, to be a part of his features.
Kenzo was convinced that Caucasians, Latinos and African Americans didn't have to deal with being called "chink," although he was actually Japanese. But, he was pretty sure other races and ethnicities had their struggles. Why did they exist? Those labels? The subject was so deep that Kenzo felt a swirling headache for about five seconds just thinking about it.
His skin tone was pinkish pale, with some pimples on his face that looked like tiny volcanoes with pus inside, awaiting some pressure from his two fingertips to erupt. He was holding the temptation. He decided not to press them because there were already some scars from the previously throbbing pimples that he pressed, and they were now dark spots on his face.
"I wish I was handsome," he said. All he thought about today was Melody, the dreamy senior he dreamt about last night because she has the most alluring brown eyes and the cutest smile. "She'll never notice me."
Kenzo didn't mind being Japanese or even Asian, but he did mind being called "chink" or "gook" or "nip" or "chino" or "trash." The taunts felt like a knife to the core of his heart and soul because he couldn't help to look the way he looked.
Jim, his best mate, thought Kenzo had a "dozen" calculators, because Japanese people from Intel created it in the 70s. Kenzo was so afraid of saying, "Nah, that's not true." Kenzo remained quiet because he would rather have Jim thought he was smart and knew about the scientific calculator, instead of finding out he had the lowest grade in math.
Kenzo wasn't sure he could accomplish anything, but he sure knew he could possibly fail at everything.
"Kenzo, come out. Get some dinner and talk to me," said Maria, his Mom.
Maria knew high school was rough on Kenzo, but she won't let him stay silent about his hard days at school.
Kenzo came out and sat at the head of the nicely set up dinner table, with a small bowl of rice and a plate of pork cutlets and sautéed seaweed with garlic. "Dinner can't last more than fifteen minutes," Kenzo figured.
"So, I have to tell you a story, Kenzo," said Maria. "I never really told you how your Dad and I met."
"Yeah. I still love you," he said. His eyes slanted to the left to watch her face, because he understood his mother. As a son of a single Mom, he never expected her to tell him the truth about her past. "I believe everything you told me before."
"What did I tell you before?" asked Maria.
"That Dad had an affair with his co-worker and he left you in Japan. So, you moved to Hawaii illegally and started to work there and finally got your citizenship," said Kenzo.
"Well, I want to change the story a little bit," said Maria.
"What do you mean?" Kenzo asked.
"What if I tell you that I was pregnant before I got married? And that your Dad married me because I groveled?" asked Maria.
"Dad was rich, is that why you groveled?" asked Kenzo. He remembered growing up in a huge house with a Koi pond and his father always played with him in the garden. "You mean to tell me that Dad is not my father?"
Shocking life, shocking face, and all this in one day. How would I ever live through this? Kenzo placed his fork down and his eyes were tearing.
"No," said Maria. "I was so hurt so bad. I didn't have friends, too. But I made it Kenzo."
"Oh God, Mom!" said Kenzo, rolling his eyes. "Is this the truth or one of those hypothetical to make me feel better?"
"Both," said Maria. "So, pretend tonight that I groveled to your father and he married me out of fear because he was getting old and limp."
"Jesus!" said Kenzo. The phone rang.
Kenzo walked to the phone and tapped the 'talk' button. "Yeah, this is the Yashi residence."
"Kenzo?" said the darling voice on the phone. "May I speak to Kenzo Yashi for a moment? My name is Melody from his high school."
"Melody? Switzer? Is this real?" Kenzo said, accidently saying his thoughts out loud. The same swirling headache from earlier in the evening rushed through his whole head. He was passing out.
"Oh, hi, My name is Melody and I'm the student representative from the Anti-Bullying group at school," said Melody. She sounded nervous.
"You're so brilliant," Kenzo uttered. Gasp.
"Oh, you're so sweet," said Melody.
"Kenzo who is it?" asked Maria, from the dinner table.
"Can I help you with anything?" asked Kenzo, walking to the dinner table, sitting back down in front of his mom with his cell phone on one ear.
Maria sliced her pork cutlet into small pieces and stared at her son who was smiling from ear to ear.
"Must be something good. You're smiling," said Maria. She forked a few strands of garlic seaweed and a pinch of rice.
"Jim told me that someone called you a derogatory name today. I want to apologize for that," said Melody. "Jim also wanted to say sorry about the 'calculator' thing. He just wants you to feel better about being who you are."
"Jim, he's a good man," said Kenzo. He couldn't believe 'dream brunette' was on his phone line.
"So, what are you doing for Christmas this year?" asked Melody.
"My Mom and I were just going to go to the nativity show at the Presby church around the corner then go home," said Kenzo.
"The Anti-bullying team is having a Christmas party at the Flaggstaff house. Up Baseline Avenue in Boulder," said Melody. "Would you come? It's free. The fundraising team made sure we can invite a date."
"A date?" Kenzo asked and tears were hovering in his eyes.
Maria choked on her pork cutlet, and asked "Is she cute? Kenzo?" Kenzo raised his index finger to his lips.
"Yeah. I know you might want to come if Jim will come too, so I made sure another girl is asking him to come. Care to join me?" she asked.
Melody's voice creacked because she understood that being different could cause a lot of heartache. "Just to let you know. I was bullied because a lot of girls are jealous sometimes and I get hurt. So I know how name calling can cause heartaches."
"You're the most beautiful girl I've ever met. Yes! I want to go. Don't change your mind," Kenzo said with a tinge of nerves. "What should I do now? I've never been asked out before."
"I never asked anyone out before, either" said Melody.
"She sounds like a warrior," said Maria, chewing the rest of the pork cutlet inside her mouth.
"You don't have to do anything. Let's talk tomorrow. Come to our meeting on the second floor library," said Melody.
"Okay. Let's do that then," said Kenzo.
"Okay. I will talk to you later, Kenzo. And...," she said, as she paused for a moment, "I really want to thank you, for not making me feel embarrassed for asking you out and for not rejecting me. I've been hurt before, too. So I think we'll have plenty to talk about."
"I know we'll be best friends," said Kenzo. His heart beats a little faster and tears rolled down his cheeks as if his eyes were two leaky faucets. I couldn't believe this just happened, Kenzo couldn't help but to think of this, and replied, "I'll see you tomorrow." They hung up.
"So, you have plans this year for Christmas," said Maria. "I will be free to go with my girlfriends and have a girls' nite out." Maria smiled, because finally she wasn't worried about her son feeling alone or horrible during the holidays.
"I think that was a Christmas miracle," said Kenzo. He stared at the wall, because he wasn't sure if the whole thing happened at all.
"So, a girl just asked you to go on a date, for Christmas," said Maria. "Yep, it happened."
"Mom. I love you. I know Dad is Dad and you're my Mom. You don't have to make up stories anymore. I'm going to make things happier. I'll work harder and I'll make better friends. But, Jim is a keeper," said Kenzo.
"I thought he was a pot-head. Not true, huh?" said Maria. She smiled.
"Christmas isn't going to be a bad day after all," said Kenzo. He took his mother's hand and kissed them. "I love how you make up stories to make me feel good. I love you forever, Mom."
"Merry early Christmas, Baby," said Maria.
"Merry Christmas, Mom," said Kenzo.