“You have green eyes.” He was a poet and never said what he meant outright, and I wanted to impress him with my depth. “Aren’t we all jealous of something?” I shrugged and looked away, gazed at the campus quad, hoping to look pensive and cute.
We met the night before, when he overheard me rant about male chauvinism. He hovered close and I felt him watching. When I stopped talking he said he was sorry men had hurt me. I didn't know it was so obvious. I thought he would be my healer and then my lover, but two weeks later he said he couldn’t be with a woman who wouldn’t fuck. I didn’t tell him I had just gone to the doctor for birth control. Forty years later I don’t remember his name.
But that day, when he was the best man of my life and his "green-eyes" comment made me confess jealousy of a new friend’s long legs and dancer body which she didn’t use. If my grace and rhythm were housed in a body like hers I could be our generation’s Isadora Duncan.
He laughed and tilted my face at an angle toward the sun. “In the light your eyes are the color green.” He smiled. “Remarkable.” He stared into them, and I felt seen.
My brothers both had my mother’s murky blue eyes, and I had Dad’s. They were big, and round and reminded people of Paul McCarney’s. And they were brown. It made no sense that in nineteen years no one had ever noticed they were also green.
I asked other friends and family. They peered close and shook their heads. “Brown.” I moved out of the shadows and squinted and watched them discover it. “Oh! They are green.”
My mother said,“Your eyes are brown. Don’t be silly.” She slammed kitchen cabinets and refused to look. I didn’t know why this made her mad, but it was another reason she shouldn’t have been my mother. I wanted a mother who delighted in my weirdness.
I am not the same person everywhere I go. If a meeting is too serious, I say something to make people laugh. If people are laughing and goofy, I bring up genocide. And sometimes I adjust because climate change takes energy, and I don’t care.
My two-year older brother once said he felt sorry for my future husband because he wouldn’t know the real me. I yelled at him to shut up, but was pleased he assumed I would have a husband. He accidentally gave me hope. Everyone in my middle school crowd had a boyfriend except me and that held true throughout high school even when I changed friends. I graduated without ever going steady with anyone except Kevin, who was gay, and asked if I would pretend.
My brother was right about my fluid personality. I was noisy,quiet, understanding, insensitive, conforming, rebellious, demure and bold. I had not decided what I wanted to be yet, other than an actor, and this was my training. But none of the boys I liked, liked it, or me.
College was my new start and nothing changed. My first boyfriend, whose name was maybe Donald or David or Doug, was intrigued with my virginity and vow to wait for real love. He took the challenge and I thought he might make it until he said “I love you enough to make you my first wife...” He wasn’t Morman or Muslim. He didn’t believe love could be forever and I did. He gave me a ten minute countdown. If I was still in his room after ten minutes, that was my consent. I left in the first 30 seconds.
The next night I was sad and angry and went for a walk in the rain. Alone. A movie star-beautiful man turned around and followed me. He offered an umbrella and tea in his dorm room. I said yes because he lived in the same dorm as my ex and I wanted the ex to be in the lobby and see us. I wanted the ex to see me with a man who was beautiful.
The next morning, this beautiful man released me from his room and warned if I reported what happened, no one would believe me. He circled and sneered, “No one would believe I wanted you.” Forty years later, I remember his first and last name, and the snake tatoo on his right shoulder. His eyes were black-brown and in his left eye there was a brown speck suspended in the white.
Our waitress and cook at “The Waffle House”, had brown eyes and the cashier had blue. At the family gathering yesterday, I noticed my brother-in-law has his father’s grey-blue eyes, which means my husband’s parents both carried secret white people genes. I knew that, but forgot. No one knows if it was through love or force. At the time, either was tragic. But if it never happened, our family wouldn’t be our family.
My eyes are brown and they are green. I am happy, sad, loud, shy, brilliant, and foolish. It’s all me.
And I’m fine with that.
Originally published at "Our Salon"