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Voices: Lookin' Bad

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His hair stands a foot high, proud, erect, rising above the crowd of people milling around the station. Yet he stands still, not a move, not even a twitch. You gape. Your gaze moves slowly to his eyes, which are huge and hypnotizing. You can tell that his eyes have never crinkled with laughter or shed a tear. The sun glints on his earring, and you notice the huge gold ornamentation in his left ear and the smaller one in his right. You shake your head in disgust and return your persecuting glare to those unfeeling eyes. He finally acknowledges your staring with a puzzled expression, and you turn away in fear.

Several others will notice him while he waits, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for a half-hour. You may think that you know a lot about him from that quick glance, but you do not. I do. I should. He is my best friend.

I know that he is waiting at Forest Hills for the car pool to whisk him off to the upscale private school that he attends to have a head start on college. I know that he is scowling because the car pool is late, as usual, and because he hates wearing dark-colored pants to follow the school dress code. I know that he is too busy trying to get good grades, to keep his scholarship, to get a haircut. And I've known his eyes both to crinkle and to well with water. I've seen him laugh at a story I tell for hours on end, and I've watched him try to hold in the giggles while my mother is calling him a "nice young man.'' And I know that just a few days before you saw him, he was crying. Crying for a friend who had been shot four times by a group of guys dressed in white, with short hair and naked ears. I know.

Sometimes when I'm walking the two blocks home from my bus stop, I approach a man wearing dark colors and a solemn expression. I am tempted to cross the street in fear. But then I think of my best friend, and I relax. I keep walking. We pass each other. I know I'm safe.--Rachel Skerritt

The author is a junior at Boston Latin School. This essay first appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine.

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