Short Story and Poetry Contest / Winter 2018
An Open Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self

People’s choice in the 2017 U of T Magazine Poetry Contest

You sit cross-legged on the carpet
Painting your nails black and red, each fingernail either black or red
Because you are so emo and so cool
Telling your older sister, “It’s not a phase! Gosh! I’m gonna be emo even when I’m 30!”
You listen to My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy on your CD player and think, “Wow. They ‘re so deep and they totally get me.”
And you write poems about unrequited love
Because you keep thinking about that one time you had a crush on Kevin in 4th grade but he liked Diana instead and you were really sad about that – understandably

And you dream about getting red highlights to contrast your dark black hair and to match your black and red fingernails
And you dream about being the lead singer of an emo band and having pale skin
Most importantly pale, white skin
I mean after all, all these emo gods and goddesses you look up to are so ghostly pale, so remarkably beautiful, so unlike you
When you look in the mirror, you don’t bother asking who’s the fairest of them all because it’s not you
Instead, you regret ever playing basketball under the unrelenting and unforgiving LA sun

And you hear the unmistakable squeals of your classmates when they walk outside because they don’t want to get dark
So they run back indoors or someone pulls out an umbrella to hide from the sun
You look down on your skin, at least 3 shades darker than theirs, and the next day you come to school in long pants and long sleeves in 103° weather
One of the teachers asks you, “Aren’t you hot?”
You tell him, “No,” as the sweat runs down your back as if to shame you for lying
But despite the sleeves, despite the umbrellas, you’re still too dark

To you, you will always be too dark
You will always yearn to be devoid of color
You will look at strangers too closely and for too long
Just wishing you could grab their ivory hands, have them run along your whole body, and have them wipe it clean like a whiteboard – erasing everything you no longer desire
You will still be too dark when you grab that whitening soap off the store’s shelf
And you will still be too dark when you rub hydrogen peroxide on your face
To you, you will always be too dark
Just like the black diamond will always be too dark compared to the pearl
But remember, Jess, the black diamond still shines brightly nonetheless



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