Looking Past the Hate

Raymond walked into his third grade classroom much like every morning, and just like every morning, every child conversed among themselves, taking special care to avoid Ramon. Ramon was different. Unlike every other child, who had black eyes, he had pink eyes. Pink eyes were different, and therefore the children thought they were bad. They didn’t know why, they just knew Pink was what their parents hated, and therefore they did as well. “Pink the Stink,” the children would tease Ramon, when the teacher wasn’t around. Everyone hated Ramon, but no one knew why. However, instead of hate toward Ramon, Raymond simply felt curiosity.

“Why?” Raymond would ask himself when the others would push and tease Ramon when he tried voting for their weekly line leader. “Why?” he asked himself when the Big Billy, the largest child in class would be free from punishment when he beat up Ramon. “Why?” he asked when the teacher would scold Ramon for simply existing. It was constantly on his mind. Raymond finally assumed it was because Ramon was secretly a bad child who needed to be punished.

He continued believing this until, one day, Big Billy had beaten up Ramon to the point where there was more blood on his face than skin. The next day, Ramon came to school with a bandaged face and continually repeated “I’m alright” to anyone who commented. At recess, he walked to an isolated corner of the playground and sat alone. Raymond, feeling a sense of remorse, sought to justify the actions of his group.

“You deserved it, y’know,” he told Ramon when he reached him.

“Why do you say that?” questioned Ramon.

“Because you’re a bad kid and you deserve punishment,” he replied.

“Why am I a bad kid, Raymond?”

“Because you’re different. Everyone knows that.”

“I didn’t know that,” he said while drawing into the ground, “until I started going to this dumb school.”

“Hmmm. Do you think,” Raymond rebutted while sitting down, “that God hates you and that’s why he gave you different colored eyes?”

Ramon thought about this for a second. He finally replied, “No, because my uncle Mack told me that God doesn’t hate anyone and the good book that my grandma always reads says God only hates sinners and I’m not a sinner, I think, so there.”

Raymond responded, “My mom told me that God hates Pink Eyes. Something about Satan and eyeballs.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot, every time we go to church and when me and my mom go grocery shopping and stuff,” Ramon explained. He continued, “I just don’t get it. Because, I mean, I have eyeballs like everyone else. They just happen to be pink. I’ve got arms and legs and such but just different eyeballs.”

“Are they magic?” inquired Raymond, “If you had magic eyeballs, that might explain why everyone hates you. Because you have awesome magic eyeballs and they don’t. Are you special?”

“No,” Ramon explained, “I’m just a kid. I’m kinda good at cursive, does that make me special?”

“Nah, anyone can learn cursive. You can’t learn how to have magic eyeballs,” Raymond replied.

“So wait, you’re just a regular kid?”

Ramon nodded.

“Why don’t you tell everyone then?”

“I tried. That’s how I ended up getting beat up so bad. I had enough of Big Billy so I told him he should stop because I’m no different than he is. Then he got angry that I compared myself to him, and he started hitting me a lot. My mom freaked out when I got home and after the hospital, she called the principal.”

Raymond interjected, “Principal Bigot? What did he say?”

Ramon looked downtrodden, “He said that my mom should be glad I didn’t get hurt worse and then he hung up.” For the first time in Ramon’s life, someone besides his family felt pity for him; Raymond sat there feeling terrible that nothing had been done. Finally, what pushed him over the edge was wondering, “What if that happened to me?” After pondering this, Raymond ran away from Ramon without warning, whispering something along the lines of “I’m sorry.”

The next day, when Raymond walked into class, everyone stopped talking, and stared at him in shock. There was a bandage over his right eye. He quickly explained to everyone that in an effort to prove that black eyes and pink eyes were the same, he had taken a pink sharpie and shoved it in his eye. However, instead of giving him pink eyes like Ramon’s, it gave him an eye injury. Every kid stood there in silence. And then, like a dam built by a lazy beaver giving way to a hardworking river, there was a strong and sudden wave of support for Raymond, the selfless martyr. And for Ramon, there was nothing but third-grade hate. The kids blamed him for Raymond’s injury. And it showed. When it came time to vote for weekly line leader, the children didn’t even allow Ramon to be in the room. Big Billy didn’t just beat him up now. He gave him wedgies and wrote “Justice” on the waistband. The teacher now blamed every mistake in class on Ramon. And that’s how it was for many years.

For many years, Ramon was hated and Raymond was hailed as a hero. Very quickly, this went to Raymond’s head. So when he grew up, he ran for mayor.

Then Senate.

Then President.

He enacted legislation which discriminated even more against pink eyes, and was praised for his work. After his two terms, Raymond retired to a small city. One day, while shopping for groceries, he ran into Ramon. Ramon had been getting by, living a mediocre life, yet his eyes still shone like pink stars. Raymond and Ramon looked at each other, said nothing, and moved on. However, before Raymond had completely disappeared from Ramon’s sight, and from his life, Ramon noticed that, in Raymond’s right eye, there was a splash of pink.