When I look in the mirror, what do I see? I see bouncy, black hair, and soft brown skin. If I turn my head, I see three freckles, three little dots on each cheek, speckled like stars. This is me. But when other people see me, it’s all different. I am everyone's ideal girl, in a sense. They look at me and they see the most beautiful girl they could imagine. All of our imaginations are different, I realize, so I never truly know what I look like to other people. This is why I ask. I ask everyone.
“Charlie, what do I look like?” I ask my boyfriend, at the time. He gazes at me. Then he furrows his brow in confusion.
“Why should you need to know?”
“I just do. Just tell me, and don’t ask questions,” I say. I take his hand and look him in the eyes, silently pleading.
“Alright,” he says, sighing. “The Lilit I know has beautiful, flowing brown hair. A bit curly at the ends. Olive skin, and slanted eyes. Your smile is just beautiful. There are no words for it.” He pulls my hand to his chest. I stare at it. Not olive, of course, never will be. I look off to the side, avoiding Charlie’s gaze.
“Oh, c’mon Lily. What is it?” he asks, concerned.
“You don’t know the real Lilit, then,” I say. I see his face fall, and he lets go of my hand.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. Never mind.” And with that, I stand up and walk myself away from the lovely bench we were sharing.
As I pass a pond, I check my reflection in the dim waters. No olive skin, no slanted eyes. No flowing brown hair, just my black bouncy afro. I smile at my reflection. Of course, I will not hesitate to love me the way I really am.
“Ki’an, what do you see when you look at me?” I ask. He nods, his hair bouncing so much like mine.
“I see a beautiful black lady, hair down in braids and teeth that stand out. I love them so much,” he says. “Even if you weren’t like this, I would still love you Lilit. You know that?” I nod. I hold back tears. I had really hoped that he would be the one. He was so close. But I kiss his forehead, and turn back to walk the path the opposite way we came.
“Lilit, are you going somewhere?” Ki’an asks me.
“Yes,” I say.
“I’m looking,” I say, before turning a corner, the trees muffling his sad speech.
I walk along the seashore, the sun setting behind the water. It’s a beautiful sight, I think. The water glimmers brightly, and the wind sends the salty air my way. I breathe in deep and gaze at the prettiest sight I’ve ever seen. A rock takes me by surprise, and I trip, stubbing my toe and landing on my knee. Perfect, I think, this is just perfect. I was having a great day until that rock and my throbbing toe and knee. I groan as I pick myself up. Suddenly, there are hands on my back and shoulders.
“Are you alright?” asks a tall, Hispanic man. His long hair is tied back into a bun, and he wears jeans and a regular black T-shirt, his feet bare. I look up at him.
“Yeah, thank you. I’m okay,” I say. I stand up and brush the sand off my leggings. I grimace as I look down through the new hole in my pants at my bloody knee. The man must notice.
“Hey, look, why don’t you come with me, and I’ll get that taken care of,” he says. I feel him wrap his arm around me. Something about his touch seems to warm the air. I limp over to his beach towel. He helps me down.
“I have bandaids in my bag. Always keep them handy,” he says, shoving his hand into his seemingly deep bag.
“So what are you doing out here on the beach?” I ask. He smiles.
“I was just chilling. Thought the sunset was really pretty, so that made it even better to come out here. The water’s too cold to swim in now,” he says. “Aha! Found one.” He pulls out a large bandaid, big enough to cover my knee. He rolls up my leggings and uses his water bottle to clean off the blood.
“So what were you doing out here?” He asks me and he uses his towel to dry it off.
“I was just going for a walk,” I say. “I thought the sun was pretty beautiful, too.” He sticks the bandaid on and turns around to look at the sun. I also admire the colors it reflects onto the clouds and the water. Finally, I gather up the courage to ask him the question. The question I ask everyone else. Something about this man feels… special.
“What do I look like?” I whisper. He turns and looks at me.
“You look… beautiful,” he says. I blush, but recover quickly so he doesn’t see.
“But what do I actually look like?” I ask. He hesitates.
“You’re skin is lovely brown. It’s milky. Your hair looks… bouncy. Curly. And on your cheeks…” he pauses, his eyes glazing over my face. My eyes widen. “Three freckles on each cheek. They almost look like stars,” he says quietly. I feel a tear drip down my cheek.
“Are you alright?” he asks me.
“I could… never be better,” I say, throwing my arms around him in a hug that lasted for hours.