Not the Same -- creative nonfiction by Jeffrey Huang
My teacher stands in front of me. “Jeffrey, please come outside with me,” she says. Her shadow looms over my book, the darkness sucking the black text into an empty void. I look up, wondering why my teacher wants to speak with me. Her face quietly vocalizes a thousand words, and her coal black eyes pierce me with fear. There is no warmth or compassion, and no sign of welcome. “Jeffrey!” she repeats. Dread shrouds my small six-year-old body. I follow Teacher outside, the cold wind stinging and howling at me. The nearby trees tremble, their rustling branches mirroring my own anxiety.
“You hurt someone,” Teacher says. A statement. Not a question. “You called her fat.” My teacher’s expression is more stony than the cold concrete ground. I wonder what she means. I am unaccustomed to these angry tones. A seed of confusion grows inside of me. It expands like a balloon that perpetually grows, suffocating me. I open my mouth but my voice abandons me. I grasp for my voice, but I catch empty air. Remember to breathe! I gasp, the world collapsing away behind me like a cheap backdrop with no foundation. My teacher waits for a response. The silence crests, like a wave in a riptide. When it falls and the white foam fizzles away back into the empty depths, Teacher sighs and says, “I’m very disappointed in you.” She walks back into the classroom, leaving me alone outdoors.
Confusion clouds my mind, dense and impossible to navigate. I cannot see a path through it. Why is my teacher so upset? I rack my brain for reasons, but draw only a blank. After what feels like an eternity outside, I decide to return to the classroom, stumbling to my desk. A classmate looks at me and whispers. The classmate tells me it was another boy. Another Asian boy. The Other Asian Boy had taunted another student and called her fat. But when my teacher saw that other boy, she saw me. When he spoke, I spoke. His mistakes, they were mine too. Another Asian boy. They’re all the same. Like two mirrors, forever creating a replica of the same mold, all of them indistinguishable, all of them the same. My teacher thought he was me. But we are not the same. We are not the same.
Jeffrey Huang is an 11th grader from Mill Valley, California. He has won multiple writing awards through the Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition and Marin County Fair. He is published in Skipping Stones Magazine and Teen Ink Magazine. Besides writing, Jeffrey's extracurricular interests include photography/videography, 3D printing, science/technology, tennis, and good food.