He was a strange boy; the kind your southern baptist parents warned you to steer clear of.
His clothing was all black. Baggy. He wore his wallet on a chain. His hair was dyed. And long. And blonde.
He painted his nails.
In the morning, as I would stand, waiting, for that big yellow petri dish of judgement to pull up to the top of the hill, I was painfully aware of my braces, of whether or not my hair and outfit were acceptable, of whether anyone would notice that I was terrified, or that I lugged a mountain of insecurities around in my off-brand backpack.
I never saw him.
But he was watching me.
I don't remember how it happened, all I remember is the lasting effect.
The invisible outcast from up the street--how he spoke to me. How he told me I was beautiful. How he gave me a white envelope marked with black letters--a high school boy's scrawled handwriting.
How I was afraid to read them, as they were from a band banned from the pillar of the pulpit. How my hand shook when I took them home. How I cried when I began to read.
"I still recall the taste of your tears. Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears. My favorite dreams of you still wash ashore. Scraping through my head 'til I don't wanna sleep. Anymore."...
I do not know what moved me most--that I had been seen through my veneer or that I had failed to see the one person who even bothered looking... But as the words unfolded like the paper on which they had been written, I felt my tiny world expand.
I would no longer accept the things I was told by those who claimed to know better. I would no longer forgo forbidden experiences because of the censorship of those who feared all that was and is "different."
I was different.
Barett Eben Lawrence was different.
And he, like the forbidden words, was beautiful.