When Blue Eyes Ain't Enough
By Simone Adams
The seeds Freida and I planted when we asked God to let Pecola's baby live never sprouted. Pecola's baby was born too early. Neither seeds nor the baby ever got a chance to experience this cruel world. But Pecola kept on living.
After the baby died, Pecola's madness was on the tongue of everyone in town, until eventually it became old news and nobody talked about her or her daddy again. But my failure to help Pecola haunted my dreams for a long time—long after I left Lorain, Ohio to attend college in Cincinnati, long after I found a good job in the city, long after I fell in love and moved in with a man who would break my heart, and long after I moved out.
I was in my early thirties before I saw Pecola again. Frieda was living in Chicago but had come to see me for the weekend and we were leaving dinner when we ran into her. Neither of us recognized her at first. We barely noticed the scrawny-legged, dark-skinned prostitute with her short skirt and a platinum blond wig that sat crooked on her head. But as we neared her, Pecola recognized us immediately.
"Frieda! Claudia!" She beamed, her smile revealing several missing teeth.
The first thing I noticed was her blue contacts. Pecola had the bluest eyes.
Frieda took longer to recognize her than I did. Her jaw opened and shut slowly before she found her voice, and even then it was still weak with denial. "Pecola?"
"Well, they just call me Cola these days, honey." Her jaw twitched and I saw that her right hand spasmed, although she kept it busy flipping strands on her matted wig. I remember watching her go mad as a child and that she used to make birdlike gestures with her head and arms. I remember seeing her go through the trash once and I ran the other way because I didn't want to know what she was searching for in that filthy can. I wanted to run now.
Neither us moved in for an embrace. It was awkward but Pecola didn't seem to register the hesitation and started telling us about her move to Cincinnati. Cholly died. Mrs. Breedlove died. Sammy went to jail. They put Pecola in an orphanage and eventually a "crazy folk's home"—she used the term with an odd affection that made goosebumps pop out on my arms.
"Nobody wanted to acknowledge my blue eyes. But then I came here to the big city and I walked in a beauty store and right there on the counter was these blue contacts. So, I figured, why not? And girl, you should see how the men line up to love on me." Pecola flashed her toothless grin again.
When we were children, the whole world thought Pecola was ugly and she accepted it, but I had found her beautiful. Now, Pecola felt beautiful and I thought she was one of the ugliest women I had ever met.