The Conqueror

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I'd known Tamerlane Rodriguez for literally half of my life. I had first met him ten years ago, when we were both ten years old. His birthday was the day before mine, in fact we had an age difference of about five and a half hours. What had always stood out about the young man and still did were his oversized chocolatey brown eyes. They were like a galaxy in themselves. The Chocolate Milky Way. In the sunlight there wasn't anything else like that river of liquid chocolate that I could've gazed into the whole damn day.

"Did you find it yet?" Tamerlane asked me, seemingly annoyed, "You know, you've done this to me my whole life."

"Sorry!" I muttered out in embarrassment at being caught looking into his eyes, "But it's only been half your life, only half Tamerlane."

All he did was grin at me. I had indeed done that to him from the very day we'd met in the neighborhood park. It was nothing but a crummy little run-down playground tucked away behind a large apartment building mostly filled with people just trying to put food on the table for their families. I was new to that neighborhood and had no friends within walking distance so I'd gone to the park on a cloudy afternoon and the only other kid my age there was a little part Arab and part Spanish boy playing in the sand. I walked up to him and he looked at me almost fearfully. I extended my hand out to him in hopes that he wouldn't see me as the enemy but it didn't seem to be helping anything.

"What's your name?" I asked him.

"It's Tamerlane," he muttered in a shy, almost pained voice.

"My name is Caroline, do you want to be my friend?"

"Okay."

I approached him and kneeled down in the sand next to him as he dug up a toy car and handed it to me. He didn't say much at first but once he warmed up to me he was a sweet boy. He was very polite, soft-spoken and intelligent. His father was a coal miner that had immigrated from Venezuela some fifteen years ago and his mother's family had originally been from Saudi Arabia. The two of them had come to America in the hopes of a better life but had only come face to face with poverty. Amidst the financial destitution though, I had made myself a lifelong friend. The only one that had seen me through everything and stayed with me throughout the whole thing. He understood my own struggles with poverty because he lived them too and I empathized with his shyness around strangers because I had been trampled on too.

Tamerlane was really the closest thing I'd ever had to a brother. Despite the fact that the color of our skin was different, we shared the same soul, thought the same things and chased the same dreams. I had always been rather jealous of his beautiful, almost golden-like, skin because it seemed like he had a perfect perennial tan while I turned into a lobster the moment I stepped out into the sunlight. When you put a bronze god and seafood side by side, it's obvious which one comes out on top. In ten years I'd never told him how beautiful I thought he really was but I knew that he knew. And I always made sure that he felt beautiful around me, because he was really the only one I could be completely myself around without fear of repercussion.

"Do you want to go to the restaurant?" Tamerlane asked me, "I've got some spare change."

"Keep your money for yourself," I replied, "you need it just as much as I do. Buy yourself some hair gel or something."

"Who needs hair gel when I can just walk into a store and put it on right there?"

"Get a haircut in that case!"

I affectionately nudged his shoulder with my elbow as we walked down the street towards the downtown core where all the restaurants were lined up next to one another. All of them had specials of the day up in their front windows in hopes to attract hungry people there instead of somewhere else. As we passed by a vacant business space with dark, almost mirror-like windows Tamerlane stopped to look at himself in the glass and rearrange his hair. If his skin and his eyes weren't beautiful enough, he had a full head of thick black hair that was overgrown and curly but most importantly, messy. His hairstyle depended largely on which direction the wind was blowing at any given moment and no matter what he tried to do with it, he had flyaway hair sticking out of everywhere.

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