Communication Studies at Edmonds Community College
It happened again. Jennifer told her she just had to meet Roberto. Serena knew that the guy would be African-American and speak Spanish. Somehow her "friends" - acquaintances, really - thought she would be interested in any guy who spoke Spanish and was dark-skinned. Serena couldn't convince them that she could find her own relationships.
Actually she already knew Roberto. They had gone to a conference together two weeks before and had spent time together. They found each other compatible. Roberto was from Mexico and dressed in leather and jeans, with metal chains from his pockets and he had a pierced eyebrow. He often told Serena she was "too uptight ", too proud because she was an American. They often argued about whether she was arrogant or not. The last time they argued, Roberto flashed a huge grin at her and said "Women shouldn't be so proud. Leave that to the men." Serena could hardly contain her anger for the abrupt put-down. As angry as Roberto could make her, she enjoyed the spirited exchanges with him. And speaking Spanish. Even though his Spanish was different from hers, it reminded her of home.
Serena has come to Everett from New York City, where she grew up in a Spanish-speaking community. People had trouble remembering that. Karen, an acquaintance from school, kept asking her "So, where are you from? I keep forgetting. Jamaica? And when she reminded Karen that she was born in New York City, Karen kept on.
"But you don't speak English."
"I'm speaking English right now! But nobody spoke English in my neighborhood. Spanish. French. That weird Creole French. But no one spoke English. At least inside the neighborhood. We had to at school, of course."
"So that's why you never got rid of your accent."
Serena wanted to say "I don't have an accent. You do. " But it didn't seem worth the trouble. People like Karen would never understand. Her neighborhood was a lively conglomeration of Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Colombians, as well as some immigrants from Spain. Nearly everyone was a second-generation immigrant, mostly citizens. On any Sunday afternoon people were out in front of their houses talking, laughing, singing., dancing.
Serena was having a hard time finding friends in Lynnwood. Her sister was still in New York and they had been very close - they were only 18 months apart. Serena was used to parties that started at 2 AM and went on all night. They were safe parties with friends who knew her family. If she ever got out of hand, her entire neighborhood knew. And they all helped correct her. She missed the liveliness, but mostly she missed her life-long friends and her family. She called them every week - just to keep in touch.
Everything was so different here. Parties started too early and she was barely into them when everyone was starting to go home. Where could they go after a party? Almost nowhere in Lynnwood - at least not anywhere fun AND safe. She didn't know the people and places here and couldn't tell if they were safe or not. Take Roberto, for instance, he didn't look safe. Yet he seemed interesting and she enjoyed speaking in Spanish to him . But without knowing his family and his people - how could she feel totally safe?
It wasn't that she was desperate for friends. She enjoyed the nights at home. It was more fun than sitting in the campus gym watching the basketball team lose again, and having to make small talk with people she "ought" to like. She had just ended a two-year relationship and wasn't anxious to get started in another. But she was tired of explaining that to everyone who thought she should be more social. And she did get lonely some nights. It would be nice to have someone to go out with at midnight, if she wanted to.
She had agreed to meet Jennifer for coffee at 4:00. She wished she hadn't. She really wanted to go home and have a quiet drink of wine, read a little, and go to bed early. Maybe call home. Should she stand Jennifer up? How could she make them understand that she would find her own relationship? And that she didn't find all African American /Spanish speaking males attractive? She felt like avoiding the whole problem.