I grew up in a small town in Southern Wisconsin where my skin color was in the majority. It never really occurred to me that this was the case; it just was what it was. I recently relocated to a riverfront neighborhood in West New York, where I am most definitely in the minority. It’s a weird feeling that, even though I’m only a week in, has made me incredibly aware of myself and my existence in the world. I feel different. I am different.
Many of the menus and products in the area are labelled in Spanish. (Though many are also dual Spanish/English). Many of my neighbors are Spanish. The owner of the closest bodega is Spanish; I was able to have a simple conversation with him. I’ve never been more grateful for all of the years I had to take Spanish in school; as much as I griped about hating the class, it has come in handy. It’s helped me find the beginnings of my stride in a place radically different from where I grew up.
New York is weird to me. There’s no grass anywhere and it smells funny in places. The parks are made of cement and brick; there are very few places where you can lie in actual grass. Even the dog parks are pavement; there are tiny green waste receptacles on every corner so the dog waste doesn’t smear on the sidewalks. There are no major grocery stores. The bus drivers scream into their bluetooth headpieces in foreign languages while driving the bus. It’s nothing like where I came from.
However, there are fireworks shows over the river. A beautiful view of the skyline and the moon that is apparently historically bright this month. Transit that goes everywhere. And hundreds upon hundreds of people in every size, shape, and color. A perfect place to disappear in. Or perhaps disappear is the wrong word. Maybe it’s blend. Because everything here has a place and a purpose, from the street vendors to the doggy waste receptacles. To me. Somewhere. It’s only weird here because I’ve never been here before. And now I live here.
I haven’t been able to write much this week, my first here, because every time I’ve sat down to do it, I can’t think of anything. It hasn’t felt right. Yesterday I walked almost fifty blocks to the only real green space around; it’s a huge park with a lake in the middle and plenty of space to sprawl. I was on my towel reading a book, watching a completely obnoxious pair of children chase a flock of geese and threaten them with sticks. As the geese fled the kids, they drifted closer and closer to where I was reading. I felt the normal twinge of fear I feel when angry geese are coming towards me, but then it clicked.
Home is everywhere.
There were geese all over my undergrad college campus in Wisconsin. There are geese here. Some things don’t change, no matter where you go. So, to me, home is everywhere that I am. Where I am is home. And there’s something to write about there. I am different, but I am still me.
So I’m not a native Spanish speaker. So I’m used to driving, and seeing grass everywhere. So I’m a little fish in a big pond. So my skin is a different color. I’m different, but I’m here—that’s what matters.