Chapter 5: Myra
The weekend had been empowering and all four women felt close as they loaded into the Metro North train back to the city. It was Sunday afternoon. They were all released from the conference with words of peace from the host and the earthy smell of burnt sage.
Myra was feeling rather happy to meet these women. She was still nervous that her new acquaintances will not last longer than this weekend. If it didn’t, she decided that at least she had one weekend of camaraderie on the East Coast. They sat in the four seater section at the front of the train car. Two seats face another two seats. Myra sat across from Shanelle who she felt the closest to out of their group. Last night at the final large group discussion Myra and Shanelle had cried together.
The keynote speaker, a tall half black and half white woman, spoke on her experiences of loneliness and identity. She spoke on how she had straddled two worlds her whole life as a mixed race person. This straddling left the speaker very lonely because it was a journey that only she understood. It was only after the speaker decided to create her own path did she become friends with herself while being able to make friends. Myra immediately related to this story. She had spent her life trying to identify with her Mexican-American background while risking the label “whitewashed” for liking the things she liked. In college, Myra had found her own resolution to this straddling act. She had decided to be own quirky self without apologizing for it. Yet the woman’s story was so poignant that Myra found her eyes tearing up. From the corner of her watery eye, she saw Shanelle wipe her own eye. Myra put her right arm around her new friend. Shanelle leaned into her and cried harder.
After all the attendees were dismissed from the conference room, Myra and Shanelle decided to chat in Myra’s room. Priya and Vic decided to head to the bar to catch a drink before the wild locals crowded the hotel lounge. Shanelle’s eyes were red and puffy. Her usually caramel brown face was splotched with red. Myra still had no idea why Shanelle was crying. She handed her a tissue from the bathroom and sat on one of the chairs by the window. Shanelle dabbed at her eyes. She took a deep breath.
“I have been straddling two worlds,” Shanelle said. She took another breath.
For a moment Myra thought that Shanelle was going to come out to her about her sexuality. Myra was a straight ally but doubted she could handle a near stranger coming out to her.
“I like things that my friends don’t like,” Shanelle said. “Like music- I love TV
On The Radio but none of my friends know who that is. I don’t get it because the main singer is black and the music is based on black music. They would just call it “white people music” and dismiss it. It’s not just with music, it’s everything!”
Shanelle was getting excited and speaking faster. Myra understood every word that came out of her mouth.
“I wanted to see Black Swan but no one I knew wanted to see it. I feel lonely,” Shanelle said.
“What about your boyfriend?” Myra asked.
“He’s wonderful. He knows that I like alternative music and he lets me listen to it around the house,” Shanelle said.
Myra raised an eyebrow on “he lets me” but let it go because she could see Shanelle was really focused on the issue of her friends.
“I really want to see Black Swan too. Maybe we can go see it together. And I love TV On the Radio,” Myra said.
Shanelle sniffed, smiled and nodded.
“I’ve definitely have straddled that line between my culture and what I really like. It wasn’t easy in college for me to decide to not answer to anyone but myself. Unfortunately, it has meant that I don’t make friends as easily here in New York.”
“But there are people like you all over New York,” Shanelle said.
“I feel totally unique now,” Myra said sarcastically.
“You know what I mean,” Shanelle said unfazed by Myra’s sarcasm like an old friend.
Myra sighed. “I think I have interests in common with many people in the city but I meet so many people who are put off by my sense of humor. And people who don’t return texts.”
Myra shed a couple of tears. She had never admitted to anyone that her sarcasm often turned people off. Yet she could not stop herself. Her sarcasm was who she was. Shanelle stood up from the precisely made hotel bed and walked the two steps to Myra to give a hug.
“Not everyone in New York is like that. I’m not,” Shanelle said with a smile.
On the train back to New York, Myra focused on Shanelle’s bracelet cuff. She had admired it the night before in the hotel room. It was a brass cuff with pastel beads. She had forgotten to mention it to Shanelle. The conversation among the four of them had come to a thoughtful lull.
“I love that bracelet, Shanelle,” Myra said happily.
“Thanks! It’s my favorite. I bought it at a craft fair,” Shanelle said adjusting the bracelet around her wrist.
“Let me see it,” Vic said taking her seat mate’s left wrist into her hand. Shanelle seemed shy about the touch but went along. Vic peered at the beads.
“It’s amazonite,” Vic said.
“Who-zee-what-tite?” Myra asked.
“Ama-zon-ite,” Vic stated saying each syllable slowly. “It’s a stone that promotes open communication.
Shanelle’s eyes met Myra’s and they both laughed.