It’s 2 a.m., and I’m lying in my bed, mostly sober, praying I won’t be hungover when I wake up. I’d left the bar early because COVID made me unlearn how to survive nightlife — I shoved a guy who kept flailing in my direction. I hear my friends arriving home and hope they’ll remember to keep it down. I’m moments from drifting away. And then my door clicks open.
It’s my new friend Sophia, a Hmong woman who recently moved from Wisconsin, and she’s drunk. I’m confused and tired and annoyed as she’s crawling into my bed. My dog, disturbed and unkind to strangers, is barking at her to leave. Sophia is rambling the way drunk people do, saying she wanted to check on me and that she loves me. I ask her how she’s feeling, pleading mentally for her to leave.
“You’re my first friend of color here,” she suddenly says, and I soften.
I moved to Boston from Oklahoma in August 2020 for grad school, excited by the prospect of a new city, a real city, and the diverse people that came with it. I quickly learned how segregated Boston is. Not to say that Oklahoma isn’t also segregated, but I’d had years to find my community, a Black community. I had people to share the beauty of the Black experience with, my love of R&B music, soul food, natural hair, but also to share in the pain, especially in 2020. There, I felt like I could be my full, unapologetic self with my people.
I’d envisioned I’d soon find my people in Boston. I’d live in a neighborhood with other young people I’d run into at a local coffee shop or on the sidewalk and would eventually befriend. I’d sign up for an African dance class.
I first moved to Dorchester, a heavily Black and brown area, but my neighborhood was full of families with small children, not other young professionals. The aunties who lived on the corner and I eventually became friendly, after I got a dog and convinced them that I wasn’t the culprit leaving dog poop on the sidewalk. I knew faces around the block and would sometimes chat with neighbors. Surrounded by people who looked like me, I felt a kinship with them, but not the kind of connection I was looking for. I never found the dance class, there weren’t any coffee shops, and I didn’t know anyone here. I felt truly alone for the first time in my life.
Now, one year later, I live in Somerville with two friends, both white. I’m friends with some of their friends, mostly white. Our neighbors are other college students, and families with small children, also mostly white. With COVID restrictions loosened, I leave the house for fun again. I go to cute coffee shops. I haven’t taken a dance class yet, but I’ve tried Pilates. But the people who look like me aren’t in these places. Or I haven’t found them.
I love the friends I’ve made in Boston, but I’m cognizant of our differences. Though I’m sure I don’t need to, I code switch with them — it feels easier than othering myself, than having to explain certain things I say or the way I say them or my opinions about the TV we’re watching. I’ve made one close friend who is also Black, Haitian specifically, and though we’re culturally different, she feels the most like home.
My dog is still barking. I’m still exhausted. Sophia is still in my bed. She’s telling me she loves me, over and over, and I get it. She’s clinging to familiarity, to comfort. I mumble, “I love you, too.”
Kellyn B. Eaddy is a freelance writer and graduate student based in Somerville. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to email@example.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.