By Natalia Inoa
Student, Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics
“You live there?” my friend says, pointing at the small gray building across the street. “There?” she repeats. Each syllable hits me like a stone. It was no longer a question, but a realization. She says it with a facial expression of disgust as if she is smelling foul trash.
As she points, she looks me up and down as if whatever she is looking at is part of me. I just want to keep on walking to the park, walking straight past the building. I feel like a child who is ashamed of something they have done. I feel small, very small.
I stand there for the longest time, paralyzed by her words. I do not want to look back at what she is staring at. After a moment, however, I bring up the courage to see what she sees. I turn around and I stare at it. I stare at you.
At this moment you have never looked more gray. Your grotesque features stare blankly back at me and I turn away, mortified by your presence. Your bricks are crumbling and old. Your dark windows empty and lifeless. I glance at your side and notice the wear and tear from countless years of damage.
You scream poverty. An overwhelming feeling of shame fills me.
Oh how I wish at this moment that you would disappear! If only I had a giant blanket to cover you, but you are too large and your shadow towers over me. You consume me, you claim me.
I had not always felt this way towards you, however; I remember when I first met you seven years ago. It was a bright sunny day in the Bronx. The sun’s rays beamed down on you, bringing light to every one of your bricks. You smiled at me, welcoming me to you. What a beautiful sight you were. How majestic and tall. I wanted to learn more about you. I wanted to explore.
I remember how filled with joy and excitement I was when my brother and I raced each other up your floors. The apartment door said “2D.” The walls were my bones, the stairs were my spine, and this apartment was my heart. My new home was a smaller apartment than where I had lived before, but I didn’t mind because it was all mine. What most stood out to me was your beautiful wood floors that were polished to perfection. Seeing you was like Christmas. The greatest gift in the world: a new home. And soon after that day my family and I claimed you as ours. Your walls were painted red and furniture was moved in.
You were my home and I felt your love every day. In the winter you brought me warmth, and when I was down I squinted out your windows at the sky. “Thank you,” I would say as you wrapped my brother and I in bed every night. Thankful was I to you, for keeping us safe.
But now I am here and I have grown up. No longer a child, I have forgotten what is important.
I have been changed by my world.
But I will not let the world erase who I am. I will not be made to feel ashamed. I look at you again. This time with new eyes, I realize now why you look so gray.
You are sad.
Was my stare upsetting? I apologize for my actions. I do not mean any harm. I look up at you and smile, as if to let you know how special you are to me. And at that moment the sun comes out and the sunlight beautifully reflects off your bricks. I turn to my friend and say, “Yes I do. This is my home.”