You never talked about being half-black and I never talked about being half-brown.
Instead, we talked about your gay high school boyfriend and how he came out after it was far too late. His orientation made you feel unlovable. After his confession, you became another star in the sky that nobody noticed cooling until it was already dead. You went from being a dot on the star chart to being nothing at all—a black dwarf, so cold inside. Even once you set your sights on a new moon, you never let him know. “What if he’s gay, too?” you asked me. We talked about that a lot.
But we never talked about your racial identity crisis.
We talked about how one of my ears had been crushed when I was a newborn and how I always covered it with my voluminous hair. I was so ashamed to be kissed on my flattened helix for the very first time. When my boyfriend rubbed the smooth surface afterwards, he smiled and declared it “cute.” I scorned myself for needing his validation. Even with it, I hated my little crushed ear. We only talked about that once.
But we never talked about my racial identity crisis.
We talked about how you kept a database of every movie you ever watched and how you wanted to consume all of world cinema like it was a bagful of drugstore candy. You always had new movies to add to your viewing list based upon what you read. You would give me recommendations all the time, so I could watch the movies on my own. You preferred to watch movies alone, just like me. We talked about that a lot.
But we never talked about how people never believed you were your mother’s child.
We talked about how my boyfriend’s mother was dying and how I couldn’t tell if some days were harder for him than others or if they were all equally insufferable. He had been so secretive about his mother’s diagnosis that his own college roommate didn’t know she was sick. It made me think he still harbored some hope. We only talked about that once.
But we never talked about how people never believed I was my mother’s child.
We talked about how mortified you were by the size of your parents’ McMansion and how your mother had decorated all of the extra rooms according to themes. Naturally, because we lived in Virginia, there was a George Washington room. There was also the woodland room, the teddy bear room, even a room full of clocks. We talked about that a lot.
But we never talked about how our classmates said you acted “so white.”
We talked about how I couldn’t sit still, how I was full of nerves, how I always had dreams but never enough sleep. I was never satisfied with my accomplishments and hatched up new plans for new projects as often as I could because I didn’t think I was worth more than my accolades. I didn’t believe in my inherent dignity as a human being. We only talked about that once.
But we never talked about how most of our classmates didn’t know I wasn’t white.
Our friendship was fast and furious, almost more of an infatuation. It was too intense for the slow burn and fade of two college girls who met in class and then gradually stopped seeing each other. We were depressed and we were anxious, but in five months of constant contact, neither one of us would admit that we were also biracial. We were two mutts—one mulatta, one mestiza—who were desperate to re-invent the South.
Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. Her writings have appeared in Marie Claire, The Feminist Wire, Bustle, Teen Vogue, The Huffington Post, Ravishly, So to Speak, Jimson Weed, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine. Christine is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press) and Ova, a forthcoming chapbook from Dancing Girl Press.