Code Switched

by Samantha Sasenarine, 2019

Right before I leave my college apartment
I am reminded of who I become.

Instead of talkin' like THIS
WHAT'S GOOD? How you been?
I remind myself,
Don't get too loud or… deep
Make use of full sentences
And try to

I change my voice for you
Where are my familiar faces?


miss my hood.

I miss the delayed Bronx 6 train…
And seeing dirty graffiti right after Whitlock Ave
Or hopping turnstiles at 3 rd Ave
Running from cops at 125st
BUT only on the East side
Sometimes, I even miss my crazy neighbor
Who'd annoyingly ask me every day,
Mi amor! Mi amor! ¿Qué hora es?
Ms. Rosa would sit outside all day
Till I came home from school
Just to make sure
that I went inside safely.
Ain't that some love right there?

Now, I'm here. I've never felt safer.
I have the freedom to walk
At midnight to an apartment
Without peeking behind me
Praying that he didn't follow me again from the station.
But, the people here
don’t treat me with the same love.
Soooo nah, I don't really talk like this over here.
And my friends back at home—
The ones struggling to get back into college
Or the ones working to help their mothers pay bills,
They ask me,
Yo Sam, why you talkin' like that bro?
You be soundin' smart… like you boutta' run ya own company
Or some shit…
Them white people changin’ you.

I chuckle a little
But, I feel the absurdity of their responses
Reminding me that I have been
Placed in a space
That has created another identity.