Tanya Everett is an actor and writer in New York City. Her latest endeavors have included staged readings of her one-act play, A Virgin Christmas, with David Zayas (Dexter). This fall, she will be starring in “Munched,” which will partner with W.O.R.T.H., a nonprofit organization that helps formerly incarcerated women to begin anew. Her website will soon be live for viewing: http://www.tanyaeverett.com
Last night, I boarded a Chinatown bus at 8:54 pm in New York City. It had just begun to rain, and the city streets were slick and iridescent. I headed to Lucky Star, only because the bus ratings are marginally less offensive. I settled myself in for an evening of work, but found that the bus seemed to be coming apart at the hinges, and I’d be better off taking a nap. When I awoke, we were already bouncing into South Station. We arrived just before 12:45, so I bounded off the bus, hoping to get to the Red Line before the last train.
After midnight, South Station is tied up like a virgin before her wedding night, so I knew getting home would be more difficult than catching the G train in Brooklyn on a bad day. Downstairs in the station, I asked the guard if the last train had left. His monosyllabic “Yep,” was unconvincing. I figured I’d try my luck and test the waters, so I trotted over to the station. I was let in by another guard to the main terminal and, with another gentleman in tow, bounded down off to the Redline entrance. I asked the MTA employee and her colleague, and they insisted that the last train to Ashmont was coming. I bought a ticket and I headed towards my train.
At the bottom of the stairs was a lone woman. She asked me “Is there a train coming tonight?” I said, “There should be.” She insisted on checking, so she rode back up the escalator, and received the same answer I had received just minutes before. She then proceeded to hoist her suitcase back down to the platform for a second round of waiting, this time more patiently and less nervously.
With nothing left to do but take a watch and wait approach, we struck up a conversation. We had gone to neighboring high schools. She was in town from Oakland for her mother’s 80th birthday; I, for my grandmother’s 75th. We both dance and write plays. Both of our families are the clingy types that insist that when we visit we spend every waking moment in their presence, kissing babies and washing dishes. I secretly hoped she’d have some insight as how to CHANGE that predicament, but we were too similar for that to be a realistic expectation. Her mother is Jamaican and set in her ways. My grandmother is of Ukranian and Polish descent, hence as stubborn as the day is long. It seemed like no coincidence that she and I met on that platform in that moment. Perhaps we both needed the good vibes of someone similar, but different, to remind us that we were on the right track – and I don’t just mean in the T station.
I saw a light in her eyes that shone from faith, perseverance, and experience. She mentioned more than once how much she enjoyed my energy. When the train finally arrived, a man in a Red Sox cap mustered the nerve to interrupt our vigorous chatting. He stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Excuse me, miss, I don’t mean to bother you, but I was just tellin’ him, you have star-quality.” From the looks of ‘him,’ they didn’t even know each other. But I was pleased by the content of this interruption, so I asked his name. “It’s Devine.” “Huh? I’m sorry, can you say that again?” asked like a bumbling fool, unworthy of his compliment. “Devine. It’s spelled with an ‘E’ though.” He went on to tell me that I had something that caught his eye and that he told a complete stranger about it. It may have just been a pick up, but for me in that moment, I had the sense that this second encounter with this second stranger was also no fluke. It could have been a lack of sleep, but finding a new friend from the other side of the country and meeting a Bostonian with the name of a demi-God felt like exactly what I needed in that moment.
Admittedly, I have a tendency to attract all kinds of people, celebrities and homeless vagrants alike. My roommate thinks it’s hysterical, because I make a new acquaintance daily – even the kind some people don’t want to meet in a lifetime. I believe it all stems from my grandmother. See, Linda (my grandmother) turned seventy-five that night, while I was chatting it up on the train platform. Oddly enough, she has spent my entire lifetime paving the way for me to have choice encounters just like these. She’s the one to speak to strangers on the subway at one in the morning. She’s the courageous, go-getter that never stops, despite limited means. She has always been ferocious and fearless. She is an avid believer that you can accomplish anything with a “glass half full” outlook on life.
Sometimes it is hard to keep her outlook handy in my own life. Lately, I’ve been struggling to find my voice as an artist, to create value in my work. And the weight of these burdens can sometimes undermine my grandma given optimism. What’s worse is that I find myself struggling against what is simply the natural order of things, begging winter to be spring (faster), asking lean years to become fat years (sooner), demanding that life slow down now so that I can catch up and grow at my own pace.
I have been known to ask for too much, but I have also been known to deliver great things. My own flare on grandma’s wisdom is that when preparedness meets timing, and a little bit of grace, all things are possible. But we wouldn’t be human if, every now and again, we failed to recognize that we are perfect in our imperfections. We forget that the very things that seem like character flaws are our most interesting characteristics. As an actor and a writer, I constantly mine for unique character traits. I’ve come to celebrate the triumph of the hero over her toughest opponent: herself.
As I rushed towards home that night, I was reminded that all the world’s a stage and it’s about time that I applied some of this leeway I give to my scripted protagonists to lil ole’ me, the girl that makes besties with late night commuters. The conversations on that platform reminded me that my inherited positivity is what attracts people, and that my own darkness is what makes me human. I was reminded to enjoy the discoveries along the journey, not just the destination. And there’s something simply perfect about celebrating my own divinity in the wee hours, at the crack of dawn, on the day the earth welcomed the source of my greatest gifts. Don’t think my grandma doesn’t make me repay the favor. Did I mention that August is her birthday MONTH??
I think this is an appropriate time/place to say Happy Birthday mom!