Yelling In The Silence - Profile of Juderlin Espinal
It was a mildly cloudy day in Brooklyn, New York. I trudged to class, dreading finding out who my interview partner was. I pushed open the door and looked on the board, my eyes glazing over at the pleasant surprise. I turned around and slid into the seat across from Juderlin with anticipation. “Hi Juderlin,” I greeted. She grinned. “Hi Trynessa.”
She sat with her right hand under her chin. It gave her a sort of innocent appearance, and I wondered if maybe under her all black outfit there was a softer, pastel colored heart. After a moment’s worth of friendly banter, I suggested we start with basics, like her early life.
Juderlin Espinal was born January 11th, 2000 in Brownsville. She grew up with her mom and, periodically, her father. She described her early life as difficult, struggling with mental illnesses in a family that was unsupportive. Despite this, she has blossomed into a happier person, and she considers herself proud of her change.
“If you talk to me I’m just a clown. I really like making people laugh and I want to help people.” She said. She shrugged nonchalantly, as though this was just a thing she was used to saying. The shrug made me curious; how many people before me have asked her about her attitude and personality? So I asked her. She brushed my question off, saying that people just assumed her to be mean without really asking questions. Despite the nonchalant attitude, I was still very interested. I asked her if people ever aimed to get to know her beyond her outward appearance. She shook her head, saying that people never seemed interested in truly getting to know her. “People think I’m mean,” she said rather curtly. The short answer solidified my thoughts- because she seemed so upset, people never bothered to speak to her.
We ran out of time that day, but I still had a few questions I wanted to ask her. Juderlin is a friend of mine, and the idea that people just didn’t want to get to know her because of how “mean” she seemed was ridiculous to me. I formulated some questions I thought would deepen my understanding of not only Juderlin, but the difference in what people see and what the truth is.The day of the second interview was a bit more business than the first. We cracked a few jokes but went right to the questions.
I dove in with a follow up question, asking her to explain further what she meant when she said she didn’t think people were interested in getting to know her. She explained that she was more of an observer rather than a talker, and that people saw it as being “bitchy.” She laughed a bit before saying that she’s had bad experiences with people, trusting them with information she wished she hadn’t. “I don’t like forcing people to tell me things,” She said. “If you want to tell me, that’s great. If you don’t that’s okay too.” She went on explaining why she believed that made her a bit unapproachable. “Why?” The question popped out. I bit my tongue, feeling as though I’d crossed a boundary. “It’s okay,” She smiled.
She took a hard breath and looked away from me. I wondered whether she was formulating her thoughts or deciding if I was trustworthy enough. When she turned back to me, her eyes looked sad, the way they were casted downwards and not focusing on anything. “When I was younger, I was depressed. And no one really gave me a place to talk about it. I’d been told by therapists that I was a brat.” At my shocked look, she shrugged. “It’s fine, really. I’ve gotten over it.”
I sat in shocked silence. Here, a person I believed to be one of the sweetest people ever, was talking about how people never cared about her feelings or her personality. I couldn’t believe how people saw her concern for their feelings as standoffish and rude. Juderlin doesn’t speak because she’s listening to you, not because she’s disinterested. She’s helpful, she wants to make you the best version of yourself that she possibly can. And yet, here she was, regret and pain painted across her face as she described how she thought people saw her.
I returned her fake smile with a nearly too cheerful one of my own. “I’m interested in getting to know you,” I said. She smiled an actual smile and casted her eyes down. “Thanks, Trynessa.”
The black Juderlin wore seemed brighter at that moment, as though explaining her feelings had unlocked something within her that only I could see. I smiled, and she returned it, before we started hurling playful insults at each other once again.
There she was, the Juderlin I grew to love.