When I was twelve I used to make art at a table where each of us who shared the table was from a different race or culture. We joked that we all made "highly integrated" art. My art table friend was American Indian girl, who encouraged me to follow her home one day after school.
When we arrived, her whole family (seven more people) were sitting on two couches that faced each other. No other furniture except a lamp, a TV on a table in the corner and a coffee table. The TV wasn't on.
I sat down, squishing myself in where they made room for me to sit as she did. She introduced me to her family. We giggled a little about something that had happened at school that day. The conversation died down. I asked what the dog's name was after some time had gone by. Another five minutes went by. Her family members told me the story, a sentence at a time from almost every person there, about how the dog arrived and came to be adopted into the family. Another long silence.
I looked at everyone. They didn't seem to be expecting anything from me, so I just sat there. We sat for about a half hour. Her mom got up and offered us all iced tea because it was hot. We drank the tea and rattled the ice cubes together. Nobody said anything for the next half hour.
Then as if on some cue, everyone got up. We said goodbye to each other and they asked me to come back again and visit. They said they really enjoyed meeting me and was looking forward to seeing me again. They were happy their daughter had such an interesting friend. I wasn't really sure why they thought I was interesting. Then I walked home, feeling lucky I'd just been in another world where I could be interesting for just sitting on a couch keeping my mouth shut.
I kept making art with her and hanging out with her at school and lunchtime, but I couldn't figure out a reason to come back to visit her at her house and she did not press me to return. She said everyone she brought over to her house did not feel very comfortable there. I wanted to be different, but at the time it was just too strange for me too. I'd never traveled before and didn't really understand that I was going to a different culture when I was really just visiting that house down the street.