Nyra in Search of Nyra

Where is Nyra?

Who am I? Most of us ask, at some point. If we’re lucky, we answer it early and consciously. If we’re really lucky, we only have to answer it once. Many of us have parents or grandparents who got away with that, in the simpler times preceding the turn of the last century. Arguably, it’s gotten a little less straightforward, in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Before we go a step further, I’m going to make a distinction. My use of identity here refers mostly to the deeply personal, individual identity that is inseparable from us—that unseverable indivisible thing without which we are no longer ourselves. And yes, for those who may already shifting uncomfortably in their seats, I know that most of us identify with a group or groups and that for many of us, that identity is part of our inseverable sense of self.

Nyra in search of her best self...

But as Best Case Scenario, Act I of Nyra’s Journey, opens, Nyra’s identity problem is way more personal and fundamental.  She is, after all, for better or for worse, a child of her Age. And like it or not, that matters, both because of how it helps form her sense of self but also because of what it means for her practically…how it drives what she does, must do and why.

Context and Identity

Everything, including our identity, is happens or is formed in a context. By way of illustration, try becoming an accomplished swimmer in a dry lake bed or preparing for an international Super-G competition in Nebraska. Are there workarounds? Usually. But our contextual realities are still highly influential if for no other reason than how those work arounds our reality and our preceptions of them. Which brings us to Nyra.

In common with most of us, Nyra is a creation of her environment, personal and shared. But at both levels, Nyra’s identity is a half-way house between her aspirations and her currrent reality. The daughter of a single (again) mother and an absentee father, college hasn’t come easily.

A combination of student loans, part-time jobs and scholarships has seen her through to graduation, but lately, she’s wondering “for what?” More than a year after graduation, she’s still looking for her first professional-level position, while clinging to her part-time jobs waitressing and her modestly paying internship working in call center for company that clearly doesn’t value her.

And then along comes Toni...

On a personal level, things have been just as frustrating. Despite her smouldering  sexuality, Nyra is still a “virgin,” at least factually. Close calls and promising beginnings have yet to lead to fulfillment. It’s not like there’s anything physically wrong with her, nor is she without possibilities. At Timmons Financial, there’s Toni, a lovely woman of color who oozes grace and sensuality.

But then, Kevin is pretty easy on the eyes, too...

And at her part-time job at The Blue Macaw, there’s Kevin, a delicious Iraq and Afghanistan vet whom she’s caught undressing her with his eyes more than once. But that’s where it all begins and ends. Is it the differences between their ages and experience? Is he gay, or does he need a nudge…some kind of hint? Nyra’s not very good at hints.

Hope is a siren's song

In common with a lot of millennials, Nyra wonders if her personal and professional life are a kind of metaphor for the world she’s supposed to be inheriting. Sandwiched between a less than satisfying now and a future she increasingly suspects may be empty of a place for her, somehow she manages a measure of hope. But even in her best moments, she finds herself alternating between modulating her cynicism with optimism and her dreams with a healthy dose caution.

It’s occurred to her more than once that she might  be guilty of living her life defensively. And when the notion crosses her mind, she emphatically denies it, or admonishes herself for giving up. She can’t do that. Her mother didn’t. Still, she can’t help but wonder what, exactly, is her best case scenario. On when she might even catch a glimpse of it, out there in the foggy potential of maybe someday.

Best Case Scenario is the first act in Nyra Westensee’s journey from young woman with more questions than answers to a thoughtful maturing human full of purpose and promise.

To remain up to date on upcoming Nyra Westensee stories and all of Dirk’s work, subscribe to his Updates.

Interview with Nyra Westensee

Candid Interview with Nyra Westensee

Tina Lavereau: It’s my pleasure to welcome Nyra Westensee, the heroine of Best Case Scenario to our proverbial hot seat. Welcome, Nyra.

Nyra: Thanks for inviting me.

Tina: How did Dirk wind up telling your story?

Nyra: I met him in a coffee shop one afternoon, while he was working on a short story he subsequently got published. It was really crowded so I sat across from him in the only empty chair in the whole place and we wound up BSing. He started asking questions. About an hour in, he asked me if he could write a series based on me and my experiences.

Tina: When he told you he wanted to write your story, what was your first reaction?

Nyra: (Laughs) I don’t remember exactly, but as I recall, I looked at him and said something incredibly profound like “Really?” That’s when he locked me up with those gunsight eyes of his and I realized he was serious. That’s when I started getting queasy.

Tina: But you went ahead with it, ultimately.

Nyra: (Rolls her eyes and smiles) Yeah, I did.

 Tina: Why?

Nyra: Uh…have you met Dirk?

Tina: Briefly.

Nyra: Then maybe you’ll just have to take my word for it this one, but let’s just say Dirk can be…persuasive.

Tina: (laughs). Are you happy with the outcome?

Nyra: Totally. We made a deal. I’d tell the story, he’d write it, adding any artistic and thematic twists he thought my story suggested. Then he agreed to run it by me before he published it. We had a few…animated…discussions, but I was pleasantly surprised at how sympathetically he told my story. He’s an incredible listener and way more empathetic than I expected for a retired Marine. He’s also scary perceptive. But I’m glad I did it.

Tina: So you’d do it again?

Nyra: I’ve already promised to do it again.

Tina: Will the sequel becoming out soon?

Nyra: It may be a while. You’d have to ask Dirk.

Tina: On the surface of things, you seem to have a great relationship with your mother and brother. But as one reads the story, it feels like there’s a lot going on below the surface?

Nyra: Not much that isn’t going on above the surface.

Tina: Come on, Nyra!

Nyra: Okay, look. I know where you’re going with this, and it’s true, Mom and I in particular have had our moments. But she’s still Mom to me, and maybe the strongest woman I know. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have achieved as much as I have, this early. I just love her to pieces and I owe her so much.

Tina: How did she react to the book?

Nyra: (Blushes) Oh my god! When I started reading the galleys, I had this out-of-control panic attack over how she would take some of it. It’s so intensely personal, in places, and I almost told Dirk he was going to have to use a pseudonym for me or I wouldn’t let him publish it.

Tina: What changed your mind?

Nra: (Smiles conspiratorially) You remember me saying earlier Dirk could be really persuasive? That man could sell suspenders to snake! He gave me one of his looks and told me to think of it as a declaration of independence.

 Tina: And that worked?

Nyra: Sort of. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still walking on eggshells when Mom started reading it.

Tina: What about Kip? How’d he take it?

Nyra: (Smiles fondly.) Kip’s so mellow. I can say anything to him and know we’ll always be tight. He’d chase the devil into hell to drag me back to safety. As long as we can stop for a beer on the way back.

Tina: Quite an endorsement!

Nyra: Look, we’re human and we have our human moments. We don’t have to be perfect…we just have to be there when it matters for each other. Kip always is.

Tina: Can I get personal, for a minute?

Nyra: Depends. How personal?

Tina: Cringingly personal?

Nyra: Oh God! (Giggles) What the hell. Can’t be any more cringy that those sessions with Dirk. Go for it!

Tina: Apart from your search for yourself professionally and family issues, Best Case Scenario takes a fairly deep dive into your sexuality. What’s it like to hang the details out there?

Nyra: (Frown dissolves into a smile). It probably won’t surprise you that those details were at the heart of my panic attack. And I’d be lying if I didn’t cop to it being a little…okay, a lot…awkward sharing all those really intimate, personal details…which he embellished. And when I read the galleys, I felt so…exposed. But to be honest, it’s also been freeing. I mean, once it’s out there, it’s out there and all the people closest to me have been so down with it. And the truth is, it becomes old news really fast, even for the obsessively curious. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The biggest changes has been my personal understanding of who I am and what that means. On balance, all very positive things.

Tina: So, what have you been up to lately? Anything new going on in your life?

Nyra: Well, I’ve been trying some new things to expand my horizons personally. One of the things I did was take up surfing and I can’t believe what a rush it is!

Tina: Surfing?

Nyra: I know, right? I started out on a longboard…riding the teeny-weenies at Old Man’s…it’s a mellow reef break just north of the old San Onofre nuclear power plant. Stood up the first day. I’ve been dropping down in length ever since and my new favorite board is my five-five Channel Islands twin fin, but I’m still hanging on to my Donald Takayama nose rider. And I’m saving up for a trip to Hawai’i next year and thinking about have a custom board shaped. I’m going to have a world-traveler quiver, at the rate I’m going.

Tina: Really into it, are you?

Nyra: Way! Sometimes I have to fend off all the surf dogs trying to pick me up while I’m trying to surf, but…(Shrugs) It’s manageable and to be honest, it has some upside. It’s really good for the ego. But now that Tai and I are a thing, they leave me alone.

Tina: Wait a minute. Tai? Your current boyfriend? I didn’t know…is it serious?”

Nyra: Who knows? You’d have to ask Tai…

Tina: How do we get in touch with him?

Nyra: You don’t!

Tina: But you said…

Nyra: Forget what I said! At least for now.

Q: Oh, all right. Everything good at work?

Nyra: Yeah, it’s going well. I’m going to get a crack at being an APM for a new project we’re taking on at Symondson. Denise has paired me up with an experienced Project Manager who’s going to mentor me. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.

Tina: So on balance, life is good?

Nyra: It really is. (Nyra looks thoughtful). I’m guessing there will still be bumps. Just about the time things get comfortable, shit happens. (Grins) I’ll just have to deal with it when it comes. But I’ll worry about that when it happens!

Tina: Thanks for making time for us, Nyra.

Nyra: You got it!

Nyra Westensee

Act II of Nyra’s Journey is due out in late 2019 or early 2020.