Jorge was just about to drag me over to my bike when we heard the cheerleaders screaming.
“Hey, hey, hold up!” I yanked my arms out of my backpack straps so he couldn’t wrestle me over to the metal rack. “You hear that?”
“Yeah, that’s just the white girls Lucita,” Jorge said. “They scream like that every day.”
He wasn’t lying. Since he lived next door to me, I waited to walk home with him. Every day we would hang outside the school behind the gym, and every day we heard the cheerleaders squealing and yelling or whatever. But this time was different.
“No, no, they’re upset about something. You scream different when you’re upset about something, cabrón.”
“Who cares if they’re upset about something? It’s not our problem.”
He grabbed me by the hair, and I screamed. That was dirty – the one move I couldn’t copy, cause of his bald-ass head. I punched him in the chest, cause that’s right about eye level on me, and he stumbled back.
“I’m gonna make it my problem then,” I said, marching right up to the gym’s back door.
“Get back here Lucita! Your mom’s gonna kill me if you’re not home by five!”
He was right. He hung out with me so much that he was pretty much part of my family since we were little kids, and he had seen my mom’s crazy side. Still, I just ignored him and slipped inside. As soon as I was through the door I felt a dozen pairs of eyes lock in on me, taking my puffy hair and hand-me-down hoodie into account. Their high-pitched babbling went quiet as they stared me down like an outsider. I didn’t have time for that.
“Well? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There’s someone in the girl’s locker room,” a tiny brunette piped up. “A guy.”
“What?” I felt my temper flare up. “Did he try anything?”
The girls glanced around at each other, shaking their heads no.
“Alright. You leave this to me, then.”
I was more angry than nervous when I pushed open the door to the locker room. I didn’t see anyone at first, but it was a pretty big room, so I moved into the center where the lockers and the benches were and looked around. Then I heard it. It was a real short, strangled sound, almost like choking, but when I turned and saw the scrawny kid crumpled up against the end of the lockers, I knew he was crying. I felt my anger cool down just a little, like when you turn off the stove and watch the red fade from the coils. This wasn’t what I expected.
“Hey, man,” I hesitated, “What’s wrong? What are you doing in here?”
He looked up at me. His eyes were watery and red around the edges, but I could still see that they were pale, pale blue, and wide like a doll’s. My anger cooled a little more. He reminded me of my little brother in some way.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “Just leave me alone, please.”
I squatted beside him. “Hey, man, I’d love to. But you got the cheerleaders all riled up.”
“I didn’t want to bother them.” He shrugged away from me. “I just wish I was like them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He shook his head and avoided making eye contact. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. Maybe he didn’t have a lot of friends. Hell, maybe he didn’t have any friends. That would explain why he couldn’t see I was just trying to help.
“What’s your name?” I asked. “You can call me Lucy.”
“Bernard,” the boy said, and then curled in on himself more.
“Jeez, you say it like you’re cussing, man.”
“I hate it.”
“Well I don’t think it’s so bad.” I thought for a second. “But I can just call you ‘B’.”
“Like the letter? Just B?”
I nodded. Then he nodded. It was settled. From then on, he was just B.
“Hey Lucy?” B said, after a minute. “What do I do if I missed my bus?”
When you left out the school parking lot, you could turn either right or left. Normally when I left, I turned right into Cedar Park. B turned left and headed toward Millbrook Acres. The kids from Millbrook Acres only went into Cedar Park to buy weed.
I begged Jorge to make up some story for my mom and then I let B ride my bike. I walked beside him. He seemed guilty about it at first, but I didn’t mind. It was a real piece of shit that had been Jorge’s before. It was a boy’s bike, so the seat hurt my butt anyways. B got real quiet when I told him that.
B was just a real quiet kid in general. I tried making some small talk on the way to his house. I found out he was a freshman, like me, and that he had an older brother who was a junior at our school. We both hated pickles, and we talked shit about pickles together. We were trying to decide if the sweet or sour kind was worse when B stopped the bike and said, “Oh, this is it.”
It was pretty much what I expected. Two story brick house, long steep driveway, two car garage, shrubs in the front: all the usual things that Millbrook Acres kids took for granted. As soon as we stopped I heard the garage door grinding open. B’s brother was standing there in his nice blue polo and shorts, and I recognized his dirty blond hair and shiny white teeth. He was the junior class president, of course.
“Hey Bernard!” he made it down the driveway quick. “What happened to you? I got back from debate and Mom and Dad were freaking out. We tried calling.”
B shrugged as he swung his leg over the bike. He was so much smaller than his brother that when they stood next to each other, they reminded me of a picture in this book my mom gave me to learn English. Short – tall. Strong – weak.
“My phone died,” B said. “I missed my bus. But Lucy let me ride her bike and walked me home.”
B’s brother finally turned and looked at me. “Well that was really nice of you, Lucy. It’s great to meet you. I’m Troy.”
He shook my hand. His grip was firm, like a businessman or a wrestler.
“You too,” I said.
“Would you like to come in for some dinner? Any friend of Bernard’s is welcome.”
“Oh, I don’t know if…” I stared at the house in front of me. It looked like a castle.
“Don’t worry about it. Our parents always cook too much. Come in, come in.”
Troy was so stupid nice that I could tell he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I knew that mom was working all night as usual, so there was nothing waiting for me at home besides PB&J or Kid Cuisine. I entered the castle. Troy and B took their shoes off at the door so I did too. It was easy to see why. The carpet was white, and it had those nice little vacuum lines. The walls had paintings and photos on them. The air smelled like Febreeze, Lysol, and a hint of dinner cooking. I followed the brothers to the kitchen.
“Ah, there he is!” a booming male voice greeted us from the stove, where a handsome man in an apron was cooking chicken breasts in a pan. He was so healthy looking that he seemed more like a third brother than a dad. Plus he had an accent.
“Where’s your dad from?” I whispered to B.
Troy overheard and answered, doing the same accent perfect. “He’s from Australia, the land down-under, isn’t that right?”
Their dad’s answer was a loud, contagious laugh. B and I made eye contact and giggled.
“Don’t mind Troy and his theatrics. He’s always trying to charm the girls, isn’t he Bernard?” a lady’s voice, one without an accent, floated into the kitchen ahead of her. She came in through the door on the other side of the room, pulling her hair into a ponytail. It was curly, like mine, and her smile was warm. “Speaking of which, who’s our guest?”
“I’m Lucy,” I said.
“She walked me home,” B added softly.
“Well it’s very nice to meet you, Lucy. I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us for dinner. Bernard doesn’t usually bring home friends from school.”
I felt like it would be pretty mean if I said that me and B weren’t actually friends. They all seemed real excited about the idea, so I just shook her hand. “Nice to meet you too, Mrs.…”
“Teller,” she finished for me.
Weird. I was eating dinner with a family and I didn’t even know their last name. I had always pictured Millbrook Acres people to be stuck up, but these people were acting like I belonged here or something.
“Anyway, Bernard, why don’t you set the table? And Troy, would you like to make drinks?” Mrs. Teller said.
The brothers obediently followed directions. I felt like I was in a TV show on ABC.
“Lucy, would you like to help make plates?” Mrs. Teller asked me.
“Sure,” I said. I didn’t want to mess up the zen around there or whatever made everybody act all smiley, so I was extra careful as I lifted chicken breasts from the pan to the plates with a pair of metal tongs.
“You have a very steady hand,” Mrs. Teller commented as she held the dishes. “You could be a surgeon.”
Mr. Teller, who was watching his hands, laughed real loud again. “She loves her job so much, she wants everyone to do it.”
“That’s not true! I know not just anyone could be a surgeon. It’s no joke.”
I snorted at the idea of it. Me, a surgeon. Doctor Lucienda Maria Vasquez.
“Yeah, right,” I said. “No way I could be a doctor.”
B looked up from the silverware drawer, cocking his head at me like a bird. “Why not?”
I smiled at the question. To me it seemed so obvious, but things were different in Millbrook Acres, I guess. Why not? I shook my head and decided not to answer.
By the time I got home, it was almost eight, and it was dark outside. I rode my bike extra fast until I was there, and then I lugged it in through the front door with me. In Cedar Park, you can’t just leave stuff laying around outside. I was barely in the kitchen before Jorge sprinted into the room.
“Finally! I thought they murdered you for sure.”
“Relax, cabrón. They fed me.” I held up the name brand Tupperware with my leftovers.
“Dios mío, this girl is ruled by her stomach,” Jorge groaned. “Well anyway, I got your sister to sleep, and your brother is in bed reading, or whatever. You better get in there and pretend to be asleep too, before your mom gets back. When I came home instead of you, she almost bit my head off, I swear. You owe me bigtime, Lucita, I’m telling you–”
“Hey, Jorge,” I blurted, “Do you think I could be a surgeon? Or like, a doctor?”
He smiled at me like I was joking. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t really sure why I said it. I knew the answer. But the thing Mrs. Teller said about my steady hands was just stuck there in my brain, like when I had a song in my head, replaying over and over. His smile disappeared.
“Lucita,” he sighed, “I wish I could give you that ‘follow your dreams’ bullshit. But you’re in high school now. You know the world. To be a surgeon, you gotta get into college, and pay for college. Then you gotta get into medical school and pay for that too. Where you getting the money, Lucita? And how’s your mom gonna feed your siblings when she’s sixty years old and can’t work three jobs no more? People like us ain’t about to be surgeons and doctors.”
I stared at my shoes. I’d had them since seventh grade. They were so worn out you could see my socks at the toes. “I know. Never mind. I was just thinking, that’s all.”
“Hey, don’t worry.” Jorge scruffed up my hair with his fingers. “At least you’re a girl. Maybe you’ll seduce yourself a surgeon someday, you know? With your womanly charms?”
That got a laugh out of me. “Womanly charms? Where?”
Jorge shrugged. “You got tits, you got potential. I’ll see you tomorrow, Lucita.”
He winked at me on his way out the door. I locked it behind him, and then I was noticeably alone. The house was cold. Above the kitchen table, there was a big old painting of the Virgin Mary, or the Santa Maria as we called her, that watched me. It was one of the only things we’d brought with us from Mexico. Her and mom were the only constant things in my life. I liked going to them both for advice.
I walked over and rested my head on the wall right underneath Mary.
“Santa Maria, do I really have to be a gold-digger?”
“Androgynous is a word that could be used to describe something of indeterminate sex. Something that is both male and female in appearance. This photo on the slide is a good example. It’s often used in experiments by psychologists, who will ask their subjects which face is female and which is male. In reality, both are the same androgynous face.”
I stared at the black and white pictures on Ms. Anderson’s slideshow. I had thought for sure the one on the left was a girl, and the other one was a boy. But now that she said something, they both did look the same. I squinted, trying to find a difference.
She changed the slide to our next vocab word, “balk”, which meant “refuse to comply”. I hurried to take notes so that I wouldn’t get any more behind than I already was in the class. I had started paying attention in school lately. Ms. Anderson’s class, a.k.a. English, was still the hardest one. There were just too many long words with long definitions, and I always got them mixed up on the quizzes. By the time the bell for lunch rang, I had forgotten what “balk” meant, but I could still picture the “androgynous” face on the slideshow.
I was one of the “free lunch kids”, which meant that I had to eat the cafeteria meals. They were always gross and too small, but I ate them anyway. If I was lucky, Jorge would give me some of his food. His mom gave him leftovers a lot.
“Dude, are those flautas?” I asked, slamming my books and tray down beside him.
“Yeah, and they’re for me,” Jorge said. He pulled the tin-foil wrapped tortillas away.
“Jorge, come on. Look at these soggy-ass chicken nuggets. Help me out, man.”
I tried to reach over his arm and grab some of his food, but he saw me coming and knocked my hand away. My elbow jerked back and knocked over the carton of chocolate milk on my tray, and it spilled right on top of my English notes. I cursed.
“That’s what you get for trying to steal my flautas!” Jorge laughed.
“Shut up cabrón, it’s not funny! I need these to do the vocab homework.” I lifted the notebook out of the chocolate puddle and tried to shake it dry, but the paper had already sucked all the liquid up like a sponge.
Jorge kept laughing. “Since when do you give a shit about vocab homework?”
I felt my face burning red. “Since now, okay? Shut your bald ugly face.”
“Lucy, you can copy my notes. You have Ms. Anderson, right? I have her 1st period.”
I looked toward the voice, and found a pair of familiar blue eyes. B was just sitting down, lunchbox and Tupperware in hand. I had totally forgotten about the new member of our lunch table. I forgot about it pretty often, to be honest. B never said much, even after sitting with me and Jorge at lunch for almost three weeks, and was always slumping down in the seat and wearing clothes that were a little too baggy. Almost like becoming invisible.
“Oh yeah, sure. Thanks B. Some people here give a shit about me,” I said. Then I elbowed Jorge in the ribs for good measure.
B laughed softly. “We could meet up after school, maybe? I could help you study them too. It’s a long list this week.”
I wanted to say yes, but I felt Jorge’s no-nonsense glare.
“I can’t. I have to watch my siblings.”
“Oh.” B’s forehead creased. “Well, why don’t we just do it at your place?”
It was kind of creepy having a Millbrook Acres kid in my house. It made me weirdly embarrassed about things I normally didn’t even think of, like the white patch on the wall where we had fixed a hole, or the dusty A/C unit that didn’t work. B didn’t seem bothered by it, though. We just sat at the kitchen table working.
First I copied the day’s notes, and then B decided to quiz me on them.
“Okay, number one: androgynous. What does it mean?”
“Oh I remember this one!” I said, picturing the face on the slideshow. “Kinda. It means, like, when you can’t tell if something is male or female, right?”
B nodded. “Pretty much. It’s ‘of indeterminate sex’. Use it in a sentence.”
My eyes circled the room as I thought about it. They stopped on the Santa Maria.
“That painting. The Mary painting. With her hair and body all covered in her robe like that, her face looks kind of androgynous, don’t you think?” I said.
B looked where I was looking and studied the painting. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Yes!” I felt like a genius. “Next one, next one.”
B smiled. “Okay. What does balk mean?”
I stopped feeling like a genius. “Damn, I keep forgetting that one.”
“That’s okay. It means ‘refuse to comply’. So if you don’t like the cold, then you will balk at someone’s request to go play in the snow.”
“Oh, okay, okay. Well then I balk all the time, cause I’m stubborn as hell,” I said.
We laughed. I was actually having fun learning the vocab. With B, it was kind of like we were just having a conversation. But now that I’d made that joke, I’d probably remember what balk meant. My sister interrupted us before we could move on to “calamity”.
“Lucienda, Lucienda,” she ran into the room, waving around her coloring book and crayons like she was having the biggest emergency in all her three long years.
“Yes, cosita?” I said, calling her the nickname me and mom had given her – little thing.
“Help me, Lucienda, help me pick the colors,” she said, speaking in Spanish, since she knew barely any English. “Pick the color for Barbie’s dress, so I can give you this picture for a present, okay?”
I smiled. This was the toughest problem in Marisol’s life. I was jealous. Gazing at the worn down crayon stubs in my sister’s hand, I picked the one that would be easiest for her to grip. “Morado,” I said. Purple.
Marisol nodded happily, and then noticed B sitting at the end of the table. She had been a social butterfly since birth, so she toddled over to B’s seat and asked in Spanish what color Barbie’s hair should be.
B looked at me for help. I smiled and translated. “Sorry. Her English ain’t so good.”
“I see,” B said, lifting the yellow crayon from my sister’s hand. “Yellow?”
My sister blinked, and then repeated what B said curiously. “Yellow?”
B nodded, and repeated the word slowly, handing the crayon back. “Yellow.”
Marisol understood, and started jumping around like she just won the lottery. “Yellow, yellow, yellow!”
She danced out of the room singing her new song. B and I laughed. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one here learning English, and having fun doing it.
“What do you want to be when you, like, grow up or whatever?” I asked.
“I’m not really sure,” B shrugged. “Why?”
“I was just thinking you’d make a really good teacher, is all,” I said.
“Thank you,” B said. “I don’t know if I could do it, though. I’m pretty shy.”
“Well I think you could.”
Both of us got quiet, and I could tell that we were thinking about the same thing.
“Lucy, why don’t you think you could be a doctor?”
I stared at my hands so I wouldn’t have to look in B’s innocent blue eyes. “It’s not that I literally couldn’t do it,” I said. “It’s just…it’s because of who I am. The person I was born as. The person I am in this family. College, medical school…that stuff’s just not an option for me. I don’t expect you to really get it.”
The room got quiet again, so quiet that it hurt. I couldn’t even hear Marisol singing anymore. It was like all the sound had been sucked out, and I could only hear myself breathing, and myself thinking. Did I just hurt B’s feelings? Maybe that came out wrong. I had to end the quiet.
“No. Don’t apologize. You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes. I’ve never had the responsibilities you have. I’ll never know how hard it is for you and your family to make it in this world. I realize that,” B said. “But…I mean, I don’t want to…get involved with something that’s none of my business…but I don’t think who you are is that important. Who you were born as, how the world sees you…that’s not as important as who you believe you are. That’s the real you. That’s the person you can become.”
I sat there in shock. I’d never heard B talk that much before. And no one – not mom, not Jorge, not Santa Maria – had said anything like that to me before. I couldn’t figure out how it made me feel. Kind of mad and happy and offended and inspired all at the same time.
“And you know what I think?” B added. “I think the real you is studying this vocab for a reason. So you have to decide. What’s your reason?”
B left a couple hours later. I helped Marisol take a bath and I made sure Martín stopped watching TV and I put them both to bed. I should have gone to sleep too, but my mind wouldn’t stop thinking about what B said, and what it meant. Was it just more of that “follow your dreams bullshit”, like Jorge would say? I couldn’t really be a doctor, right?
No, I couldn’t. So why did I keep thinking about it?
I paced around the kitchen. I ran my fingers through my hair.
What if I took out loans? Lots of loans? I didn’t even really know how loans worked. I just knew that they made you have a lot of debt. But if I was rich surgeon, I could pay for my debt. And I could pay for my mom’s debt, and my mom’s house and food, and for Martín and Marisol to go to college too. Or was all that too expensive even for a surgeon?
“Santa Maria, I don’t know shit about money,” I said. “Help me out.”
She stared at me and I thought about her androgynous face and I thought about the vocab words that I had just spent hours memorizing. I walked over to Santa Maria’s wall again and put my head there. I wanted Santa Maria to come out of the painting. I wanted my mom to come home. I wanted someone to tell me what to do.
“Santa Maria, what’s my reason?”
One night there was a huge storm. By the time it started up, Marisol was already asleep, lucky for me. She was scared to death of thunder. Martín was still awake, watching TV. It was a Friday, so I let him stay there even when it got late. I was working on math homework at the kitchen table. Jorge had offered to come over, but I knew he would rather hang with his cousins, and I never got work done with him around anyway.
The power went out right around ten. I couldn’t see to work anymore, but I balked at the opportunity to go to bed and started looking for candles.
“The power’s out,” Martín said as he came in from the living room.
“Duh,” I said. He was only four years younger than me, so I was allowed to tease him.
“So the TV is out,” he said, like I didn’t know that.
“Well it’s late anyway. Go to sleep.”
“Fine. What are you doing in here, anyway?”
“I’m doing homework.”
“Why?” he asked. “It’s Friday.”
“Because it takes me a long time to do math, alright? Now get your nosy butt to bed.”
“Fine,” he said again. I heard his footsteps creaking down to our bedroom.
I found some matches in a drawer, and a candle on the counter. It was a new prayer one mom had bought with Santa Maria on it. Except she had bought this one at Walmart, so it didn’t look like the painting on the wall. In the candle, Mary had blue eyes and pale skin. Santa Maria was a white girl at Walmart.
The candle was just bright enough for me to keep working, so I sat there for another half hour or so. Then I heard someone banging on the door. At first I thought maybe mom was off early. But no, of course not, mom had keys. Maybe Jorge, then? I got up from the table and walked over to the door, but I knew not to open it until I was sure.
“That you, cabrón?”
“No, it’s me.”
I’d recognize that quiet-ass voice anywhere. I unlocked the door quick. “B?”
It was dark out, and the rain was pouring down so heavy I could just barely see. Sure enough, I was right. B was standing there, face hidden inside a dark green hoodie that was way too big. I thought it must be Troy’s.
“Dios mío, get your ass inside before you freeze to death!” I said. “Did you walk all the way here?”
B nodded, dripping rain water all over our kitchen floor.
“Dios mío,” I repeated. “You could be dead for more reasons than one. Follow me.”
I brought B and the candle into the bathroom and found a towel that I thought was still fresh. I took the sweatshirt off and wringed it out over the bathtub while B sat on the edge, shivering under the towel.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, draping the soaked jacket next to its owner.
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“And it couldn’t wait til Monday? Or for the rain to stop, at least?”
I couldn’t see much in the darkness, but I heard the tears in B’s voice. I thought of the first time we met. It felt like so long ago, but I could still see us there in the locker room so clearly. My frustration faded away again, and I sat down on the edge of the tub too.
“Okay. Well tell me, then.”
“I want to,” B said. “But I’m scared. I’m so scared. I wanted to tell my mom or my dad or Troy, but I couldn’t.”
“Why not?” I asked. I was surprised that there was anything B could do that would upset people as nice as the ones I met.
“Because they’re my family, and what I want to tell them is going to make them see me differently. And I don’t want them to see me differently. I want them to just see me as the same part of the family I always was. I thought it might be easier with you, but…”
“Hey. You were right, you can tell me. I don’t bite, you know?”
“Okay,” B said.
There was a long pause, what felt like a million years, and then the words started pouring out like the thunder and the rain.
“You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to be someone you’re not? That icky, gross, guilty feeling – like you’re lying? Well, that’s how I feel all the time. I think that’s why I’m so shy, because I feel like I’m not ever being me. Up until recently, I couldn’t even figure out who ‘me’ was. But I think I know now.
When we met, when I was in in the girls’ locker room – and, by the way, I know that was a dumb thing to do, but I wasn’t thinking – anyway, I told you I wanted to be like them. But that’s not even right. It’s not that I want to be like them. It’s that I already am like them, and I always have been, but for some reason I’m the only one who can see it. Do you understand?”
“No, not really,” I said honestly. “What are you telling me, B?”
“I’m telling you that…I’m telling you that I am a girl. Not that I want to be one or that I’m going to be one, but that I am. I know what I look like – my body, but…but my body is something that I have. My body is not who I am. Only I can know for sure who I am, and now I know, and I’ve never felt so comfortable or sure about anything in my life. I don’t know if you’ll even understand, or want to be my friend or whatever, but…”
B’s words trailed off with a loud clap of thunder. I didn’t say anything. I had no idea what to say. What was I supposed to say to something so unexpected like that? Apparently I was quiet for too long.
“If you think I’m crazy, I understand.” B stood up, grabbed the soaking wet hoodie, and ran from the bathroom.
I jumped up and followed, forgetting about the stupid candle. “B, wait!”
As I stumbled into the kitchen, the power came back on without a warning. The bright overhead light blinded me for a second, and I stopped short. Another step and I would’ve crashed right into B, who was standing there struggling back into the hoodie.
“B, please wait, I’m sorry.”
B didn’t turn to face me.
“I don’t think you’re crazy,” I said. “And I don’t hate you or anything. I still want to hang out – I still want to be friends. I just…I don’t know what to think, is all. It’s like, I’ve seen you as one thing for so long, and now you’re telling me you’re something else. And I mean, I don’t know if you’re religious or whatever, but as far as I know, God don’t make mistakes.”
“I’m not a mistake,” B said. “I’m just me. And I’m me for a reason. I’m me on purpose.”
She turned around then, and finally looked me in the eye. With her hair and body all covered by the hoodie like that, she reminded me a little of the androgynous face, the white girl Santa Maria. I thought of all times someone told me I was a gold-digger when I knew I was a surgeon, and I wondered why this had to be different. I thought maybe people just had to be themselves after all. Follow their dreams, and bullshit.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, okay. You’re right. You’re you. And I’m glad I know you.”
It was true. It might have been strange to me, getting to know this B, the real B that had been hiding. It might take me a while to understand all the way. But I thought it would be worth it. Cause I thought that I probably wouldn’t even know the real Lucy, if it wasn’t for B. So I would fight for her anyway.
B hugged me. Even though she was freezing cold, I hugged back.
When the rain had died down, I gave B a dry jacket and sent her home, telling her to watch herself until she was in a better neighborhood. I gave her the number for our house phone, and she said she’d call it so I’d know she was safe. She told me not to worry.
After she was gone, the kitchen felt empty again, but it wasn’t a cold kind of emptiness. It was a clean kind of emptiness. It was an emptiness that promised to be filled, like stepping into a new house and calling it home. I thought to myself about what B had told me. She was right about how it made me see her differently, and it would probably make her family feel that way too, once she told them. But after a while, different always becomes normal. You take your old clothes and worn out furniture and you move it into the new home and pretty soon it’s not so new, it’s just home.
So if I could get used to Bernard becoming B becoming she, then maybe mom and Jorge and everyone else could get used to Lucita becoming med student becoming surgeon.
I pressed my head on the wall underneath the painting, and I said:
“Santa Maria, I’m going to be a doctor.”