Chapter One, page 11
my plans, thinking that my family was jeopardizing my opportunities
for advancement. My future, she told me, was in peril.
But I tell you what, she said. There just may be something we can do about
Compañera Tania here has something for you.
Tania handed me a yellow envelope and asked me to take it home and make sure that my parents answered each and all questions in the pages it contained and to return it to her the next morning. I thanked her and the principal, because I felt that I had been given the responsibility to save my future. It was, quite literally, in my hands.
I went home thinking I would lock myself in the bathroom to read the papers before handing them to my mother. But the moment my mother saw my face, she asked me what had happened. I took the envelope from my book bag and handed it to her, not telling her what the principal had said about my uncertain future. She glanced at the papers before laying them on the dining table; for once her face betrayed nothing. Accustomed to leaving important decisions to my father, she said he would take a look at them when he came home from work, which he usually did after eight, exhausted from driving a delivery truck.
When he arrived that night, he, too, ignored the papers at first. I was aching to read them but didn’t dare to touch them. I reminded my father to answer all the questions, just as the teacher had instructed. We’ll see, he said.
I went to bed but didn’t sleep. Because my sister and I shared the couch in the living room, I could see my father hunched over the papers by the light on the dining table. He stayed up half the night, sometimes reading, sometimes thinking, holding his brow with the first three fingers of his left hand, as was his custom when events overwhelmed him. I peered at him from under the sheets, pretending to sleep. Sometime before dawn he pushed the papers away and went to bed.
In the morning he simply told me he couldn’t answer the questions, and he showed me why. The questionnaire asked every detail of our lives. Did we have relatives in the United States? What were their names and addresses? Did we communicate with them? How often? Did we go to church? Every week? Every day? Did we know any counterrevolutionaries? Did we go to La Plaza to hear Fidel speak? Did we volunteer when the revolution needed us? One hundred and