Chapter One, page 5
we did that night: went out to their terraces or balconies, sat in their
rocking chairs, and rocked the boredom and frustration away.
I was so grateful for that precious black box that when the lights went off,
ran to my parents’ bedroom, threw myself on the pink bedspread, facedown,
squeezed shut, and promised myself that once I started sixth grade in September,
I would watch TV only after I had completed my homework and memorized
my lessons of the day.
When I told my mother later about my promise, she shook her head silently. If she thought I was exaggerating, she didn’t say. She knew that the previous school year had been a torment for both of us. I needed to prove, if only to myself, that—at least academically—I was beyond reproach.
I had had two teachers in fifth grade, one for science and math, the other for literature and history. The arrangement was a novelty, because up to then I’d had only one teacher for each grade and revered all of them. So it was perhaps out of habit and goodwill that I felt an instant connection to my two new teachers the moment they walked into class the first day. They were young and pretty. Tania had long black hair, down to her waist, and she always wore very short dresses. Eradia was thin and dark, with the delicate features of a bird. She had short, curly black hair and a wide smile that revealed shiny white teeth. Sometime during the first week of classes, Tania posed a question I had never been asked before.
Who here believes in God? she asked, looking over the entire class. Without thinking I raised my hand. So did Ivón, the chubby girl who sat next to me and was in my Saturday catechism class. We were the only ones with our hands up. Ivón blushed deeply. Under the weight of so many eyes looking in our direction, she slowly lowered her hand, letting it rest delicately on top of her desk.
And who goes to church? Tania pressed on.
I left my arm up, mainly because I knew that my teacher already knew. The fact that I went to church, I was sure, was in my student record, the one kept by school officials for each child from kindergarten on. Also, because denying God