Civil Liberties

January 18, 2009
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I wake up, brush my teeth and put on my clothes. I take large spoonfuls of cereal and wolf them down while watching the clock. My mom forgot to buy juice again. I pour the remainder of the cereal into a small bowl for my sister, prepare a glass of water, and wake her up. My mom leaves the house at 6:30 a.m. in order to get to work on time. She cleans homes. She cleans my classmates’ homes. I wince at the thought of my mother in her baby blue housecoat cleaning a snotty boy’s room as he silently but crudely steps around her to get to his laptop.
I live behind the gas station. My house is a small, white, one-story house. It has a red door, red chimney and white shingles. We have a small yard and a well-kept white picket fence. My mother takes pride in our home. She raised my sister and I alone and works harder than anyone I know. The other people that live in this town call this area the Spanish Ghetto even though most of the people on my street aren’t even from Spain, but from Latin America.
I walk up the road and stand on the corner of Redford Lane next to the rundown gas station. I wave to the workmen; I feel sorry for them. They’re easily the best mechanics in town but receive close to no business. Entering a different world, I see the bus driving down the road coming towards me. The bright headlights blind me and I feel like a fish in an aquarium. I can’t see the people on the other side of the lights, but they can see me. The children stare out the windows and their facial expressions immediately change. Their eyes scan the mechanics in tattered jackets. They see them sitting in chairs outside the garage. The mechanics sip their coffee from plastic cups and now they feel sorry for me.
I walk off the bus and drop my civil liberties at the front door of school. I walk to my locker. The first bell rings and I am still at my locker hurriedly collecting all my books. A teacher passes me. My math teacher, Mr. Mogil, walks by.
In the beginning of the school year, Mr. Mogil announced that fortunately for us this year, the math department picked a new textbook for our use. The textbooks were too expensive for the school budget so we would have to buy them ourselves. He told us that they were forty dollars and we needed to have them by Friday. It was Wednesday. I pictured my mother in her baby blue housecoat receiving forty dollars after scrubbing the floors, washing dishes, vacuuming and dusting for two and a half hours. I walked over to Mr. Mogil after class.
“Mr. Mogil…”
“Yes, Carlos?”
“Are we going to be assigned homework in these textbooks?”
“Yes. They are great textbooks and you’ll use them for review,” he said as he erased the work from the board. I paused and could tell he was waiting for me to leave.
“Can I photocopy pages from someone’s textbook for homework? I don’t need to review.”
“Excuse me? Carlos, go out and buy the textbook. It will cost you less than that gold chain you’re wearing.”
“It was my father’s,” I muttered as I walked out the door.

Friday came and I dreadfully sat down in my seat. The other children were nosily conversing before the bell rang. Mr. Mogil asked for everyone to take out their textbooks so he could check that the whole class had them. The whole class did have their forty dollar textbooks except for me. Mr. Mogil angrily asked why I didn’t have one and I shrugged my shoulders. That night, Mr. Mogil called my mother. She had to work an extra shift on Monday in order to buy me the textbook. Mr. Mogil hated me ever since.

I waited for Mr. Mogil to pass and sprinted to my ESL class. I was born in the United States. My mother moved to the United States when she was four-years-old. The school saw my address and my last name and when they made up my schedule they naturally assumed that I belonged in an ESL class. I sit down in one of the seats around the circle tables. The two other boys from my block that also speak perfect English were already sitting down. We usually study for another subject or just talk. The teacher sits with the transfer student from Israel. We wait for the bell to ring and then go to our next class.

As I’m walking through the hallways I see a short blonde girl I recognize from my gym class. I remember that her name is Elizabeth. She is a cheerleader, energized and perky. She is talking to another girl with a short brown bob in torn up jeans and a frilly blue blouse. Elizabeth is bawling. I hear some of her words through her tears. She says something about her new Ipod. She says that she knows it was someone in gym, that she had it before gym; that it was a Hanukah present, her mom was going to kill her and she needed to go see the Principal. I make eye contact with the brunette and she whispers something to Elizabeth as I quickly turn away. I walk to class.

At the end of the day, I trudge to my locker to get my coat and go home. I was thinking about the comment my English teacher made on my report card: insufficient class participation. I raised my hand in class today and of course I was not called on. My locker is open, the blue door swinging. I see my jacket on the floor and papers stuffed onto the top shelf. I grab my black jacket and close the locker door. I don’t even bother to lock it; it’s not like a lock can keep anyone out.

I sit on the bus quietly and stare at the houses as we pass by. I watch girls and boys run off the bus to their newly-landscaped lawns and walk with their moms back into their five bedroom five bathroom stucco and brick mansions. The bus reaches the corner of Redford Lane and the rundown gas station. Two mechanics are working on a car and the other three are still sitting in chairs outside the garage. I walk into my house and remember that my mom forgot to buy juice. I pour myself a glass of water and look out the window at my street. Just another day.

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teeninkfan1090 said...
Sept. 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm
I LOVE your writing!!! this story is so honest and true and i really felt the emotion of the narrator but it is written in a detached tone ... well done i like all your other stories too add some more!! :) hehe
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