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(From The House on Mango Street. Set between There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What To Do and Alicia Who Sees Mice.)
I’ve always wondered why my parents always say No, or Why? or That’s so stupid, Esperanza. Maybe they want me to grow up restricted as a jack-in-the-box, only emerging when directly ordered to. Maybe they want me to be quiet, to disappear into the background like the way pencil, over time, fades into yellowed paper.
But I hate all of their restrictions.
I want to fly.
Angel Vargas did it, and Papa told me that he went to a better place. Maybe it’s a better place because his mom didn’t care about him while he was actually here. But I don’t think that’s it. I think that it’s because he flew. He flew all the way up to heaven, that’s what Rachel said. Lucy rolled her eyes then, and I did too, but I didn’t really know why. I dreamt of flying on that late night when the air smelled so distinctly of lemon. I decided that’s what freedom must smell like. Lemon.
I told my mother of my dream, awaiting her praise of my high goals.
Such ideas are foolish, Mama said simply. I shrank back with a frown.
Papa had just arrived home from work, his face shadowed with the dust of day.
Humans don’t fly, he scoffed, Birds do. And you, mija,* are not a bird.
But they do not understand. They are too old.
They lost their hope to harsh reality. They just can’t remember the rites of freedom, the smell of its sticky-sweet lemon scent. Nothing can compare to the joy of flying, soaring above all else, the world beneath you and wind suckling at your face like a hungry toddler. Don’t ask me how I know this; I just do.
You just want attention, Nenny says.
But she does not understand. She is too young.
One day, I will fly, and then they’ll all see. They’ll stand there and say, Oh, that Esperanza. How we underestimated her! What a brilliant daughter, what a great sister.
I’ll fly all the way past Mango Street, the corner store, on and on, the streets below changing to trodden footpaths and dense lemon trees as I follow my own path, and find a home nestled amongst trees, prepared for my arrival.
Maybe I’ll even take a few others; Alicia, Marin, everyone that’s stuck and left to stare at the ceiling. I’ll be a hero, their hero. I’ll take all the good people away as I fly far from my home, far from fear and restriction and family.