Stand & Deliver

Dear Lord… It’s me again. I wanted to thank you for helping Mama get her new cleaning job at the convention center. Papa’s not so happy that she’s working nights, but now he can get that new grass blower, ‘cause the old old one was giving him kidney problems. Thank you for keeping Margarita safe when she ran into the street. I should have been paying more attention, but Tomas, Jose and Flaco were fighting, and there’s just too many kids in one room… Diosito Mio, I know I should be happy with the way things are, but you’re going to have to give me strength of Mother Teresa so I can maintain my diet. Please, please, please, allow me not to fall into temptations like carnitas de puerco, french fries and all the helado de chocolate in your creation. Give me the tastes buds for the fruits and veggies that are gonna make me skinny in the eyes of this world. I guess it could be worse. I could be stupid and fat… Then, I wouldn’t care about my hair, my clothes. I’d be too dumb to notice if some guy was into me. Not like there are any. Except, maybe Pancho… He likes me, he just don’t know it, yet. Not that I’m desperate or anything. But, it would be nice to be close to someone… When you’re tired or depressed, somebody to hold onto… Would that be okay with you? I understand the whole thing about premarital sex, but Diosito Mio, does being a virgin mean the only thing I can hug is my pillow? ...I mean, I could just fall asleep in his arms… Please watch over Grandma, and Mama and Papa… Please make sure the little monsters stay healthy and safe… Please forgive me for always being such a smart-ass, I mean smart-mouth.

Pancho. He doesn’t even know how good he’s got it with Lupe. She’s perfect for him. And all he can think about is what he doesn’t have. Men think they’re so smart ‘cause they run everything, but really, they’re just plain stupid. And they don’t even realize it. Like, like what’re those dogs called, the ones that hunt birds?... They bark and bark, running around chasing after the bird, then, when they finally catch it - they spit it out. And then they start running around again, barking and shit, wondering what happened to the bird. (She looks over at Pancho and Lupe. They have made up and are hugging) Men. Sometimes I wish I didn’t think they were so sexy. Like if I was into girls or something. At least I can understand them. I mean, this guy I was dating once? He didn’t like to mess around before he played basketball. Said he had to channel himself or something. And that’s cool, except, if the team lost a game? Then he’d wanna go at it hot and heavy. ‘Cause he was gettin’ his energy flowing the right way. One day he’s blocked, next time he’s flowing. Like a toilet or something. If he hadn’t been such a good kisser, I woulda never put up with his crap. Stupid. Bark, bark, boss boss. Always gibing orders, making rules… I’m sick of it. All the pushing… Is it genetic or something? Guys have genes that make them assholes?... My stepfather doesn’t like dinner, so he yells at my mom. He gets drunk at night and yells some more. You try and say something to him, make some sense, and smack. Like it’s a game or something. “Shut up or I’ll smack ya,” so I shut up and get smacked anyway. Smacking, barking, pushing. Almost wish I was a guy, so I could smack him around. But like, I want to be like that? Please. Nobody has the right to push anybody around. That might work with my mom, but not me. Told him that right to his face. I am woman, hear me roar. I’m gonna be somebody. I can take care of myself. I’ll sign my own contracts. I’ll make my own way. Get my own place. Where nobody’s yelling and nobody’s pushing and nobody’s getting hit… Someplace where I make the rules… You don’t like them? Fine. You can split… It’ll be a peaceful place. Somewhere a woman can relax… And be happy… And be safe… And not have to hide from no dumbass dog that don’t know no better than to leave the birds alone.

In most European nations, students attend classes six days a week. In Japan, they also attend classes at night. The average American student spends 2,000 more hours in front of the television than in school. Every six seconds a crime occurs on or near an American campus… In one year, 338,000 students carried handguns into school at least once. More than 100,000 were armed every day… Approximately one quarter of all major urban school districts are now using metal detectors and 74 percent of the students in those districts have witnessed either a killing, stabbing or shooting… Nine of every 10 young people murdered in an industrialized nation are slain here in this country. In California, murder, theft, arson and robbery are committed more often by juveniles than by adults. And in many cities, homicide is now the leading cause of death among children. In half those cases, the killers are also children.... Gang participation has become the urban poor’s version of teenage suicide… According to the National Commission on Secondary Education for Hispanics, 40 percent of all Latino youths who drop out of U.S. schools, do so before the 10th grade… Forty-five percent of Mexican AMerican children never finish high school. When I started at Garfield High the dropout rate was 55 percent.... You can understand why graduation day was the most exciting day of my life… Rafaela in her new dress…. Javier surprised me with a corsage. And papa invited the whole class to dinner at the restaurant. You should have seen how proud papa was of me when U.S.C. offered me a full academic scholarship. I calculated that it would cost more for my college diploma than my grandfather ahd earned in his entire life. As hard as it was, my straight A’s were definitely worth the effort. I knew that I was not going to become just another statistic… Three days after graduation, the letter came in the mail. “Dear Ms. Delgado… I am writing to you because the Educational Testing Service Board of Review believes there is reason to question your Advanced Placement calculus grades.”


(Halting English) Dear Mama. My teacher says to write always the English so to get good. (She stops writing and addresses the audience) Takes many weeks before Mama gets letter in Guatemala. Then she needs carry letter to next town, whole day on bus. She pay abogado 18 quetzales to read the English. Ten cars I need clean by hand so to mail three American dollars to Mama and make happy at how good is my English she hear in Spanish. Loco… Mama speak Quiche then she learn Spanish from the nuns. Until mi abuelo was killed by un soldado who steal his burro. Mama leave school so to cut the sugar cane. But she make promise to The Virgin , her child go to school even if the earthquake… “Work hard, speak the English, everyday be gifts and blessings. Better than home, much better.” ...Last thing Mama say before I come to El Norte. (Rafaela resumes writing the letter) Here for you is pictures of me and Teresita. Would you like dress like she wear? I lucky to be staying in house so nice. (Rafaela again confides in the audience) How I tell Mama that Teresita only talk about American dollars? She is left by husband alone. She say if I make no more contribution I am to go. So I pay more so Mama don’t feel Teresita move me out because I was disrespect to her friend she have from when they were children. “Send Mama pictures of us on new sofa by Christmas tree,” Teresita tell to me. (Pointing at photo) This new sofa took away by Sears men because her plastic money run off. (Another photo) We take photo in front of big car in Hollywood Boulevard that belong to long haired man with guitar, not Teresita. Many things I do not understand in this strong country. Who in mi pueblo believe students paint ugly the school? Break the books? Point guns at teachers? Why someone not want something they get for free? (Rafaela resumes writing the letter) I am happy, Mama. I eat meat every day. I have luck to make many friends. It is always new thing I see and always I am thanking you for the life I am making. All my love, and God watch over you. Rafaela. (She folds the letter and steals the envelope) Con todo mi amor y que Dios te bendiga.