When Michelle and Pilar picked me up at school on that Friday afternoon our options for the weekend were few as all of us were on a strict budget. While the food at the convent was predictable and filling, we talked about going out to eat anyplace else. I was addicted to burgers and fries; the girls enjoyed Norms where breakfasts were served all day. Even that indulgence, like a steak with all the trimmings at Norms would set us back more than filling up the tank for the ride to school. We decided to stay home, eat our supper at the convent and walk around the block before settling in to do the required work we had to do, like correcting papers for me, or tackle art projects for the girls.
Before we got home, we stopped at the local liquor store, just to ask the friendly clerk about mixing drinks inexpensively. We left with a bottle of rum, a six pack of coca cola and a plan to try this simple mixing we just learned about. Sister Emma met us as the door of the convent.
“Are you girls eating supper with us tonight?”
“Yes, lots of papers to correct.” I said, passing the package to Pilar, motioning her to keep going.
“How is it going? Is Mary Neely doing all right?” Sister Emma and I taught the same freshman group.
“She is having difficulty,” I said, remembering a girl who hung around after school, often late being picked up, often waiting in my room at the end of the day since she could see the parking lot and her ride from there. I was going to talk to somebody about her, but had been way too busy.
“I’m concerned about her.” Sister said.
I began: “She starts telling me things, and then, suddenly stops talking, and is still for a while, as if in a trance. She could be depressed.”
Sister and I talked for a while. Good grief, I thought, an experienced teacher can’t tell me what’s wrong with Mary. Now she wants to talk to her parents. I had a sense of joy and contentment going on and Sister was yanking me back to depression and mental health issues.
“They love you, you know! I just thought you would know." Then, coming closer, she went on, " You look flushed; are you getting sick?”
“I’m bushed! I have so much to correct!”
“You have been a good influence on them.” Sister said.
Pilar approached with her sweet voice: “Can you still help us with the report? Sorry, Sister! We have a lot to do!”
When Pilar and I returned to my room, three others had joined the party and had begun to drink. Sitting on the floor, in a tiny room, with the radio on and the door locked, we danced, giggled, threw up, shared our whole life with each other.
“So, how did you end up in this place?” Tony, another girl boarder asked.
“My parents chose it for me.” Pilar answered.
“How about you Rosy?” Tony wanted to know.
“I’m returning home in June?” I stated with pride.
“Do I sound Mexican?” I was always confused with Mexicans and that irritated me to no end.
“Well, yeah, kind of.”
“I'm not an immigrant. I just came here to study.”
“What do you have against America? This is the best place to live!”
“Have you been to Italy?”
“Have you been anywhere else?”
“Well, America may be the best place you know!”
“I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I’m not. Just irritated. Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
“Then, if it was so beautiful, why did you come here?”
“Why? Because I had the opportunity to study English where English is spoken. You can understand that.”
“Sure.You must admit that we have more opportunities for people.”
“You’re right about that. We all come here and find more food, more jobs, more of everything.”
“There. I knew you’d come around. Girls, let’s talk about boys!”
The conversation slipped and sloshed from this to that. I had sipped rum and coke, and the room was turning on its axis. The girls were dancing and chatting for hours. I don’t remember when I fell asleep.
In the middle of the night, I woke with a big headache.
I wanted to die.