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Summary: Part I, Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, which covers the period 1982–1985, Lola takes over from the primary narrator. Chapter 2 opens with an italicized section in which Lola addresses herself with the second-person pronoun “you.” She describes an incident in her youth when she was reading the novel Watership Down and her mother called her into the bathroom. Hesitantly, Lola put down her book and got up. She found her mother standing in front the mirror, topless and examining one of her breasts with a frown.

Lola remarks on the immense size of her mother’s breasts and notes how their size embarrassed her when they walked in public. She also reflects on how she dreaded conversations with her mother, which typically ended up being “one-sided dressing-downs.” But this time, her mother didn’t want to argue. Instead, she placed Lola’s hand on her breast and asked if she could feel a lump. Lola felt an immediate sense that something in her life was about to change. That winter, doctors removed her mother’s breast and started her on chemotherapy. The italicized section concludes with Lola declaring: “it’s in that bathroom where it all began.”

Now speaking with the first-person pronoun “I,” Lola describes her teenaged self as a “punk chick” who dressed in dark clothes and listened to the goth band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Lola’s mother hated her appearance and called her ugly. Her nickname became “Fea” (Spanish for “ugly”). Lola comments that she and Oscar grew up afraid of their mother, who had a bad temper and was quick to violence. Lola recounts several instances where her mother had caused her to seriously doubt herself or had treated her unjustly. Lola observes that, as an “Old World Dominican mother,” it was her duty to keep her only daughter “crushed under her heel.” In spite of all this, Lola warns the reader not to judge.

When she was twelve years old and learned of her mother’s sickness, Lola had the “witchy” feeling that her life was about to change. Specifically, she sensed that she had an inner wildness that would burst out. One day, she had her goth friend Karen Cepeda shave her head, and then she declared herself a punk. When her mother demanded that she wear a wig, Lola set the wig on fire.

In the ensuing period, the tension between Lola and her mother amplified. Lola ran away with a nineteen-year-old white boy named Aldo who lived with his elderly father at the Jersey Shore. She lost her virginity to Aldo and immediately regretted it. Aldo told offensive jokes, and his father, who had served in World War II, frequently made racist remarks about “Japs.”

Life with Aldo became intolerable. Lola called home and asked Oscar to meet her at a coffeeshop on the boardwalk and bring her money. Lola had planned to convince her brother to run away with her, but when Oscar arrived at the coffeeshop, he brought their mother. Lola tried to escape, and after a tussle, her mother fell to the ground in tears. Moved by her mother’s pain, Lola relented. But her mother had faked her tears. She stood up, smiled, and said: “Yotetengo” (“I’ve got you”).