She says, I am the great great grand cousin of the queen of France. She lives upstairs, over there, next door to Joe the baby-grabber. Keep away from him, she says. He is full of danger.
Esperanza describes Cathy, one of the first neighbors she meets on Mango Street. Cathy tells her about other people on the street, including cautioning her about a man named Joe. The exchange shows that in Esperanza’s world the threat of sexual assault was taken for granted. People view Cathy as a crazy old lady with way too many cats, minimizing the credibility of her warning. Esperanza and the reader may not take her ramblings too seriously. However, this almost casual reference to sexual danger adds a dark undertone to an otherwise funny scene and foreshadows events later in the story.
Then he asked if I knew what day it was, and when I said I didn’t, he said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss. I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go.
On Esperanza’s first day at work, an old man responds to her nervousness by being kind to her. His behavior disarms her enough that she comes closer to him, only to be accosted by him and kissed roughly. The episode shows Esperanza’s innocence and how protected her life has been. The reader feels her shock at this attack from a seemingly kind old man and recognizes the power of the real world to take her independence as well as her innocence away from her.
Sally, make him stop. I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I don’t remember. It was dark. I don’t remember. I don’t remember. Please don’t make me tell it all.
On a trip to a carnival, a group of boys sexually assault Esperanza. Her friend Sally, who was supposed to meet her, went off with a boyfriend, leaving Esperanza alone and vulnerable. As is common with survivors of sexual assault, Esperanza’s trauma leaves her unable to recall the details and reluctant to talk about her feelings. The attack on Esperanza marks the end of her innocent dreams of romance and the beginning of her life as an adult woman and writer in the real world.