As devout Catholics, my parents were very concerned about the neighborhood gang violence affecting the education of local school children in the San Fernando Valley during the 90’s. Public middle schools had a reputation for bad teachers and a poopy environment conducive to promoting vulgar children with a vocabulary to meet basic survival beeper necessities. My parents strived to obtain a decent education for us and aimed to place us in an environment that kept us out of harm’s way. We were never allowed to use a beeper. Beepers were dirty.
I loved my Catholic middle school experience, particularly, a day in which my friend’s and I decided to be thieves. We had bake sales. Our parents were obligated to pay for the bake sale by sending each child to school with a box of doughnuts in the morning and the lunch lady sold them at recess. On this day, we dropped off our boxes of doughnuts in the cafeteria before the morning bell rang. At 8:00 am we started music class with Sister Gertrude. She noticed that we were missing a few chairs for the class so she said, “Denise and Bobby, I need you both to go to the auditorium and bring back four chairs.” We responded, “Yes, Sister Gertrude.” As we were about to step out of the classroom, our other friend said, “I’m gonna ask to go to the bathroom, and when you see me, get me a doughnut from the cafeteria.” With whispered excitement, “Ok. Yea. We’ll get doughnuts.” We mischievously plotted to get twisty doughnuts.
Bobby entered the cafeteria first, “Denise! There’s nobody!” I said, “Shhh, they’re gonna hear us.” He said, “Ok, let’s get doughnuts and see if Jezebel is waiting for us outside.” Bobby checked the playground, walked back in the cafeteria, “She’s waiting for us.” I said, “Ok, let’s walk outside.” However, Bobby was so excited he couldn’t contain himself. He ran past the statue of the Virgin Mary screaming, “Jezebel, I got doughnuts!” As I walked behind him my heart almost jumped out of my chest when I heard Father Pancracio’s voice. He sternly exclaimed, “Bobby, get over here!” I sprinted to the statue of the Virgin Mary hoping she would intercede a miracle and return me to music class without being seen. I thought, “Por favor ayudame Virgencita, ayudame. Te necesito.” As Bobby started slowly walking toward Father Pancracio, he pointed at me while I was shoving the doughnuts in my skirt pockets and said, “Denise is hiding behind the Virgin Mary.” Then Father Pancracio said, “Denise, get over here.” “I saw both of you. Go to the principal’s office.”
We sat in the principal’s office silently. The principal reprimanded us by telling us we were a disgrace as role models to the younger children. We were suspended for the day and were told to leave the doughnuts on her desk and write an apology letter to the school. We were both scared and nervous. All the kids considered the principal to be a witch and we believed she always flew around on her broom at night snatching children out of their beds in the middle of the night. We prayed to the Virgencita to keep us safe at night. She told us that we had to pay for the doughnuts we stole. We said, “Yes, Mrs. Schiller.” We remained silent. I wondered if my mom was going to throw chanclas at me for embarrassing her and shaming the family. I wondered if she was going to be super mad and get the belt.
Our mom’s showed up at the same time and lucky for me, Bobby’s mom explained to the principal that we were both hungry and skipped out on breakfast. My mom was mad. She said, “Salì de trabajar para recogerte. Me las vaz a pagar.” I was silent. She dropped me off at home. As I watched her drive away from the living room window I felt her take away from me the love I had of doughnuts. I moped. I sulked. I was a little bit mopey. Then, I thought, “Hey, wait a minute! I can watch music videos!” I turned on the TV to BET and for the first time in my life I saw D’Angelo’s video, “How does it feel?” I almost fainted. I fell in love. I was like, “Is this what it feels like to fall in love?” “Is he talking to me?” “Who is he talking to like that?” “How does what feel?” “What is he saying?” “Oh my gosh!” “God is watching me!” “I’m gonna be in big trouble!” “Hahahahaha.” It was so scary and exhilarating. It was like watching Zac Morris, but better. I liked getting suspended.
As the hours went by and the sun began to set, a wave of panic started to take over me. I tried putting a pillow in my butt. Nope. Too big. I tried hiding all the chanclas. Nope. Too many. I practiced pretending to be asleep. Nope. I kept opening my eyes. I tried pretending I was sick by coughing in the mirror. Nope. Sounded too fake. So, I decided to wash the dishes. As I finished washing the dishes I heard my mom’s clunk, clunk carcacha pull up to the house. When she walked up to the door, I opened the door for her, “Hi, mom!” “I washed the dishes.” And smiled with as much charisma as I thought I could possibly exude. She said, “Sabes que Denise, no me hagas pasar verguenzas.” I promptly interrupted, “Yea, but it wasn’t just me. My other friends did it too.” “After I got in trouble, Selma and Mikaela got in trouble and when they went to the principal’s office they ate the doughnuts on her desk when the principal wasn’t looking.” “You see.” “Cayate, Denise.” “Don’t talk back to me.” “El Sabado to vaz a confesar.” “Eres una malcreada desentendida!” “You’re not going to watch TV and you’re not going to talk on the phone with you’re friends.” “I spend too much money sending you to a Catholic school.” “I could be doing other things with my money.” You want to go to a school with cholos?” “Eres una burra, mal agredecida.” I thought, “At least I got to watch the D’Angelo video. I couldn’t believe my eyes.” Jejejejejeje. Lero lero pan con queso. Excitement!