[Exercise: What did not happen in the sixth grade? What was missing?]

The year I transitioned from A.C. Alexander Elementary to J.Q. Adams Middle School was a rough year—for me, and my parents. It was our fourth year living in a new place—a suburb of New Orleans—and the year my parents divorced. Contentious subjects included buying vs. renting a home; placing me, their only child, in private vs. public school; buying designer vs. “no name” clothing—basically anything to do with money. As the primary breadwinner from the dominant culture, and sex, we followed the will of my father.

I was raised to have manners; to say “please” and “thank you”; to respect the will of others; to be polite; to eat slowly and chew with my mouth closed. My mother spoke to me in Spanish, mostly, and my father spoke English, properly. My first day of middle school I sat still in my seat looking straight ahead, mimicking the driver, while the kids in the back of the bus cut up and smoked pot. This new world was full of color and foul-mouthed kids with attitude who spoke slang.

What was missing? Friends were missing. My culture was missing. And, by the end of the school year, my parents were missing. No more Gary and Maria.