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Beanie Baby

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Arts

November 18, 2005

Authors Note: This is a true story;

only the names have been changed. It is not meant to express an opinion;

merely to present a glimpse into a human life.

MNICA: My name is Mnica. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I hardly know myself. Ive been through so much in my 19 years and Im still a rebel. Ive been in trouble with my mom, school, and the law;

maybe, God willing, I can now leave it behind me.

Im not sure when my problems began in the U.S. Ive been here since age 6. I came from El Salvador with my mom and older sister. Id been quite a fighter even before coming here, and could always beat my sister. Old pictures show her always smiling, while I have a dead-serious stare, as if looking at myself in the lens, wondering who I am…

What I remember of my childhood is that my mom punished and hit me with a ruler alot. Still, I was so rebellious she couldnt control me. I was an emotional late-bloomer compared to girls my age, and I sometimes wet the bed;

perhaps another way of rebelling. Anyway, I didnt start kindergarten until age 7.

By junior high I was equally fluent in English and Spanish. I was still fighting with classmates, even boys, so as punishment, my mom sent me back to El Salvador for a year. I was behind in my studies when I returned, so they put me in Special Ed.

In the 7th or 8th grade I joined a gang and started smoking pot. That was when I had a great realization. See, I was a tomboy, always dressing like boys since very young, and I liked other girls more than boys. I knew this made me different, though I couldnt describe it. I also understood, somehow, that I had to keep it a secret…

Anyway, around then I was hearing kids saying words I didnt understand: Faggot, gay, maricn… One day I asked a friend what they meant, and then I knew for the first time that I was a lesbian. That was when I decided no longer to hide my secret.

MICHAEL: I first met Mnica when I was a teachers aide in Virginia. The art teacher asked me to keep an eye on the troublemakers, and Mnica was one. I remember her uncombed hair gave her a rebel appearance. She smiled a lot and behaved well with me, because I had an informal way with students. She wouldnt participate in art class, and often just slept, usually stoned. I didnt learn until years later how talented she was in art, and that she loved to draw.

Once I saw her chasing Vernica Lozano in the hallway;

they were playing and laughing, and she swiped Vernicas Beanie Baby and took it to class. I brought her to Vernicas class to return it, and promised to buy her one if she got good grades. In the end, she did, and I bought her one. Since then, Beanie Baby has been her nickname to me.

DOA HILDA: I am Mnicas mam. My two daughters and I immigrated legally, and we have since lived alone. The war in my country had ended when we arrived, but I decided to come for the opportunities the U.S. offered. As for Mnica, yes, she has caused me difficulties, but I love her just the same. Her teacher Michael has visited many times since she was expelled for skipping class and running away. We talk alot about Mnica. I have suffered so much, but she, I think, has suffered greatly too. She was sentenced to probation but broke it smoking marijuana, and was put in juvenile detention. Shes since gone into a shelter-care program where theyve offered her the opportunity to get into Job Corps.

Ay! You cant know what grief I felt when Mnica confessed to being lesbiana. Im a Christian, and I just dont believe in that. Before, Id always invited the pastor to give services in my home, and I was active with my hermanos in the church, but all that has changed. I dont know what to believe anymore;

how can I practice a faith that would claim my daughter is sinful? I love Mnica, and shell always be my daughter, no matter what…

MNICA: My name is Mnica Flores. I am a lesbian. I dont care what people think;

this is how I am. Even though I was kicked out of Job Corps for fighting, at least I met my girlfriend Dalia there. We have our own apartment now. Although I never got my GED in Job Corps, I still earned my diploma by exam. I finally feel more at peace and in control of my life. I might join the Army for their training, because I want to be an auto mechanic. I cant predict my future, but Im proud of myself despite all thats happened.

One of the main themes of my life, I think, is that I still feel more Hispanic than American. Still, the U.S., mine or not, offers opportunity, and I think, in spite of it all, that Ill stay.

My name is Mnica;

welcome to my world.

horseradish

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