Become a Fan
By David Kim Pennebaker
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Rated "PG" by the Author.
A young girl wishes to escape the poverty of El Barrio. Love and money might be her ticket out.
My name is Maria Marisol Fuentes. I am fifteen years old...well almost. I'll be fifteen next month. My home is New York City, El Barrio. You may know it best as Spanish Harlem. If you haven't already guessed, I'm Puerto Rican. This is my story.
I dropped out of public school when I was twelve years old and started work in a garment factory located on East 113th Street. I live with my Papa, an unemployed alcoholic. My Mama left us two years ago, and I have not heard from her since. The money I earn at the factory helps pay rent for our tiny apartment on Marin Boulevard. Each day that passes, I find myself more depressed and resigned to the idea that I will live and die in the barrio. I want more, and I have a plan to get out, but I will need help.
"It's 6:47 am, I need to walk faster. I've got to clock in by 7:00 am. I can't be late again!" As I made my way down Marin Boulevard, turning South on 2nd Avenue, and then arriving at the factory on 113th street, my feet ached from the fast pace I set walking into work. I thought, I've got to buy some new shoes as I grabbed my time slip and shoved it into the clock. "Ahh, 6:59, I made it!" Still too close for comfort, I thought. As I took my position at my sewing machine my body switched to autopilot while my mind took me to faraway places, like Florida... maybe Puerto Rico. San Juan would be so beautiful this time of year. Anywhere away from this dreary existence that I call home.
So as soon as my shift would begin, it would end. My fingers always ached from the endless repetitious task of attaching collars to the endless supply of shirts that would be pushed my way by the team of seamstresses. I had a quota of one thousand shirts a day. Within two months on the job I could not only meet one thousand shirts a day, but I could surpass that quota by another thousand shirts. I was paid three cents per shirt over my quota. So on a typical day I could earn an extra thirty dollars. To me that was my ticket out of the barrio. I didn't tell Papa about the bonus money. If he knew about it, he would drink it up within a week or two. Yes, my money was safely hidden beneath the floorboard of my bedroom. The money I have saved over the past two years now totaled exactly $15,200. When I find a way to leave Papa and the barrio, I will be gone....just like Mama.
I know my story sounds so dark and hopeless, but there are bright spots in my day. There is a young man at the factory who has been asking about me. He smiles at me, and spoke to me last week. He said "Hola Maria. Mi nombre es Tito Vázquez ." Since then I have learned that he has asked a lot of questions about me. I also have asked about him. I know he is twenty one years old, drives a nice car, and works in quality control at the factory. I also found out that he thinks I am pretty, and wants to ask me out on a date. The older Puerto Rican ladies in the factory are telling me to stay away from him. "He's a playboy," they say. "He's no good...you'll only get hurt" But I like him and if he asks I will go out with him. Although I am fourteen, I have yet to go on a date, or even have a boyfriend, so Tito and his attention intrigued me. I thought possibly I would have a way out of the barrio.
A week later while I was at lunch, Tito sat at my table and asked me on a date. "You know Maria, I was thinking it would be nice to see a movie with you, or if you want to go for coffee we could do that. If you are interested, that is." I thought for only a minute and agreed to meet him. Not at my apartment, but at the corner of Marin and Second Avenue. Tito agree, and told me to watch for a candy apple red Porsche 911. "I'll pick you up at 7pm Maria, watch for me OK?"
That evening before our date I pulled up the floorboard to my bedroom hiding spot and took all $15,200 and stuffed it into an oversized purse. I packed an extra set of clothes. My Papa was passed out on the sofa in the living room. I bent down and kissed him on his forehead and whispered "Goodbye Papa". I knew that when I left the room and closed the door behind me that I would never be back, and would never see Papa again.
Tito pulled up in the Porsche at 7pm. He got out and opened the door for me to get into the passenger side. "Tito, do you believe in God?" "Si, Maria...I do believe. Why do you ask me this?" I opened the bag and showed Tito the money.
"Let's get the hell out of this city," I said. Tito replied, "Si mi amor, si. You should buckle up, I have a very fast car."
Site: Green Papaya
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|Reviewed by J Howard
|i was thinking her story does NOT so dark and hopeless. she has good work ethics and the bank account to prove it, eh? Maybe no sense about men, but...there ya go-more room for more story!|