Los Niños

Posted on: June 17, 2013

When you go to meet Antonio at the park near your grandmother’s house, you see that same family again—the dad in his baggy pants and white t-shirt pushing his two kids on the rusty swing set. The little girl shrieks as he pushes her swing higher. She points her tiny velcro shoes to the sky and flings her head back, tossing her pink sunglasses into the dirt. Her dad laughs and pushes her again. The boy is clinging on for dear life, gritting his baby teeth.

De qué tienes miedo?” the father laughs, and slows his swing.

You sit on a picnic table. You see Antonio on the other side of the street waiting for the traffic to clear. In your pocket, you have the paper from the doctor folded small as a thimble.

“Yana!” Antonio calls, coming your way. “So what is this you want to tell me?”

Your throat tightens.

“Tonio, where do you think this is going?” you say.

“You mean us? “


“Did your dad call? Are you going back to the states?”

“No, not that. I mean, sometime I’ll leave. I don’t know when. But where do you think we’re going? You and me?”

Your father sent you to Nicaragua at the end of the school year as punishment. As if probation wasn’t enough—one stupid mistake, and you were slave to your PO, picking up trash and peeing in a cup. And then for a week you were free, until your dad called his mother. But Nicaragua hasn’t been so bad. You like it, except for the food. And not knowing when you’ll go back home. You had a one-way ticket.

“The truth?” Antonio says, shuffling his feet. “Don’t freak.”

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” you mutter.

“What?” Antonio says, not understanding.


Es verdad—we’ll be like that, con los niños.” He points to the family at the swings. “I want to marry you someday. Someday when we’re not fifteen. Maybe when we’re seventeen.”

The little girl is leaning backward in her swing, reaching for the sunglasses just out of her grasp.

You pull the knot of paper from your pocket and hand it to Tonio. He unfolds it, but no flash of understanding crosses his face.

“What is this?” he asks.

“It says I’m pregnant. I took five tests. I didn’t believe it. But the doctor’s one—well, it’s true. Blood doesn’t lie,” you say.

“What are you going to do?”

“You mean we? What are we going to do.”

Si, I mean, I’ll support you, whatever your decision,” Antonio stutters.

It had happened the day you came back from the mall, when your abuela wasn’t home. Your cousin had said, “Prima, you better watch it with that boy,” as you sneaked into your bedroom, but you just laughed. Tonio wasn’t a boy, and you weren’t a child, either.

Now you aren’t so sure.

Antonio is dragging his shoe, making shapes in the dirt. The family at the swing set has gone. You see the girl has left her sunglasses.

Tonio gives you a little pat on the knee and mumbles something about needing to get home. You watch him dart back across the busy street, then you retrieve the glasses from the hollowed out space below the swing. You turn them over in your hand, brushing off the dirt. Each lens is shaped like a heart. You hold them up to the sun, and the rosy plastic gleams in the light. You know Tonio won’t run off. He’ll do his duty, whatever you decide that might be.


Your abuela is small and wrinkled. She holds a cigarette in one hand and an orange soda in the other as you and your cousin stand on the front porch and tell her the news.

“I tried to warn this one!” your cousin says.

“Shut up,” you say. You aren’t afraid of your grandmother, and you aren’t ashamed, either. Abuela birthed eleven children, the first at only thirteen. What can she say? In comparison, you are practically ancient.

“How far along?” Abuela asks.

“Three months?” you guess. Abuela grunts.

“Have you been sick?”

“I thought it was the food. I’m not used to it.”

“Don’t insult Abuela’s cooking like that!” your cousin says.

“Shut up,” Abuela says. Your cousin rolls her eyes and chips the polish off her thumbnail with her teeth.

“How could she know? She’s skinnier than when she got here, though that’s not saying much, gorda,” your cousin says.

“This happens sometimes,” says your grandmother. “What do you want to do? And the boy? What does he want?”

“I know what I want. But I don’t have any money,” you say.

Your grandmother and cousin are quiet.

“Are you sure? This is not your America. We could call your father,” Abuela finally says. She coughs into her knobby elbow.

You are sure.


The procedure costs nearly a thousand dollars. You don’t know where your grandmother got the money. There is pain, but afterwards, you feel a lightness that lifts you above it.

You and your cousin push your twin beds together. Your cousin buys pink hair dye and hot fries. You spend the afternoon experimenting. When she goes to a movie and leaves you alone, you look at the ceiling and ignore the text messages Antonio keeps sending you. You stretch the pink sunglasses to fit your own face and stare at the exposed light bulb until you see floaters. You notice there’s a scratch on one lens at the bottom of the heart.

When Abuela appears in the doorway, you don’t move.

“Are you going to talk to that boy, Yana?” Abuela asks. “He is sad and happy, but you cannot forget the sad.”

You peer at your grandmother through the sunglasses.

“It’s not his body. And soon I’ll be back in the United States. I don’t owe him. This isn’t my life here.”

“So you are a ghost.”

“I’m something.”

“You’ll break those glasses, nieta. They are for a child.”

“Maybe I am a child,” you say.

“Not anymore,” Abuela says, closing the door.

Photograph by: Whitney Ott
Written by: Dot Dannenberg

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