I want to kick Sister Consolación in the face, and I don’t care if it’s “a pretty face for a fat lady.” Mami says that Sister Consolación used to be called Gertrudis. But after Nestor Figueroa la dejó plantá at the altar, she became a nun, and they changed her name because that’s what happens when you become a nun. That’s sad, but Sister Consolación is not a nice person, and she teaches math, and I want to kick, kick, kick her.
Weird Amaury made a face at me that I didn’t like. It felt weird. I told Sister Consolación, and all she said was: “You must have provoked him.” Stupid nun. She looked at me, right at my face, and that’s all she said. Ugh! So, I kicked Weird Amaury on the shin for being a weird boy.
Now we’re both in Señor Collazo’s office.
“…What happened this time, Barbarita? You know how we feel about girls getting into fights.”
“Amaury stuck his tongue out at me and did this, back and forth.”
“No, I didn’t!”
Liar. Liar, liar, liar! I kick Weird Amaury on the other shin. This time he starts to cry like a lil’ bitch. Señor Collazo is not happy. He sends Weird Amaury to the boy’s punishment room and me to the girl’s punishment room.
I stare at the statue of La Virgen de la Candelaria, the guardian mother of the school and of our island. Her skin is the kind of white I only see in telenovelas. I kneel with my hands outstretched for fifteen minutes and recite the Ave María.
“Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores…”
I say the prayer like a parrot so many times that I forget what the words mean or in what order they’re supposed to go.
This is not fair! I want to kick everybody, including La Virgen de la Candelaria. You were not watching over me and you did not show that fat nun the truth. You are not a good guardian.
I glare at La Virgen. She… stares back? Whatever.
And then: her eyes! They begin to bleed! I start screaming because this is not normal. Statues are not supposed to bleed.
Señor Collazo runs in and wheezes. He kneels beside me. Some of the nuns run in to see what “new mess” I’m making now.
“¡Ay, Dios mío!” is all they can say. They all make the sign of the crossway too many times. Then they kneel, and cry, and pray.
La Virgen’s eyes are now as red as the devil’s moon.
What’s your deal, La Virgen? You feel bad because you and Papa Dios haven’t done what you’re supposed to do to fix the world? Mami says people are starving in Africa, and Papi says the governor doesn’t know his head from his ass, and you didn’t defend me when Weird Amaury made that weird face, and when Alfredo el Shorty stole my pencils, and when Tamira To’Junto told me that she read in the Bible that only gringos get into heaven. And for all the times I’ve had to go to bed without dessert because I kept asking “too many” questions, or talked back to Mami and Papi. Well, you know what? I’m going to defend myself, coño.
La Virgen’s eyes won’t stop bleeding. There’s blood near my knees and Señor Collazo’s knees now. The blood is trickling down everywhere, but it doesn’t smell like metal or soup, it smells like the white flowers that turn into papayas.
Señor Collazo is crying. His thick glasses are all foggy from his sadness and his sweat. He asks over, and over, and over, “Make her love me, please make her love me.” The nuns all ask for different things: “Forgive him.” “…Forgive her.” Their faces are all scrunched up and wet. Gross. “…Forgive us.”
Even Sister Consolación’s saying: “Forgive me.”
Then she grabs my arm, “What did you do?”
“I was praying and she just started crying.”
Sister Consolación turns to Sister Misericordia, who tells her between sobs: “I told you… it’s good to have… our faith… challenged.”
Then Sister Consolación says, “How can she be the blessed one?”
Señor Collazo gives Sister Consolación THE LOOK and she bows her head. He-he. Stupid nun.
But I’m not blessed and I’m not a saint: I just call it like I see it. La Virgen can cry all she wants, but I’m still angry at everything and everyone. Angry that my knees, and socks, and shoes are all covered in blood that smells different. I’m angry these people don’t see this for what it is.
This is a trick, La Virgen. I know it because I use it all the time. I cry when I know I’m in trouble.
Weird Amaury peeks his stupid head in, sees the mess. Next thing I know, he’s passed out on the floor. No one but me notices.
I really want to laugh about this. I really, really do. But something’s telling me to just keep my face all serious and confused.
And all of a sudden, La Virgen stops crying. No more red, flowery tears. I stare at her, and purse my lips, and shake my head. The room is filled with blood, and wet faces, and prayers. This is worse than catechism on a Sunday morning. Señor Collazo stares at me: “What did you ask for, Barbarita?”
“Can I go back to class now? Please?”
I’d rather be in class memorizing the municipalities than to answer. I’ve learned that grown-ups don’t like to hear the truth sometimes.
“No, no, no. We need to make some calls. Can’t you see? This is a miracle, Barbarita!” Señor Collazo smiles. I’ve never seen him smile.
“Can I go wash my legs?”
“Barbarita, no, you are covered with La Virgen’s blood!”
I stare back at La Virgen. I purse my lips again.
She stares back. She winks.
“Did you see!” I point and shake Señor Collazo’s hand.
“Is she crying again?!”
No, she isn’t. La Virgen’s eyes are dry. She’s staring at the wall again. Her robes were white, and blue, and yellow, and now they’re all bloody.
The nuns are still crying. This room is a mess. I start to feel really tired. Señor Collazo puts me on a chair. He pats my head, gently, almost carefully. He turns to La Virgen, stares at her. His face looks like he’s sad, and, maybe feeling something else?
I’m just happy I don’t have to kneel anymore. I look back at La Virgen. La Virgencita de la Candelaria. …Maybe I kinda like you now.
But I’m still angry with you.