Quan has no idea what to say to his cousin Manny. They live in different universes. Manny’s mama, Aunt Tiff, is Mama’s older half-sister. They didn’t know the other existed until Mama’s mother died and their shared father came clean about having two families. When Quan goes with Mama to have lunch with Manny and Tiff, he looks anywhere but at Manny. The restaurant is fancy because it’s on a river, and Mama offers to pay even though she can’t afford to. Tiff insists that paying is the least she can do, which is true. She and her husband are rich—Tiff and Manny showed up in a Jag.
Manny and Aunt Tiff provide a useful counterpoint for Quan. They show Quan how different life could be if only he and Mama had access to money. With this, Stone makes it clear that one of the major issues that keeps Quan from succeeding is growing up in such deep poverty. When Mama offers to pay despite not being able to afford it, it suggests that she (and possibly Quan) are ashamed of their financial situation. Again, this may keep them from asking for help.
Quan wonders if Manny would leave if he knew that they barely have food at home, or the reason why Mama is wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck dress in summer. Would he leave if he knew Daddy is in prison? Manny would be shocked if he knew Quan stole things. His eyes would go wide if he knew that Quan started calculating all the things he could buy with just one of Aunt Tiff’s sparkly rings.
Wondering whether Manny would leave if he knew these things is another way that Quan’s shame bubbles up. This shame keeps him from seeing any of the things that he and Manny have in common and instead, make him focus on all the ways that they’re different.
The food arrives. Quan got a lamb burger and sweet potato fries without the fig jam and goat cheese, items that don’t belong on a burger. Manny got asparagus and pink fish, which he ordered without looking at the menu. Quan can tell that Manny has been to this restaurant before, and Quan knows that it’ll be his first and last visit. Both boys sigh, but they don’t look at each other or speak to each other.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Quan seems so uncomfortable with the menu, given his limited access to food at home and his immediate family’s poverty. Manny’s ability to order without looking at the menu makes it even clearer to Quan that the boys are fundamentally different.