Julia wakes up in a hospital bed with Amá standing over her. She has a horrible headache, and begins crying as soon as she remembers where she is, and what she did. A young man and an older woman are also at Julia’s bedside—the woman introduces herself as Dr. Cooke, and explains that the man beside her is Tomás, a translator. Julia asks Dr. Cooke if she can get out of the hospital, but Dr. Cooke insists Julia needs to stay a little longer. Julia apologizes for trying to kill herself and promises she’ll never do it again. Dr. Cooke tells Julia that what she’s done is serious, and that everyone present wants to find a way to help her. Julia asks if she’s going to be locked up like in the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dr. Cooke applauds Julia for maintaining her sense of humor.
The lapse in narrative and omission of Julia’s suicide attempt allows readers to fill in the blanks. Julia reached her breaking point in the park—unable to afford even a simple treat to soothe her worried mind and hungry stomach, she collapsed under the weight of all her stress and trauma and attempted to commit suicide. Now, surrounded by medical professions and loved ones, Julia realizes just how severe her actions were—and regrets having undertaken them.
An hour later, Julia is sitting in Dr. Cooke’s office. Dr. Cooke asks Julia about what’s going on in her life, and what has brought her to the brink. Dr. Cooke asks Julia how long she’s been depressed and thinking about killing herself, but Julia insists the act was spontaneous. She just “lost it” the night before—she didn’t really want to die. When Dr. Cooke asks what triggered Julia’s “desperation,” Julia replies that she simply reached a boiling point when she came home from the park hungry and couldn’t find any food to eat.
Julia’s constant ravenous hunger is a part of adolescence, to be sure, and is exacerbated by her family’s food insecurity—but as a symbol of Julia wanting more out of life, her inability to find food in a moment of profound hunger means so much more. No food in the house, to Julia, represents more than an empty belly—it represents a dead end and a lack of hope.
Julia tells Dr. Cooke that she feels so far away from the life she wants—the things she yearns for feel impossible to reach. Dr. Cooke asks Julia to tell her about the things she wants. Julia says she wants to be a writer with independence—someone who has privacy and space to grow and breathe. She says she feels suffocated by her parents, by Chicago, and by her family’s desire for her to be more like Olga—more perfect.
Julia has no interest in being the person her parents want her to be—she wants to live her own life, on her own terms. It’s good that she’s able to admit this rather than push herself into a mold she doesn’t fit—but still is unable to deal with the pressure associated with her parents’ wishes for her.
Dr. Cooke asks Julia more about her parents. Julia discusses the painfully difficult and distrustful relationship she has with Amá, and the distant, ghostlike way Apá moves through their house. When Dr. Cooke asks Julia about her parents’ immigration to the US—and to consider whether their experience might have been traumatic or isolating for them—Julia breaks down and begins crying. She says she feels stupid and weak, but Dr. Cooke ensures her that she’s neither.
Julia’s parents are strict, demanding, and overprotective. In all her constant battles with Amá and haunting silences with Apá, Julia has only ever focused on how their actions affect her. She’s never stopped to think about the reasons why they are the way they are, or why they treat her the way they do. Julia knows that her parents have hard lives—and in this moment, breaks down emotionally as she feels a rush of empathy for them, and shame at how her actions have hurt them. Meanwhile, though, Dr. Cooke engages with Julia in a different way than anyone else does: she listens, she does not want or need anything from Julia, and she affirms Julia’s right to want the things she wants without shame.
Dr. Cooke tells Julia that she can be discharged from the hospital the next day if she agrees to an intensive weeklong outpatient program, weekly therapy, and a regimen of medication to help with her anxiety and depression. Julia is grateful that the pain and intense feelings she’s been having have “an official name.” Julia returns to her room and gets in bed, looking forlornly out the window—until she spots Lorena and Juanga standing on the opposite corner, waving up at her like mad.
As Julia talks with Dr. Cooke about her future, she feels overwhelmed but full of hope for the first time in a long time. She’s beginning to understand that part of what she’s been feeling is beyond her control—that they have an “official name” and are not unique, meaning other people have dealt with them too, which in turn means that there are things she can do to help herself feel better.