An adult Lizet Ramirez reflects on her childhood memories of Miami, “the city [she] used to call home.” The city was crisscrossed by canals, and many of her memories are centered around those canals—now, she is a research scientist who works to save coral reefs and rehabilitate bodies of water, and she horrifies and amuses her coworkers with tales of all the “highly illegal” things her parents used to dump into Miami’s canals, such as motor oil and dead hamsters. Once, when Lizet’s father, Ricky, was thirteen, he and his friends found a dead body in a canal but didn’t tell anyone—the corpse got “worse and worse” until one day it was gone. Lizet did not hear this story until she was older—until the summer after Ariel Hernandez was sent back to Cuba “after months of rallies and riots.”
Lizet begins her story by describing a major contrast between her past and her present. As a child, she didn’t care what was thrown into the canals around her house; now, her life is dedicated to keeping bodies of water clean and clear. Crucet forms this contrast to show readers that the young Lizet they are going to be reading about is very different from the adult Lizet narrating the story of her life.
Years after her father told her this story, Lizet was working in a lab under a parasitologist when she fell into a filthy canal and had to be hospitalized and given a strong course of antibiotics. The fall reminded Lizet of a story from when she was three years old: One day, her older sister, Leidy, was watching her briefly while their mother was in the backyard talking to a neighbor. Lizet found a pair of pool floaties, slipped her arms into them, and jumped right into a nearby canal. Her parents took an “embarrassingly long” time to discover her floating in the canal, and, after pulling her out, took her to the emergency room. Every time someone in Lizet’s family tells this story, it is slightly different, but it always ends the same: with someone declaring, “She was fine!”
As a child, Lizet’s parents were constantly worried about her, only to find that she was always “fine”; the story Lizet is about to tell is one in which she will face trials and tribulations, but this passage implies that everything will be “fine” in the end.