In search of a way to quickly pull her grades up before the end of the semester, Lizet pays a visit to an on-campus tutoring service, the Learning Strategies Center. Lizet is surprised to find that upperclassmen are the tutors—and even more surprised and relieved to find that the services offered there are free, and there is no limit on the number of appointments one can make. Lizet excitedly books twice-weekly slots for chemistry tutoring, along with once-a-week sessions in biology and writing.
Lizet is refocusing her attentions entirely on her studies, and is surprised to find that there are so many resources available to her. She has been struggling so much with the social and logistical aspects of college and has been unable to get any help in those departments; the idea that free study help is available any time is a relief.
On each visit to the writing center the next week, Lizet, walking through the student union, passes several big-screen TVs mounted on the walls; they broadcast news about “impending Y2K doom” and, surprisingly, the Ariel Hernandez situation. Ariel’s father, back in Cuba, is demanding his son be sent back. Every time the news shows the protests going on in Little Havana, Lizet strains her eyes to see her mother or Leidy, but can never make them out.
As Lizet tries to buckle down and focus on her studies, she can’t fully block out the news from home. Lizet’s inability to escape the Ariel Hernandez situation, even all the way up at Rawlings, points to Lizet’s other failed attempts thus far to shut out where she comes from.
On the way to one of her study sessions, Lizet bumps into Jaquelin Medina, the girl she met at the mandatory Diversity Affairs welcome meeting. Lizet is surprised when Jaquelin gives her a huge hug and seems really excited to see her. Jaquelin confesses she’s been thinking about Lizet because of the ubiquity of the Ariel news. Jaquelin asks if Lizet is free Saturday, as there’s a dance party Jaquelin has been invited to but doesn’t want to attend alone.
Lizet hasn’t pursued a friendship with Jaquelin all semester, but now, frustrated with people like Jillian who don’t actually care about Lizet, Lizet decides to befriend someone a little more like her in hopes of truly connecting.
Lizet has been unimpressed by the few Rawlings parties she’s attended so far this year, but at the prospect of a dance party, she gets excited. Back in Miami, Lizet went clubbing with her friends all the time, and misses the feeling of being out a dance floor. Jaquelin and Lizet agree to meet at the party on Saturday night—and to wear their best, most outrageous clubbing clothes to show all the other Rawlings student’s “what’s up.”
Lizet has spent the summer trying to get as far away from home as possible, both physically and emotionally. Now, though, she embraces how much she misses the things she used to do—and the person she used to be—back home in Miami.
On the night of the party, Lizet flatirons her thick, curly hair in the communal bathroom, sending the smell of smoke wafting through the halls of her dorm; Jillian and her friends are going to the party, too, and as the other do their makeup, they make nasty comments about the way Lizet is doing her hair, suggesting she is damaging it. Jillian and her friend Tracy try to get Lizet to be their designated driver, but Lizet has a feeling that the girls are just using her, and declines.
As Lizet prepares to go out, she finds herself once again at odds with her white classmates. Not only do they not understand her and make fun of her for her beauty routine, but they attempt to use her rather than truly include her in their social circle.
Lizet heads back to her dorm room to get dressed. When she’s ready, she heads out into the hall, looking for Jillian and the other girls, but an RA tells her they have already left on the campus shuttle. Lizet tells the RA she “wasn’t really going with them anyway,” and heads back to her room, where she takes a large swig of Jillian’s vodka and waits for the next campus shuttle to come around.
Lizet’s abandonment by Jillian and her clique is representative of the larger emotional isolation she feels from those girls, and all the other students on campus like them. Lizet will get herself to the party, just as she has had to do everything for herself since the moment she got into Rawlings.