Lizet arrives at the restaurant to meet Ricky very early. She sits at a table by herself for over half an hour drinking café con leche and observing the other patrons. As she prepares the coffee by stirring espresso and sugar into a mug of steamed milk, she feels “suddenly aware of [her] performance of making café con leche.” Having been away at Rawlings for so long, she feels disconnected from the act—and herself.
Lizet has been away from home for so long that even old familiar behaviors feel forced or practiced—she has a lot of anxiety about her identity and feels like an impostor in her own hometown.
Ricky arrives at the restaurant. As he approaches the table and gives Lizet a hug, she is unsure of how to react. Just a day ago, she was furious at her father, ready to call him out for abandoning the family and not even giving Lizet and Leidy his new number or address; now, though, she feels an overwhelming tenderness towards him, and decides to put off her anger for the time being.
Lizet has decided—at least for the moment—to forgive and forget her father’s actions and behavior. His apparent feelings of pride in Lizet and her accomplishments mean a lot to her, and outweigh his past betrayals.
Ricky and Lizet order their food; he apologizes for being out of touch, and explains that he has been working hard each day. He asks Lizet if she’s doing well in school and earning straight A’s—Lizet doesn’t know how to explain, though, that her college is very different from her high school, where it was easy for her to do well and make perfect grades. She tells him that school is “intense,” and that everyone is “obsessed” with studying—Ricky says that it sounds like people up at Rawlings are as crazy about their studies as some people in Miami are about the Ariel Hernandez case—specifically, Lourdes.
As Lizet and Ricky make conversation, Lizet is happy for the chance to tell someone about her studies—even if the telling requires a bit of translation. When Ricky brings up Lourdes and Ariel, though, Lizet is distracted and nervous, afraid that her father knows something she doesn’t.
Lizet asks what Ricky knows about her mother and Ariel—her father doesn’t answer. When Lizet asks if he’s talked to Lourdes recently, Ricky confesses that he hasn’t. He asks if Lizet gets any Spanish news channels up at school, and Lizet confesses she hasn’t checked. Ricky states that he’s seen Lourdes on the news a few times. He seems concerned, but Lizet doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, and she grows defensive. Ricky tells her to forget she said anything, but advises Lizet to urge Lourdes to “relax” about the Ariel case.
Ricky seems to realize he has stepped into dangerous territory by bringing Lourdes up. Once he realizes that Lizet doesn’t understand what’s going on, he tries to calm her down—but a seed of doubt and suspicion has been planted, and Lizet is not sure whether her father is overreacting or whether her mother really is acting up more than she’s letting on.
Ricky and Lizet begin eating, and Ricky continues talking about Lourdes and her Ariel obsession. He admits that it must be hard for her to hear about Ariel’s painful crossing—it has been tough for him, too, he says, as he was fourteen years old when he came over from Cuba and remembers the journey in harrowing detail. Still, he believes Lourdes needs to remember that Ariel is not her child—she has two of her own to worry about. Lizet again insists that Lourdes is just “volunteering,” but is unable to convince even herself that this is entirely true.
Ricky concedes that there are reasons for Lourdes’s behavior, and alludes to the trauma they both faced on the way over from Cuba and in the wake of their early adjustments to life in America. Still, his assessment that Lourdes’s behavior is strange and out of control resonates with Lizet, who begins worrying despite her earlier belief that Lourdes’s involvement in the affair was relatively normal.
As Ricky and Lizet finish eating, Ricky asks whether everyone is attending the annual party at Lourdes’s sister Zoila’s house tonight. Lizet says they are, and asks him what his own plans are. He doesn’t answer, but instead sits up and tells Lizet he has something for her. He pulls three envelopes from his wallet—one for her, one for Leidy, and one for Dante. Lizet insists she doesn’t need the money, but Ricky assures her it’s not much. Lizet suggests Ricky give Leidy and Dante their presents in person, but Ricky says he’s “not interested in the drama.” This infuriates Lizet, and she urges her father to pay the two of them a visit; he firmly insists that he can’t. As Ricky pays the bill, he asks Lizet to tell him if she ever needs extra money for school.
Lizet’s visit with Ricky has been mostly pleasant, but with the whole Lourdes conversation, it began to take a turn—now, as Lizet realizes that she is meant to be the go-between for Ricky and Leidy, she balks at the imposition and wonders why her father won’t just visit their family in person. She is seeing that her father is still flawed, still aloof, and still wary, for some reason, of spending time with his family.
Lizet heads home with the envelopes from her father in her back pocket. She is determined to drive by her old house, and wonders if the house will somehow be able to tell her what to do about her disjointed family. When she arrives, however, the house is practically unrecognizable. The mango tree in the front yard has been ripped out and paved over; the fence around the house has been replaced with a bunch of cinder blocks stacked along the sidewalk. Lizet thinks that the house looks like “a bad copy” of itself; she feels nervous, alone, and lost as she puts her car in reverse and heads for her mother’s new apartment.
Lizet, upset and put off after a strange ending to her breakfast with Ricky, hopes that seeing her old house will make her feel at home—since being with her mother and sister has made her feel alienated and out of the loop, and being with her father has made her feel worried and burdened. The visit just makes her sadder, though, and Lizet realizes that perhaps “home” does not exist anymore.