Make Your Home Among Strangers

by

Jennine Capó Crucet

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Make Your Home Among Strangers: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Every day starting the day after Christmas, Lizet runs downstairs to the mailboxes on the ground floor of her mother’s apartment complex to see if her grades have arrived. She is anxious to get them and learn her fate—whether she will take “normal” classes the following semester, or be forced to take remedial lessons and forfeit part of her financial aid. Lizet is so stressed that she can’t even get excited about celebrating New Year’s Eve with Omar.
In spite of the major development in her relationship with Omar, Lizet is focused primarily on school, and on what her next semester at Rawlings will look like when—and if—she returns.
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On New Year’s Eve, Lizet’s grades show up. Both Lourdes and Leidy are working, and Lizet is grateful to be alone so that she can open the envelope in peace. After opening it carefully and removing the paper inside, Lizet sees that although the only A she earned was in PE, all of her other grades are B-minuses. Lizet feels intense relief—nothing about her position at Rawlings will change. She knows her elevated grades mean that she did so well on her final papers and exams that she pulled herself up out of danger. Lizet begins to sob with relief, but in the back of her mind wonders if the school has gone easy on her so that they can “keep their Cuban above water for another semester.” This thought upsets Lizet until she remembers that all of her exams were graded blindly—her scores were all authentic.
Lizet is struggling with intense imposter syndrome in this passage. She has spent so long worrying she is not good enough for Rawlings that she feels undeserving of her success even in the face of good news. Her sense of isolation at school coupled with her feelings of having “betrayed” her family in Miami make it difficult for her to ever get real joy from her academic success. She must talk through every win with herself in order to convince herself that it is real, and that it belongs entirely to her.
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When Omar comes over with coffee and breakfast in hand, Lizet tells him the good news about her grades. She exaggerates, though, telling him she earned all As and one B, as “a kind of translation” of how her Rawlings grades compare to “normal” grades. Omar declares the two need to celebrate, and arranges for the two of them to go out to a club.
Omar is excited for Lizet, but Lizet is still burdened by the job of having to translate her experience into terms he can understand. Omar is not a part of her life at Rawlings and never will be, and this fact remains at the back of Lizet’s mind despite all his good intentions.
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Later that evening, Leidy lends Lizet some outrageous club clothes. As Lizet gets ready, feeling as if she is at last her old self again, Lourdes sits in the other room, watching Ariel on the news and preparing for the large New Year’s Day rally in his honor the following morning.
Lizet is happy to at last feel like the girl she left behind all those months ago; she can’t yet see, though, that just by dressing up in club clothes, she cannot regain the person she was before she left for school.
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Omar comes to pick Lizet up, and Lourdes warns them both to be careful out on the streets of Miami. Lourdes asks Lizet to be quiet when she comes home—Lourdes has to be up early for the Ariel rally. She confesses to Lizet that the upcoming months will be difficult, as more people have started listening to and empathizing with Ariel’s father; she is already so tired from worrying so much about the boy. Lizet offers to accompany Lourdes to the rally, but Lourdes wags her finger in Lizet’s face and warns Lizet not to do her any favors. Lizet should only go to the rally, Lourdes says, if she really wants to dedicate herself to the cause.
Once again, Lizet is trying to make everyone around her happy—she is going out to the club with Omar, and she also wants to make her mother feel loved and supported by volunteering to attend the rally with her the following morning. Lourdes’s warning to Lizet reflects her intense dedication to the cause—she does not want anyone there who is not there purely out of love for Ariel and support for his family.
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Omar and Lizet drive to a nearby liquor store to pick up some alcohol. Lizet takes a couple sips, and then Omar locks the bottle in the trunk. As they get back on the road, Omar says that he’d wanted to swing back by his house so that Lizet could say hi to his mother, but since she’s already started drinking—and is dressed provocatively for the club—that might not be such a good idea. Omar says, though, that Lizet should probably come by his house and visit with his mother before she goes back to school—otherwise, his mother will think something is wrong with Lizet “too.”
What seems to be a casual conversation on the way to the club contains a kernel of strangeness—a remark that Lizet doesn’t immediately pick up on, but that Omar will soon come to regret as the larger implications of it sink in.
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It takes a very long time for the words to sink in—Lizet and Omar are already at the club before she really thinks about them—but soon Lizet wonders what Omar meant by “you too.” Thirty minutes before midnight, she asks Omar who the “too” is, and when Omar refuses to answer her, she becomes aggressive and angry. Omar at last admits that he was talking about Lourdes and her strange fixation with Ariel Hernandez.
Lizet—perhaps due to intoxication and excitement, or perhaps due to denial—doesn’t realize right away what Omar was implying back in the car. As he reveals the truth of his words, Lizet is shocked and hurt.
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Lizet, angry and hurt, heads through the crowd towards what she thinks is the bathroom. The club is unfamiliar, though, and Lizet gets lost. Omar comes up to her and tells her to be careful taking off on her own, but Lizet wants nothing to do with Omar. She says her mother isn’t crazy—everyone else is watching the Ariel news nonstop, too. Omar admits that this is true—but Lourdes has said “some weird shit” during her TV interviews that has upset Omar.
Lizet is desperate not to believe the assertion that her mother is some kind of crazy person. She has sought comfort in Omar this week, and now he is bringing it all crashing down by revealing to Lizet a truth that she does not want to hear.
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Lizet becomes hysterical, explaining that the whole world is watching Miami, and that she, her mother, and all the other Cubans are “supposed to be […] these angry exiles.” Omar is confused by what Lizet is saying—when she looks up at him, she is reminded of looking up at Ethan at the dance party at Rawlings. Whereas the colorful beams at the Rawlings party illuminated Ethan, the lights at this club only turn Omar into a “black hole.” Lizet realizes that she is too different from the girl she used to be—she hoped that by dressing up in Leidy’s club clothes, she could turn back into her old self, but she is “separate” now from the girl Omar thinks she is.
Lizet is trying everything she can to deflect attention away from Lourdes and place it on the larger Cuban community She is doing so, however, through eyes tainted by the “double vision” being at school has given her—she wishes she could see things the way she used to, but sadly realizes that she is stuck in an liminal space, neither the girl she once was nor the girl she longs to be.
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Lizet begins screaming that she wants to go—Omar tries to calm her down and restrain her. Lizet notices that other people in the club are watching them, and Lizet hysterically begins asking everyone what they’re looking at. Omar steers Lizet off the dance floor, begging her to calm down—he paid a hundred dollars for them to get in, and if they’re not careful, they’ll get kicked out. Lizet, though, doesn’t care. All she wants is to go home. Lizet kisses Omar fiercely—realizing that “that” is what she wants, he pulls her towards the door.
Lizet’s intentions in kissing Omar are not clear—she either wants to end the argument they are having, or is overcome with an intense surge of emotion as a result of her rage. Either way, she wants to lose herself in him, and forget the strain of her familial problems for a little while.
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In the backseat of Omar’s car, though, Lizet cannot get into the zone. The sex is passionless and Lizet frets that she is not performing well enough for Omar. She is distracted, and decides that in the morning she will go with her mother to the rally to see for herself what it is about Lourdes that scares everybody so much.
Lizet is too distracted by her family matters to focus on her relationship with Omar—she knows that she has to find out the truth for herself if she is to have any peace in any arena of her life.
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