Lizet receives an email from Dr. Kaufmann, stating that the professor wants to meet with Lizet outside of class to discuss something “one-on-one.” Lizet is immediately nervous that she has done something wrong—and that whatever it was will count as “strike two” during her time at Rawlings. Lizet writes back that she’d be happy to meet with Professor Kaufmann after class on Monday, and spends the whole weekend—and the whole class period before their meeting—racking her brain for things she could have done wrong.
Lizet is still so traumatized from her run-in with the Academic Integrity Committee last semester that she worries she has unwittingly slipped up again. This fear isolates her, and she worries that she has not blended in enough at Rawlings despite all her best efforts.
After class, Professor Kaufmann excitedly calls Lizet over to her desk and asks her to sit down. Dr. Kaufmann asks Lizet if she’s interested in being a research scientist, and though Lizet has told herself—and her parents—that she is at Rawlings to study to become a doctor, she admits to Kaufmann and to herself that she wants to work in a laboratory. Kaufmann slides a brochure across the table—she wants Lizet to apply to a program in Santa Barbara, California, connected to her own research group. The program would allow Lizet to work in a field laboratory for the summer, and Kaufmann expresses a desire to nominate Lizet for the position. Because Kaufmann technically runs the lab, there is a very strong chance that the internship is a done deal for Lizet.
Whereas last semester she was being singled out for her ignorance and her failures, Lizet is now being recognized as a smart, capable, and even gifted student. Moreover, Professor Kaufmann’s internship will solve her anxiety about falling behind her peers in that department—Lizet is excited by the news, and happy to finally be thriving at Rawlings.
As Lizet heads back to her dorm room, she wonders how she will find a way to bring this new opportunity up to her parents. She knows she can’t afford a flight home for Easter, but also doesn’t feel like it’s something she can really talk to them about over the phone. Back at her dorm, Lizet shows the brochure to Jillian, who congratulates her on securing such an exciting opportunity. As Jillian heads off to her afternoon class and Lizet stares down the phone in their room, Lizet wishes she could call Jillian’s parents and give them the news instead—surely, if she had parents like Jillian’s, they would be nothing but excited for her.
With every new good thing that happens to Lizet at college, she must face the realization that she is very different from her peers—and now she must begin coming to terms with the idea that she has also become very different from her own family. The things that are important to her are confusing or irrelevant to them; carrying this knowledge hurts her, and she wishes she did not have to feel so alone.
Lizet decides to hold her good news inside for just one night, and keep the excitement all to herself. She knows that as soon as she tells either her mother or her father about the internship, the news will be scrutinized and questioned, and she won’t be able to feel such pure joy about it. In retrospect, though, Lizet realizes now that she should have picked up the phone and called someone—that night was the last night the internship offer stood even a chance of being received as good news, as things were about to get “much, much harder” for Lizet and her family.
Lizet knows her mother will never be proud of the things that Lizet thinks she should be proud of. Knowing disappointment is inevitable, Lizet wants to hold on her own pride in her achievements a little longer, unaware of the larger issues that are unfolding within her family even as she remains ignorant and absorbed in her own life.