Lizet returns to Rawlings to find her dorm largely empty. Her roommate, Jillian, is not due back until the following evening. As Lizet walks to the dining hall through the freshly fallen snow, she notes that campus feels “post-apocalyptic empty.”
The emptiness of campus is reflective of Lizet’s empty, isolated mood as she returns from a strange, lonely Thanksgiving.
On the way back from dinner, Lizet stops at her mailbox in her dorm and rifles through the letters that have gathered there over the last several days—among all the junk and flyers is a letter from the Office of the Dean of Students. Lizet takes the letter back up to her room and, without even removing her boots or coat, rips it open. It informs her that she is to report to the office where her first hearing was held on Monday at 3:30 P.M. The letter also states that the time has already been cleared with her work-study job at the library. Lizet imagines that she is going to be expelled, and that the committee scheduled the meeting in the afternoon so as to give her “one last day” to enjoy being a Rawlings student.
Lizet is convinced that she is going to be kicked out of Rawlings just as she is getting adjusted. Her imposter syndrome—feelings of inadequacy in the wake of achieving something great—is in full force in this passage, and these feelings will continue to haunt Lizet throughout the novel as she pursues loftier dreams for herself.
Lizet decides to call the office and lie to them, telling them she is still in Miami participating in a protest going on in support of Ariel. When she picks up the phone, though, Omar’s voice is on the other end—Lizet has picked up the phone just as he began to dial her. Startled, she tells him she was just about to call someone. Omar becomes angry, asking Lizet why she was picking up the phone to call someone other than him and demanding to know how long she has been back. Lizet can hear Omar’s friends’ voices in the background, and she hangs up the phone.
This passage illustrates that Lizet is not the only one who acts and purports to feel differently about Omar around her friends—with his friends around, Omar becomes more controlling and indignant. This shows that Lizet and Omar are both malleable people who adjust and adapt to the moods and personalities of those around them.
Lizet angrily begins unpacking. When she’s finished, she crawls into Jillian’s bed and puts a movie on using Jillian’s computer. It’s a British film—Monty Python’s Life of Brian—and Lizet doesn’t find any of the jokes funny. Nevertheless, she watches it on repeat until she understands the spots where she’s meant to laugh.
Lizet’s desire to make herself understand Monty Python despite not really enjoying it shows just how badly she wants to adapt to Rawlings and adopt the tastes of her white peers in order to fit in.
Lizet thinks back to orientation week, when she attended a meeting scheduled by the Office of Diversity Affairs. There, she met the other students of color, who make up a very small percentage of the Rawlings population. Lizet introduced herself to the girl sitting on her other side—a kind, timid girl named Jaquelin, who almost immediately began crying, and confessed to Lizet that coming to Rawlings had been a mistake.
As Lizet thinks about the few other students of color she attends school with, she reflects on how her peers such as Jaquelin are facing the same fears and doubts as she is. Despite knowing this, Lizet still chooses to spend a lot of time either in isolation or attempting to connect with people who are very different from her, and don’t understand—or care about—her background.
Lizet and Jaquelin exchanged stories of homesickness, and revealed that neither girls’ parents had come up to school to move them into the dorm. As the meeting began, several Rawlings “retention specialists” warned the gathered group that students of color struggled more in college, and those from low-income families had only a twenty percent chance of graduating on time. The speakers instructed everyone to look around the room and imagine most of the other students in it disappearing; Lizet noticed some other students looking at her, and knew they were “imagining [her] gone.”
The cruel reality, Lizet learned in the diversity meeting, is that many students of color or from low-income brackets simply cannot adapt to life in predominantly white spaces such as Rawlings. This fact no doubt hangs over Lizet every day she spends on campus, and influences many of her decisions and actions as she tries desperately to fit in and convince others—including herself—that she truly belongs at Rawlings.
Now, watching Monty Python in Jillian’s bed, Lizet begins crying. She worries that the prediction made at the meeting has come true for her. Lizet drags herself out of bed and calls home to let her mother know she has made it home okay, but Leidy answers the phone. She tells Lizet that their mother is not yet back from the Ariel meeting that started that afternoon, though it is past ten at night.
Lizet’s own problems are given some competition in this passage; Lourdes’s burgeoning obsession with the Ariel case is overzealous and intense from the start. It does not worry Lizet as much as it should—she has enough on her own plate with her academic integrity hearing coming up, and she can’t pay attention as closely as she should to what Leidy is revealing about their mother.