Reyna fills in the blanks as to what happened between her Mami and Papi in El Otro Lado. Two and a half years after arriving there, Papi told Mami he didn’t love her anymore and no longer wanted to live with her. Mami was devastated that not only was her husband leaving her for another woman—but was leaving her for another woman from Mexico. This woman, however, was a U.S. citizen who spoke English.
The older Reyna provides some context as to the truth of what happened between her parents in El Otro Lado in order to foreshadow the events that are still to come. Papi’s infidelity and abandonment, and the feelings of betrayal they inspire in Mami, mirror the feelings of betrayal she engendered in her own children when she left Mexico.
When Papi tossed Mami out of the apartment, he did not allow her to take Betty, and refused to let her see the child any longer. Every day, though, Mami would go to Betty’s babysitter’s house and wheedle the woman into letting her visit with her daughter. One day, Mami convinced the babysitter to let her take Betty out for ice cream. Rather than returning with the baby, Mami took Betty home with her. That evening, Papi came looking for Mami with a gun, threatening both her and the baby while Betty cried. A bystander tried to break up the altercation, and Papi shot him. Papi was arrested, but allowed voluntary deportation. Within a week after being deported, Papi snuck back across the border, resuming his life in El Otro Lado.
The violent tale of Papi’s cruel, threatening behavior towards Mami throws into question just how great a man the Man Behind the Glass truly is, and also raises suspicions as to which, if either of them, is telling the truth. With so much anger and bad blood swirling, both Mami and Papi have become even less reliable in their children’s eyes.
By November, Mami has obtained a job at a record shop. She works late, and often comes home after dark. Since there are no streetlights on the way to Abuelita Chinta’s from the bus stop, her brother, Tío Crece, usually meets her there and walks her home. One night, there is no sign of Crece, and Abuelita Chinta sends Carlos to go retrieve Mami and walk her home. A while later, though, Mami comes home alone, insisting that Carlos wasn’t waiting for her at the bus stop. They all go out to look for him, and soon find him walking towards them. When Mago asks where Carlos was, he replies “nowhere.” Back at the house, he demands to be left alone, and goes straight to bed.
Something is going on with Mami—and Carlos alone knows what it is. His sullen behavior after returning from the train station indicates that he has seen something he was not supposed to—and Mami’s newly-single status combined with her volatility seems to point to the presence of a new man in her life.
In the morning, Carlos is still in a bad mood. That evening, Abuelita Chinta sends the three children out to buy sodas before dinner. On the way home from the store, Mago asks Carlos what’s wrong, and he reluctantly reveals that last night he saw Mami kissing a man at the bus stop. Carlos, wanting to avoid Mami, hid in a tree while she made her way home.
Carlos confirms that Mami has taken up with a man, setting in motion his siblings’ fears that their mother will soon abandon them again in her search for love.
At dinner, Mago is sullen and silent. When Mami asks her what’s wrong, Mago reveals that they all know about Mami’s boyfriend. Mami explains that the man is a car insurance salesman who works as a wrestler on the weekends, and that she’s soon going to go away with him to Acapulco. Mago begs Mami not to go, but Mami insists she won’t be gone for long. Even Abuelita Chinta urges Mami not to leave, but Mami insists that she has made her decision. The next day, when Reyna and her siblings get home from school, they find that their mother has gone. The children weep, miserable and angered that their mother didn’t even have the courage to say goodbye to them.
When Mago calls Mami out for having a secret boyfriend, Mami doesn’t try to deny it or even take her children’s feelings into account—she simply announces that she is leaving, and then departs in the most cowardly way possible, abandoning and re-traumatizing her children so soon after she’d returned to them.