Mago has been writing frequent letters to Mami, Betty, and Abuelita Chinta, always enclosing happy photographs meant to show Mami how well they’re all faring in America. Mami never writes back, but every once in a while, they get a letter from Emperatriz. They have learned that Élida is now living in Los Angeles, too, but they don’t make any plans to seek out their cousin. The older Reyna writes that Papi wouldn’t even reconnect with María Félix, his sister, until he was diagnosed with cancer, at which point they’d both reflect on their fractured relationships with their children, and the ways in which immigration had taken a toll on their families.
Though Reyna and her siblings’ problems are serious, this passage goes to show that their whole family has been affected by immigration, abuse, estrangement, and betrayal in many different ways. The cyclical nature of this strife and trauma is one of the memoir’s central themes, and one of its many unsolvable problems.
Mago has started getting crushes on boys, but Papi has made his rules very clear: no boyfriends are allowed. Mago sublimates her frustration into lewd Barbie doll games, and even tries to get Reyna to kiss her during a game of “Mama y Papa.” When Reyna asks what’s wrong with Mago, Mago admits that she has fallen in love with a boy named Pepe who doesn’t even know she exists.
Mago, newly a “señorita,” longs to find ways of expressing her new and confusing feelings, but because of Papi’s strict rules, she is frightened to actually act on her crush in a real way.
Mago decides to go to church one Sunday and pray for Pepe to notice her. She and Reyna go to a nearby Catholic church, braving the forty-minute walk for the sake of making their prayers official. The next day, after school, Reyna asks Mago whether her prayer was answered. Mago reveals that she almost spoke to Pepe at the bus stop, but couldn’t keep up with his English and became too flustered to even try and reply. Reyna tells Mago she’ll surely get another chance to make a good impression. A few days later, though, Mago tells Reyna that Pepe and his friends called her and Carlos “wetbacks” as they were walking home from school, and her crush ends as quickly as it started.
Mago’s first foray into love ends badly when she realizes that the boy she has feelings for is cruel, judgmental, and racist. Through the games Papi plays withholding his own affection, Mago has learned to do anything to win a boy’s affections—and she is heartbroken when her repeated attempts at getting noticed end only in more cruelty and abuse.
Carlos, too, is in love with a girl named María. Carlos is extremely shy and self-conscious about his crooked teeth, though, and can only manage to stare at his crush. One day, while Carlos is staring at her on the bus, María nastily asks what he’s looking at. Mago answers for him, retorting that María should feel lucky at all that anyone’s looking at her, considering how ugly she is. That afternoon, María comes to the apartment to confront Mago. The two go downstairs to the parking lot to fight, despite Carlos’s protestations. Mago beats María badly, and urges her to “be happy about it” the next time Carlos looks at her. Mago goes back inside, and Carlos follows her, but not before apologizing to María. Horrified by her siblings’ first experiences with love, Reyna worries about what her own first love will hold.
Though Mago doesn’t instigate the fight with Maria, she certainly knows how to handle herself—and is proficient, too, in delivering a beating followed by an ultimatum. Mago is learning tactics of violence and control from Papi, whether she knows it or not—Reyna, meanwhile, is horrified to see what young love is actually like, and how intimately entwined it is with violence, cruelty, and confusion.