The story opens with a description of Lucy Anguiano, a girl whom the narrator of "My Friend Lucy..." describes as smelling “like corn, like Frito Bandito chips, like tortillas, something like that warm smell of nixtamel or bread.” The narrator says that this smell is strongest when she leans close to Lucy, perhaps while making a doll out of paper or when playing with marbles on the porch. Lucy asks the narrator if she’s ever eaten dog food, an idea that disgusts the girls’ other friend, Janey Ortiz. Nonetheless, the narrator admires Lucy for eating dog food and likes that they both wear the same flip-flops, which they purchased together at K-mart for 79 cents.
In this opening story, Cisneros establishes her authorial interest in the ways young girls make sense of each other as they grow up side by side. For the narrator and Lucy, connecting with one another means bonding over shared items like cheap flip-flops, and it also includes alienating Janey Ortiz, something the girls do as a way of further establishing the closeness of their own relationship. Right from the beginning, then, Cisneros shows how women—in this case little girls—are often in competition with one another, a dynamic she explores later in the collection by examining infidelity.
The narrator of "My Friend Lucy..." declares she’s going to sit in the sun even though it’s incredibly hot outside. She wants her skin to “get so dark it’s blue where it bends like Lucy’s.” Apparently, Lucy’s and her eight sisters all have “eyes like knife slits.” The narrator describes how Lucy’s mother is often in the kitchen “feeding clothes into the wringer washer,” and the narrator herself frequently helps pin laundry onto the clothesline, carefully stringing up a “pink sock of the baby” and a “flowered T-shirt” along with blue jeans and a blouse. She explains that Lucy and her sisters all wear each other’s clothes; “There ain’t no boys here,” she says. “Only girls and one father who is never home hardly and one mother who says Ay! I’m real tired and so many sisters there’s no time to count them.”
The narrator’s fascination with Lucy’s dark skin is an example of how children put together ideas regarding race and identity. The fact that she tries to be as dark as Lucy by simply lying in the sun suggests that she doesn’t fully grasp the concept of race. At the same time, she is aware that she and Lucy are different from one another despite how close they are as friends. Difference, it seems, surrounds the narrator and defines her life, as she also takes note of the different societal roles that men and women play (in this case observing that Lucy’s father is absent while her mother is left to run the house).
The narrator of "My Friend Lucy..." imagines having sisters of her own, wishing she could sleep with them instead of by herself on a fold-out chair in the living room. She envisions coming home that night and dealing with her grandmother, who will inevitably be angry with her because she’s wearing the same dress she’s supposed to wear tomorrow. Nonetheless, she resolves to “jump off an old pissy mattress in the Anguiano yard” and scratch her mosquito bites and trade shoes with Lucy and wear them on her hands. Continuing this list of things she wants to do with Lucy, she says they’re going to walk over to Janey Ortiz’s house and say, “We’re never going to be your friend again forever!” Then, in the late afternoon she and Lucy will eat popsicles; “And when we look at each other, our arms gummy from an orange Popsicle we split, we could be sisters, right?”
Once again, the narrator and Lucy seek to solidify their bond by emphasizing the difference between them and Janey Ortiz, who they have deemed unworthy of their friendship. In doing so, they define themselves by way of negation, seeking to understand who they are by articulating who they aren’t. At the same time, they also take delight in their own friendship, basking together in the small joys of childhood like getting dirty and playing with one another like sisters.