The narrator of "My Tocaya" describes a thirteen-year-old girl in her class who has the same name as her: Patricia. This girl goes by “Trish”—a fact that annoys the narrator—and gains something like fame when she dies and newspapers and TV programs start reporting about her, interviewing anybody who knew her, even teachers obligated to say nice things like, “She was full of energy, a good kid, sweet.” The narrator begrudgingly wonders why nobody asks her what she thinks of Trish.
The narrator’s begrudging jealousy of the attention Trish gets upon her disappearance indicates that she—the narrator—is rather immature. Indeed, she has clearly not yet reached a point in her life at which she feels comfortable with her own identity, and so she puts Trish down as a way of solidifying her own self-importance. In addition, her annoyance that Trish goes by Trish instead of Patricia indicates her scorn for Latinas who (unlike her) readily abandon their Mexican culture in order to assume fully American identities.
The narrator of "My Tocaya" explains that Patricia Benavídez—Trish—has always been the “‘son’ half of Father & Son’s Taco Palace No. 2 even before the son quit.” She notes that Trish wears rhinestone earrings and glitter high heels to school. Anybody who wears such flashy clothing, she says, is “destined for trouble.” In any case, Trish skipped several grades, which is why she’s in high school at the age of thirteen. The narrator wonders if Trish perhaps runs away from home because Trish's father beats her, since this what her brother did; fed up with constantly fighting with his father, he left one day and never returned. Maybe, though, Trish simply got tired of serving tacos, thinks the narrator.
The narrator fluctuates between blaming Trish and sympathizing with her, as she acknowledges that Trish’s life was perhaps not so easy before her disappearance. This fluctuation indicates that the narrator is still working through Trish’s disappearance, trying to make sense of it any way she can. Because she’s still young, though, she has trouble fathoming what Trish has gone through, and thus posits theories that vary greatly from one another, all the while trying to seem as if she doesn’t really care very much, though the mere fact that she’s telling this story makes it obvious that she is fascinated and obsessed with Trish’s experience.
Several weeks after Trish’s disappearance, her mother takes out an ad in the newspapers asking if anybody has seen her daughter. At the end of the ad, she includes this message: “Honey, call Mommy y te quiero mucho.” The narrator of "My Tocaya" admits she would have no reason to care about Trish’s disappearance if it weren’t for the fact that Trish was, at the time of her vanishing, acting as an intermediary between her and Max Lucas Luna Luna, a senior at an all boys’ school affiliated with their own school. The narrator explains that the two schools sometimes put together “Youth Exchanges,” sexual education sessions in which the boys and girls sit side by side and listen to lectures with names like “The Blessed Virgin: Role Model for Today’s Young Woman” and “Petting: Too Far, Too Fast, Too Late.” This is how she first meets Max.
Once again, the narrator tries to convince readers that she doesn’t care about Trish’s wellbeing, ultimately striving to appear independent and callous. And though it might be true that she’s disappointed to lose her primary connection to Max, it also seems to be the case that she would probably be telling this story even if he weren’t involved. As it stands, Max serves as a convenient excuse for her to spend time analyzing Trish’s disappearance without having to admit she has taken an interest in this girl who is not only younger than her, but who also represents a slightly more Americanized version of herself. Indeed, with her high heels and Anglicized name, Trish signifies a certain multicultural identity about which the narrator is curious but hesitant to embrace herself.
One day before her disappearance, Trish tells the narrator of "My Tocaya" that Max Lucas Luna Luna has a crush on her. “Yeah right,” the narrator says, not wanting to be seen talking to Trish. Nonetheless, Trish insists, and the narrator’s interest slowly grows until she suddenly feels kinship with Trish for having given her such important information. From then on, the narrator asks Trish to pass messages to Max. She even starts visiting Trish at the taco restaurant, but then one day a nun comes on over the intercom at school and announces the following message: “I am sorry to have to announce one of our youngest and dearest students has strayed from home. Let us keep her in our hearts and in our prayers until her safe return.”
Considering that the narrator has never talked to Max, it seems unlikely that her sudden close friendship with Trish is merely due to the fact that Trish has a connection with this boy. Indeed, the narrator even starts visiting Trish at the Taco restaurant, going out of her way to spend time with this girl. Despite how much she obviously wants to be friends with Trish, though, she only does so under the pretext that Trish can act as a liaison between her and Max.
The narrator of "My Tocaya" is upset to hear about Trish’s disappearance because it means she has lost an important part of her relationship with Max. Worse, the entire school starts talking about Trish, and everybody acts like they were her closest friends. After a while, though, people stop obsessing over her, and the narrator is glad to finally be able to mention Trish’s name again without having to deal with the hype surrounding her disappearance.
The narrator’s annoyance at her peers for obsessing over Trish is likely the result of the fact that she herself has been secretly obsessed with her for far longer than anybody else. Now, though, everybody wants to talk about Trish—the Americanized iteration of the narrator’s own identity—and the narrator feels as if she must therefore once again reject Trish. This notion becomes even clearer when the narrator is happy to be able to talk about Trish again without getting everybody else worked up—indeed, it’s clear that not talking about Trish takes a great amount of effort for her.
Just as the commotion around Trish’s disappearance dies down, a group of children playing in a drainage ditch find a dead body, which is later identified as Trish. Once again, newscasters descend upon the "My Tocaya" narrator’s high school, and everybody resumes their hysterics. Strangely enough, though, Trish waltzes into the police station three days later and says, “I ain’t dead.” Apparently, her parents misidentified the corpse because they were so upset. “I never did get to meet Max Lucas Luna Luna, and who cares, right?” the narrator says. “All I’m saying is [Trish] couldn’t even die right.” And the narrator notes that even though Trish botched death, she still got to have her face plastered on the front page. As if she’s been in conversation with somebody else for the entire story, she concludes by saying, “Girl, I’m telling you.”
Some people need to talk about others in order to feel comfortable about themselves and their own identities. When the narrator says, “Girl, I’m telling you,” she gives readers the impression that she has been gossiping with a friend about Trish the whole time. As such, it’s clear she’s incredibly interested in Trish but that she doesn’t want to reveal her obsession. But when she says, “I never did get to meet Max Lucas Luna Luna, and who cares, right?” she reveals that she never really was very interested in making a connection with him—rather, she wanted to make a connection with Trish, but this attempt seems to have failed, and so she resorts to criticizing her, saying things like, “she couldn’t even die right.”