Sad Girl, 1992
The very first time your parents allow you to go out by yourself two
cholas almost kick your ass. You are thirteen and have agreed to meet a
boy for a matinee movie. The two of you see Chaplin in black and white,
share a tub of popcorn, and kiss in the dark. The boy's face is crusted
with infected pimples, but you are willing to close your eyes because
being independent for half a day is a victory.
After the film, you part ways with your date and exit the mall. Your
parents instructed you to wait at the bus-stop bench. You sit,
squinting under the sun when a Chicana like yourself approaches. Her
hands are deep in the pockets of the khakis that she paired with a
buttoned white polo and black Converse sneakers. She is wearing her
school uniform, you figure, on a weekend. Her obvious red lipstick and
bandana then signal to you that you're face to face with a chola. She
is a mere two accessories away from being full blown, from signaling
She side-eyes you before saying, "You see my friend over there?"
Ten feet away is a similarly dressed chola yielding a kitchen knife.
"She thinks you were looking at her funny," she says.
Your first fear is your teeth, but they may jump you in unison, gut
you, or razorblade your face. Years ago, you naively assumed you'd
escaped the barrio, but the barrio returned to find you. At this
moment, it is inconsequential that you now attend a private school on a
"Nah," you say. "I wasn't looking at nobody."
Your use of a double negative is deliberate, a type of Hail Mary.
"You sure, sad girl?" your bully asks, tilting her head.
You nod. The cholas exchange a conspiratorial glance then nod
with a synchronicity you will remember forever. This gesture means you
get to keep your original face and that your dentist will never be part
of this equation. It will haunt you that you were chosen and spared for
no good reason.
When you finally escape into your New England college dream, you regard
the memory of that afternoon like a fossil, examining its vertebrae.
For your birthday, you treat yourself to a 14-karat gold nameplate
necklace, gold oversized bamboo hoops, and dragon blood lipstick. From
the neck up, you pattern yourself after your tormentors, thrilled by
your transformation and struck by how very long it's been since you
were a sad girl.
Ursula Villarreal-Moura is from San Antonio. She has work in or coming from The Normal School, matchbook, Nashville Review and others.
Read her postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
W i g l e a f