“What about George National High School?” asked my mom. I immediately felt my chest tighten. You had to take an admissions test and have a perfect GPA to get into George National High School. And I didn’t have the best GPA. It had its flaws, but I knew very well that I couldn’t disagree with my mother, so I had to put George National High School as one of my options. “Love, why don’t you say what you think about it? I’m just suggesting a school.”
“I don’t want to go to that school, but I don’t know why I would say that because you never take into consideration anything that I say,” I answered.
Mother ignored me and kept flipping through the big, fat book that named all the high schools that my social studies teacher gave me at the beginning of the eighth grade year. I left Mom alone in the living room and headed to my bedroom. I grabbed my laptop from my nightstand and opened it to the application page. The application started in two days, so I still had time to pick the last two schools that I needed for the list, without Mother’s “suggestions” or “recommendations.” Mother had other visions for my future: she wanted me to go to a boarding school or a private school, then have a career that was in the science or medical field. I, on the other hand, had plans to go to a good high school that was in the city and then… just let fate make my choice. Of course, I couldn’t tell this to my mother. She would argue with me and say she knew what was best for my future. But that fact was counterfeit. How could she know what was best when I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my future?
“Dalilia?” asked Mother. I immediately closed my laptop and opened up the nearest book. “Where are you?”
“Ma, I’m in my room,” I yelled back. A few minutes later, my mother entered my room with a cup of milk and tea in her hand.
“Would you look at that… you’re back to reading,” said Mother.
“What do you mean? I always read.”
“Yeah, but you are doing it because you want to, not because I told you to… ”
“Alright… ”Another lie, but I didn’t want to argue with her. Mother had seen me read in the cafe right next to my school many times before. I kept reading while my mom placed the milk and tea on my nightstand, on top of my history notebook. Right on top of it. I felt like she forgot that tea is liquid, and the notebook had my notes for my history final.
“So, what are you reading?” she asked, tentatively.
“Call Me By Your Name by — ”
“Andre Aciman,” she finished.
“Yup, that’s the one… ”
“Dalilia, you are always reading that book! Try being more diverse… ”
“I really like the book — ” I stopped myself before my mother could give me the death stare. “I will, Ma. Do you have any recommendations?”
“Try Milk and Honey,” she responded, then left my bedroom. That conversation was so unnecessary, but now I had a book recommendation. I went back to the application website and saw that some high schools allowed you to apply early. I looked at the screen and contemplated the choice I was about to make. I had always been a good child and taken my mother’s recommendations, but now something was making me rebel against my mother. I trembled as I clicked the blue apply button next to my top four choices and then watched the computer load and accept my selections. I immediately felt a wave of catharsis and sent a text informing my counselor.
Dalilia, you know your first choice was Dule Jet High School, right? she texted back.
I told her yes and the reason why I picked the school (for the puppy shelter after school program). She then sent me a picture of the school’s graduation percentage rate and the safety rate. Only 34 percent of the students had graduated in four years, and only six percent of the students felt safe in the school. This meant that the high school’s seats were not filled, and I suddenly experienced a rush of stress as I realized that it was official: I would definitely be going to this school. I threw my head face-down onto the pillow and screamed into it: College was never going to happen now. My counselor called me right in the middle of my breakdown.
“Dalilia, you might not get into the high school, maybe… ” she said. It was clear that she was trying to find a scenario in which I wouldn’t be accepted into the school, and it was also clear that she couldn’t find one. A huge sob came out of my mouth. “W-Wait, um. You could always apply to a boarding school or a private school. I believe you are smart enough to get into one… ”
I stopped crying for a good second. If I did apply for a boarding or private school, then I would have to tell my mom that I needed to take a test to be accepted. A test that I hadn’t studied for because I didn’t have time, and I’d wanted to rebel and — and — and… I broke down again.
“Ms. Sar, I’m going to have to tell my mom,” I said, between sobs. Ms. Sar stayed quiet as she listened to me weep.
“Our mothers tell us what to do for a reason, Dalilia. It’s because at the end of the day, they want us to become someone who is respected and valued. Even if your mom annoys you and punishes you, she does this so that you won’t make mistakes that affect you in the future. A mother knows best, so right now you should go talk to her about this. It’s not good to be keeping lies from her.”
I thanked Ms. Sar and hung up. I headed to the bathroom, washed my face, and dried it. Knowing my mother, she would punish me or maybe even scream at me, but you couldn’t always assume the worst. I headed downstairs and found my mother sitting on the kitchen island on her laptop. She had her glasses on and her favorite coffee mug that I gave her for her work promotion gift. I sat next to my mother and took a deep sigh.
“Ma — ”
“I know, you don’t need to tell me.”
“Wait, what? You know about the high school — ”
“Yup, I keep tabs on your computer and your phone and your Netflix account.” Yeah, talk about privacy. “And I’m proud of you for being honest and coming to me to tell me about your naive choice.” Mother’s eyes were still on the laptop screen, and surprisingly she was being very nonchalant about this whole situation. I stayed quiet while she kept typing on her laptop.
“I plan on applying to a boarding school,” I quietly added. Mother had no reactions and kept typing on her laptop. A few seconds later, she stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then looked at her laptop again.
“Dalilia, I feel like you’re mature enough to make your own choices about your next steps, but right now I’m thinking about sending you to the church school that your uncle has recommended since you were in fourth grade,” Mother responded. I opened my mouth, but she kept on talking. “Don’t answer me right now. Why don’t you go and think about it — go outside and get some fresh air or something.” I really needed it, so I didn’t bother to argue with her.
As soon as I stepped outside, the smell of my neighbor’s Smeraldo flowers hit me. I hadn’t been outside for so long that I’d forgotten about the Smeraldo flower and the placid winds that made the chimes on my window move and tinkle. I remembered my neighbor telling me that the meaning of this flower was, “the truth untold.” Fun facts, huh. My mother coughed and interrupted my contemplative moment. I came rushing back to reality and thought of my mom, the woman who I respected most. I admired her yet abhorred her for making me abhor myself. I admired the fact that someone could be powerful enough to make someone else hate themselves: a power of hers that I both hated and revered.
I texted my Aunt Pam who was like another mother to me, but I never told this to my mom because I knew she would get jealous. Aunt Pam was in her 20’s and had her hair cut short last November because she strongly believed at the time that women who cut their hair wanted to change their life. She was still stuck in the 90s, since she wore mom jeans and a wide shirt with a finishing touch of a dark red matte lipstick. Personally, I loved this aesthetic look unlike my mother who thought that Aunt Pam needed to “wake up.”
Aunt Pam texted back, inviting me over since she heard about my choice. In the family, when you did something wrong, all your family members know about it, no matter where they were. I could call a family member who lived overseas, and they would know about my choice too. I headed over to Aunt’s Pam house, a couple blocks away. As soon as I entered her house, the smell of cinnamon rolls hit me, which brought memories of when I stayed over at hers when Mother was away.
“Oof — ” I said as I body tossed myself onto the couch. “I hope I don’t get food poisoning, don’t need any more problems.” Aunt Pam came out of nowhere, sat next to me, and kissed my forehead.
“Ha, you know you want them, but I don’t plan on giving them to you until you tell me what’s up,” she responded. I let out a stressed sigh as my response.
“I know that Ma is surely applying for the nearby boarding school, even though she said that I should go to that obtuse school all the way in Boston with a Nun. So, I guess that at the end of the day, she does design my future… ” The house was quiet, making it feel like even Aunt Pam was experiencing the same epiphany I was going through.
“That how it goes, boo. Your mother kept you in her stomach for nine months and had to grow through vomiting, urination, and other worse things — just to bring you into this world. She knows you the best, even though you claim to not know yourself… ” Aunt Pam stood up and headed back into the kitchen.
“So, Boston it is,” I responded. Aunt Pam nodded. That is how I made my decision. I didn’t have to think about it —
“Wait — so you made a choice to come here in a matter of seconds?”
Dalilia nods and pats her roommate’s head. The roommate is a freshman and comes into the room, complaining that she could have thought twice before picking a horrible high school that her mother didn’t allow. It was sort of similar to Dalilia’s story, so she sat down at 5 am on a school night and told her freshman roommate the story as a way to console her. Plus, Dalilia also thought it was a great icebreaker.
“Well, I’m going to sleep,” said Dalilia. The freshman pouts and has a tiny tantrum. After the tantrum is over, the room stays silent. So silent that you can hear the birds talking to each other and the leaves fighting each other and if the sun could make a sound, you would hear it too. The freshman looks at her hands and lets out a tinkling giggle. “Hm?”
“By the way, how do you remember the story so vividly?”
Dalilia laughs and thinks for a moment. “Some things are just so important that it’s impossible to forget them.”
People say that they created mothers because God couldn’t be everywhere, but Dalilia didn’t believe this. However, that doesn’t mean that she forgot about it. Dalilia had finally decided to come to her senses when she graduated high school with honors in all classes and got into one of the best colleges in the country, thanks to her mother’s screaming when Dalilia wanted to give up, the tight hugs when girls were being rude, and the inspirational texts in the middle of the day. Since then, Dalilia figured out that she would always need her mother — no matter what age she was, no matter how mad she was at her.