Bums in the Attic
A chapter from The House on Mango Street
By: Sandra Cisnero
I want a house on the hill like the ones in the garden where papa works. We go on Sundays, Papa's day off. I used to go. I don't anymore. You don't like to go out with us, Papa says. Getting too old? Getting to stuck-up, says Nenny. I don't tell them I am ashamed--all of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can't have. When we win the lottery....Mama begins, and then I stop listening.
People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth. They don't look down at all except to be content to live on hills. They have nothing to do with last week's garbage or fear of rats. Night comes. Nothing wakes them but the wind.
One day I'll own my own house, but I won't forget who I am or where I came from. Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I'll offer them the attic, ask them to stay , because I know how it is to be without a house.
Some days after dinner, guests and I will sit in front of a fire. Floorboards will squeak upstairs. The attic grumble.
Rats? they'll ask.
Bums, I'll say, and I'll be happy
"The House on Mango Street" is a book about the Latino section of Chicago, her writing has provided a lot of insight on my time in South Africa. It is a vivid depiction of life in contrast between two worlds. I can relate to the While I won't be having bums in my attic anytime soon (I am somewhat of a bum in transitions staying in my parents house) I connect to the child in the story's feelings of frustration of false hope. Sometimes I don't feel understood as to how I view life, or my own ambitions.
I am also living in the house on the hill, I do enjoy the comfort of "Nothing wakes them but the wind." It has been like a weight lifted from my shoulders not having to think about whether the door was locked to the car, the house, the gate. I am not driven at every moment to be of help.
The anticipation of a life that blends both worlds is tangible now as I have been able to find what it is I want (working to set up education systems in developing countries). While I know what I want, there is a gap; filled sometimes with anticipation, sometimes fear of falling short, and sometimes faith in God and in my pursuit to do the work I know I can do well.
"One day I'll own my own house, but I won't forget who I am or where I came from." Friends I will have made will ask, Can I come in? I will say of course. We will sit at the table with my other friends, and engage in meaningful conversation that goes beyond socio-economic and cultural boundaries. Are my ambitions as far fetched and dreamy as the child in the story. I don't know, but I'm determined to find out.