The family was already in shock because Ms Vásquez’s hours at the motel had been cut back during the crisis. Now they were four months behind on the rent.
Ms Vásquez was particularly worried about Maicol, who struggled to understand the worksheets on periodic tables and literary devices, each day more frustrating than the last.
Lately, when he wasn’t recycling, he was looking for scrap metal to sell. For him, evenings with his uncle were a welcome respite, like a pirate adventure: meeting new people, looking for treasures – toys, shoes, food, money.
But Ms Vásquez, who had banned the escapades, became furious when she learned he was working. The more time Maicol spent with the recycling cart, she feared, the smaller her world would become.
She respected the people who collected garbage for a living. She had done it when she was pregnant with Emanuel. But she didn’t want Maicol to be satisfied with this life. During her shifts at the motel, cleaning bathrooms, she imagined her children from the future, sitting behind computers, running businesses.
“Look, people were saying, these are Gloria’s children,” she said. “They don’t have to suffer the same fate as their mother.