• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 03

La Gypsy Girl, Smoking

My homegirls call me La Gitana,
that's Gyspy Girl for those of you
who are Spanish-deficient.
Started calling me that back when
we were just then coming up
in the neighborhood and tryna
impress the older girls on the block.
To be part of the club we had to be
hard, had to show them how tough
we were. And we figured a nickname
would be as good a place to start as any.
That, and fighting and smoking.

Let me see: back in the day
there were the classics like
Mousey, La Shy Girl, and Little Puppet.
In our crew there was Mary who
went by Giggles at first, but then
her twin went missing so she changed
to Silent. Laura took on Troublez,
or Travieza when she was feeling
all the way Mexican—all brown
not as a color but as her attitude.
Belinda so bad wanted to go by
Spooky but her eyes were hazel
so Borrada it was. It was her that
first called me La Gitana, and
all the rest of the girls musta liked it
‘cuz it stuck with me. Mostly, they
called me that ‘cuz I wore layers


La Gypsy Girl, Smoking

of clothes under a big baggy blouse,
and a bunch of plastic jangly bracelets
in every color you can imagine. Also,
my hair went down to just below my waist.

What they didn’t know was that me and
my jefita for a good while lived out of her car
that she called Old Betsy and was the only thing
my jefito left her when he died on us. It was cancer
that took him, but I was too little to remember him.
And the car lot people wanted their car
back because Dad hadn’t finished paying on it.
So I had to wear almost every piece of clothes
I owned ‘cuz, like Mom told me a time or two,
"Keep as much of what’s yours on you.
You never know, mi’jita, you might get back
from school and Old Betsy might be gone."

It didn’t escape me that she never called the car
or any other place we lived home. Not even
the place we live at now, where we’ve lived
for a good ten, going on eleven years.

To this day, she wears her good coat,
even on the hot days. And I still layer.
And in my backpack I got everything
in there I need if I ever need to get up and go.