Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas

Read this snippet carefully and notice how it affects you.

Everything is holding its breath inside me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be all new and shiny. I want to sit out bad at night, a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt. Not this way, every evening talking to the trees, leaning out my window, imagining what I can't see.

A boy held me once so hard, I swear, I felt the grip and weight of his arms, but it was a dream.

How do you feel when you read this snippet? What makes you feel the way you do?
  • Characters: Esperanza.
  • Conflict: Desire to be out at night, to be bad, instead of being at home.
  • Context: Young Latina growing up in a macho, patriarchal culture in 1960s Chicago.

The mood is quiet, sort of suspended.

  • There are lots of 'floating' words: holding, breath, waiting, be, sit, around, under, leaning, imagining, dream.
  • There's repetition that creates a rocking motion: Everything... everything.. I want to.. I want to...

It's clear Esperenza feels a yearning desire

What's the loop?

  • Trigger: Not shown in this snippet, but Esperanza has noticed a boy called Sire looking at her when she walks past his house, and now she is imagining what it would be like to be with him.
  • Feelings: Held breath, waiting inner explosion, wind under skirt, weight of a boy's arms.
  • Thoughts: Want to be new and shiny, want to sit out bad at night, not this way, imagining what I can't see, it was a dream.
  • Emotions: Not explicitly stated, but read as yearning and desire.
  • Behaviour: Talk to tress, lean out window. 

Notice how the emotional feelings are described as vivid metaphors—everything is holding its breath inside me, waiting to explode like Christmas. These give us space to empathise with her feelings.

And also notice how Cisneros uses precise physical sensations—wind under her skirt, weight of the boy's arms—to anchor us in Esperanza's body, so that we can feel what she feels.

This is a rich description that puts us inside Esperanza so completely that we feel what she feels.

  • We feel her yearning.
  • We feel the contrast between her fantasy of sitting out bad at night with the reality of talking to the trees outside her window.
  • We feel this regardless of our own age and gender.
  • However, we are so close to Esperanza's point of view that there's no space for contrasting emotion.

That said, because it is a realistic description of a young girl struggling with adolesence, there is space for older readers to have a different perspective based on age, and male or non-binary readers to have a different perspective based on gender.

And if you read this passage in context, you also learn how much fear is wrapped up with this desire for Esperanza, and perhaps for many women, young and old.