In Cofer's "American History," what does Eugene symbolize for Elena?

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Elena is a teenage girl who lives in a Puerto Rican apartment block with her family. She also attends a public high school with a student population of mostly African Americans. She has a difficult time fitting in at school because the other students mock her culture and call her "Skinny Bones." When a white boy named Eugene moves into the house next to her apartment building, she hopes to become his friend for a few reasons. First, Elena would like to have a friend. Second, he's cute, and once they become friends, she finds out they both enjoy reading books. Finally, Eugene lives in a house that she would love to visit so she can experience what it is like to live there. Elena describes how she feels about Eugene as follows:

But after meeting Eugene I began to think of the present more than of the future. What I wanted now was to enter that house I had watched for so many years. I wanted to see the other rooms where the old people had lived and where the boy spent his time. Most of all I wanted to sit at the kitchen table with Eugene like two adults, like the old man and his wife had done, maybe drink some coffee and talk about books.

From the above passage, it seems as though Elena is more in love with the fact that Eugene lives in the house next door than she is interested in him. He does represent friendship and companionship, and she may be infatuated with him for who he is, but he is also a way to get into the house that she loves so much. She has dreamed of what it might be like to read books at the kitchen table and experience what it feels like to live in a house and not an apartment. Her dreams are usually about living in a house, not an apartment, at some time in the future; but as she says in the above passage, her mind sees an opportunity to enter the house at present, which excites her. For the first time in Elena's life, she feels hopeful and happy about life. If she can get into the house and share some time at the kitchen table with Eugene, then Elena will have lived out a dream that she has had for a long time.

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