A Cup of Water Under My Bed

by Daisy Hernández

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Part Three and "Después" Summary

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Last Updated on April 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1072


Daisy enjoys her first job at McDonald’s because she sees it as the first step towards the American dream. She spends her first paycheck at a beauty store, buying things more expensive than her mother would. Then a manager at McDonald’s encourages her to join in on skimming money from the till. Daisy begins paying back her dentist with this money. At eighteen, she takes out a credit card she doesn’t really understand and spends one hundred dollars on shoes. She remembers that in Bogotá, when she was a child, the children had to beg for money.

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Daisy takes out credit card after credit card. Her parents have no credit and no debt. She justifies her lavish purchases to herself—although she does keep track of her money. She is proud to be paying for her own trip to England during college.

After college, her job itself is expensive: going out, drinking with colleagues, and dressing properly, while trying to keep up with her credit card bills. All her white coworkers are in debt too. Eventually, Daisy consolidates her debt, freezes her credit cards, and joins a support group. But she slips up and puts one thousand dollars on a new airline credit card—not frivolous purchases, but they mount up.

One day, Daisy’s phone is shut off because she hasn’t paid the bill. She will be able to in three days but has to tell her mother. Her mother is confused, because being unable to pay a bill means financial ruin to her.

Daisy’s father was born near Havana in 1932 and fought against Castro. In 1961, he came to the United States to work in a factory. He loves his daughter, but his drunkenness makes him rough. In the 1980s, factories begin closing, and Daisy’s father and mother, as well as Tía Chuchi, all collect unemployment benefits. Daisy’s father feeds Elegguá, hoping for another job. Daisy, the family translator, helps her father with his unemployment papers. She does this for years. Her father wants her to enter “white” society and become better than he is. Sometimes, he returns home to Alicia with scarred and bleeding hands. Eventually, at sixty-three, he finds a job washing floors and dishes in a sports complex.

Daisy gets her first big writing job through her professor at New York University. She is already writing for Ms. magazine, and her professor recommends her to help research a book about women’s history. She then becomes a New York Times intern. Most people there are white. The New York Times name opens many doors for her professionally.

One day, she meets Alvaro Uribe at work. He is promising to be “Colombia’s Rudy Giuliani” and create order there. Daisy asks him whether he will help Colombians in the United States gain temporary protection status, but she later notes that she posed a “polite question” to “someone who may be responsible for the murders of many people.”

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At twenty-seven, Daisy announces that she is going to live in New York City. Her family agrees, and she determines that, despite the racism inherent in the journalistic profession, she will press on and counter that racism herself. She then acquires a year-long internship at the metro desk.

Daisy has long been used to white women, who had been her school teachers, but becoming familiar with white men is more difficult. She cannot learn the rules and has no instinct for reporting.

Daisy convinces her father to come with her to the doctor. The doctor tells her father to stop drinking and smoking, and to eat oranges. Daisy is becoming depressed. A senior editor sets the interns to work on rape, homicide, and robbery stories, which intensifies the feeling.

A young black man in the newsroom, Jayson Blair, has been writing front-page stories about Iraq War veterans. It is discovered that he has been plagiarizing his stories. The unnecessarily racist response to this, however, upsets Daisy.

Daisy meets a Haitian family whose child, Cosner, has died in the basement of their house from smoke inhalation. Daisy is affected by the story; their basement reminds her of the basement in which her father now largely lives. That day, Daisy begins to realize that things will not turn out as she, or her parents, had hoped.

Daisy decides to leave the New York Times. She does not know what will come next but finds she is neither confused nor afraid.


Daisy’s mother tailors her own skirts, taking them apart, turning them inside out, and placing them on the ironing board to put back together the way she prefers: “Not a taking away, but a taking apart.” This is what Daisy is doing now with her story. She notes,

I have the story, and I am turning it inside out, laying it down on the ironing board, taking it apart . . . so I can put it back together again the way I want, the way that makes sense now

After leaving the New York Times, Daisy packs her suitcases and heads for Oakland, California, where ColorLines, a magazine that features people of color in an unbiased way, is published. She hugs her mother goodbye and leaves for the West Coast.

In Oakland, she begins working for ColorLines. Here, she writes about the murder of Gwen Araujo, the trans woman who was murdered. Her family does not oppose her decision to move to California, maybe because “they knew migration.”

In 2004, gay marriage is legalized in California. Tía Dora is distressed by this, and even Alicia is unhappy. Daisy dislikes her family’s beliefs but does not stop speaking to them: “some stitches cannot be undone.”

The family, however, breaks apart. The house is sold. Daisy’s sister moves to Washington, DC. Rosa returns to Colombia, and Chuchi to her own apartment in New Jersey. Dora stays put, and the family all returns when she needs abdominal surgery. They pray together for her, but she passes away.

In Florida, Alicia is unable to find work, but she registers for a class that teaches English as a second language. She then starts her own business performing alterations. Tía Chuchi, meanwhile, begins writing a memoir.

On a bus in San Francisco, the sound of a woman yelling at the bus driver makes Daisy realize that everyone wants the same thing—we are all, collectively, trying to get back home.

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Part Two Summary