A Cup of Water Under My Bed

by Daisy Hernández

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Part Two Summary

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Last Updated on April 7, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 880


Daisy is warned to stay away from Colombian men, but Julio, who works at McDonald’s with her, turns her head with his winks. Daisy’s mother and aunts all married men from different Spanish backgrounds. They explain that alcoholism is less bad in a man than womanizing or unemployment, and advise seeking a man who is pale-skinned and has a college degree. They rank the various types of men according to the color of their skin and the extent to which they “work,” or will be suitable as partners. They emphasize that darker-skinned men are the worst and the least trustworthy, and that the only man who truly works for anyone is God—although even God can sometimes do things that are unexpected.

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Julio is Colombian, but he is pale-skinned and looks American. He charms Daisy’s father, but Alicia remains suspicious. Alicia asks why she has come all the way from Colombia for Daisy to date a Colombian boy.

Daisy reads about sex in magazines and novels. She knows about lesbians: at ten, she heard of a woman who ran off with another woman and thought it very romantic. Given what her aunts say about men, Daisy thinks it also seems sensible. Every type of man seems to be a threat. She also remembers watching beautiful women on television and how they were much admired by all the aunties, while she and her father tried not to look too closely, denying their attraction to these women.

Determined not to be a teenage mother, Daisy makes Julio wait until after her high school graduation for sex. She insists upon an HIV test and researches contraception. She moves in with Julio at nineteen but, a year later, leaves him for a white man she met in college. For a time, she lives with this man happily. Then, however, she attends a feminist workshop, where she meets a lesbian couple. For the first time, Daisy realizes, “I could kiss a girl.” She begins a relationship with a Dominican friend, then dates a Puerto Rican butch, another Dominican woman, a transgender man, and a Colombian woman. She ceases to date men and eventually confesses this to Alicia. She explains that she is able to make these good decisions for herself because of how hard Alicia worked for her.

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Tía Chuchi and Tía Dora say she is “killing” her mother, and the family settles into “a region called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ” They disapprove of Daisy’s sexuality and do not feel that she can date women in the long term. Although Alicia herself never rejects Daisy for her sexuality, Daisy’s aunts believe that she is placing an unfair burden on her mother by trying to make her accept something she would never have expected.

Years later, Daisy is addressing teenagers about her bisexuality to make them more accepting, in memory of Gwen Araujo. Gwen was a transgender woman who, as a child, was thought to be gay, but whose mother accepted him. Daisy had written a magazine profile about Gwen in 2004.

Daisy is very aware of violence against queer and trans people. Once, dating a trans man, Ezra, she feared him being attacked in the men’s bathroom because he did not pass. She later dates Alejandro, another trans man who does pass. She feels at home with him and doesn’t fear for his safety.

At a party when she was seventeen, Gwen was asked by two men, Michael and José, to “prove” she was a girl. Gwen tried to leave, but her secret was found out. The two men attacked and killed her, and buried her in a shadow grave.

Tía Dora has stopped speaking to Daisy. Dora thinks of Daisy’s queerness as a parasite, like the one which brought her to Manhattan in 1980 to be operated upon. Dora always felt that Daisy was “una india,” or misbehaved. But Daisy had to speak to the nurses after Dora’s operation, during her long illness.

One day, when Daisy is twenty-five, her phone rings. She recognizes the number at once as one she memorized as a child, but which she hasn’t seen on her phone screen in many years: it’s Tía Dora. Daisy remembers how Dora had always been racist towards Native Americans, even though she married José, a man from Perú who was largely of native blood. Daisy identifies similar prejudices in herself toward “the welfare queen” but realizes that what she truly hates is poverty.

Daisy feels that if José had not died, he would have encouraged tolerance in Dora. Dora is calling now because of Alejandro, whom she believes to be a cis man. She and Daisy reconcile, and Dora approves of Alejandro from his photographs. When, a few months later, Daisy stops dating Alejandro, Dora expresses sadness about this, saying she liked him. However, she does not know the truth about Alejandro, and it is an unspoken rule between the pair that Daisy’s female partners are not mentioned. Daisy accepts this, because the alternative is losing touch with her aunt again. Dora is sick, and she is a pivotal part of Daisy’s history. Daisy does not want to enter again into a period of estrangement.

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