Letting Go of Reality
In the short story “American History’ by Judith Rotor Coffer, Elena, a young 14-year-old girl from El Salvador has feelings for a young boy named Eugene, who is her neighbor. He was the source of beauty and light she was looking forward to for the new school year. He kept her daydreaming. Yet, Elena will experience undesired events that will impact her life and decisions forever. Before Eugene moved to the house next to El Building (the building in which Elena lives), there was an old Jewish couple that lived there.
She would watch the couple on a fire escape. She felt as if she had a very close connection to them. “Over the years I had become part of their family, without their knowing it of course” (Coffer, 6). She knew what they did and when they did it. As the husband died, the wife became a widow and the house had stood empty for weeks. When she grew a connection with the old Jewish couple, she grew a connection with the ominous hose she had been watching all summer. As Eugene and his family moved into the house, Elena would still go to the fire escape ND Just watch.
After watching him, she thought, “l liked him right away because he sat at the kitchen table and read books for hours” (Coffer, 7). Eugene and Elena would both get bullied at school; they were both outsiders together. This did not stop Elena from liking Eugene. “But after meeting Eugene I began to think of the present more than the future. What I wanted to now was to enter the 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” (Coffer, 12).
They would periodically walk home together to the point where Eugene wanted Elena to come over his house and study one day, the day of President John F. Kennedy’s death. Although John F. Kennedy Just died, Elena was still determined to go to Genus’s house. “Though I wanted to feel the right thing about President Kennedy’s death, I could not fight the feeling of elation stirring in my chest” (Coffer, 21). When Elena told her mother she was planning on going to Genus’s house, she got a reaction she did not expect.
Her mother told her she was heading for humiliation and pain. Although Élan’s mother warned her about the outcome of the situation, she refused to listen and accept her mother’s warning, not knowing what to expect. She went to Genus’s house and a woman had opened the door. It was Genus’s mother. Her face was red and full of freckles. After Élan’s explanation of coming to their home, Genus’s mother rudely told her to leave and that Eugene was better off without her. Elena stood there in shock and eventually left.
Elena was a naive girl whose sight of reality was blocked my daydreaming, set expectations, and love. The most important life lesson Elena learns is to look on the realistic side of a situation and let it affect your decision. Tthroughout the short story, Elena had been daydreaming about Eugene and the house she has always longed to see. “Looking up at the light, I could see the white snow falling like a lace veil over its face. I did not look down to see it turning gray as it touched the ground below’ (Coffer, Letting Go of Reality (American Holster) By sukiyaki