The House on Mango Street
By Sandra Cisneros
Chapter One: “The House on Mango Street”
We didn’t always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on
Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before
Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. But what I
remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there’d be one more
of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six—Mama, Papa,
Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny and me.
The house on Mango Street is ours, and we don’t have to pay rent to
anybody, or share the yard with the people downstairs, or be careful not to
make too much noise, and there isn’t a landlord banging on the ceiling with
a broom. But even so, it’s not the house we’d thought we’d get.
We had to leave the flat on Loomis quick. The water pipes broke
and the landlord wouldn’t fix them because the house was too old. We had
to leave fast. We were using the washroom next door and carrying water
over in empty milk gallons. That’s why Mama and Papa looked for a
house, and that’s why we moved into the house on Mango Street, far away,
on the other side of town.
They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real
house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each
year. And our house would have running water and pipes that worked.
And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs, but stairs inside like
the houses on T.V. And we’d have a basement and at least three
washrooms so when we took a bath we wouldn’t have to tell everybody.
Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass
growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about when he
held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories
she told us before we went to bed.
But the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all. It’s
small and red with tight steps in front and window so small you’d think
they were holding their breath. Bricks are crumbling in places, and the
front door is so swollen you have to push hard to get in. There is no front
yard, only four little elms the city planted by the curb. Out back is a small
garage for the car we don’t own yet and a small yard that looks smaller
between the two buildings on either side. There are stairs in our house, but
they’re ordinary hallway stairs, and the house has only one washroom.
Everybody has to share a bedroom—Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me
Once when we where living on Loomis, a nun from my school
passed by and saw me playing out front. The laundromat downstairs had
been boarded up because it had been robbed two days before and the owner
had painted on the wood YES WE”RE OPEN so as not to lose business.
Where do you live? She asked.
There, I said pointing up to the third floor.
You live there?
There. I had to look to where she pointed—the third floor, the paint
peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall
out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There.
I lived there. I nodded.
I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point
to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time
being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things
Requirements: 300 words
The House on Mango Street