Song 31 ♪ With Lungs Wide Open

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The last time I'd been to a party had been momentous. I'd walked in a girl with made up insecurities and had come out with all of them confirmed by a failed encounter with a boy.

Only Leti, DeAndre, that boy and I knew what had happened. I'd come out of the room crying and found my friends, who jumped to conclusions that what had happened had been even worse than it was. DeAndre had got into an argument with the boy as Leti and I bundled into an Uber and went home, and although I never knew what exactly happened after we left, I did notice that he stopped hanging out with us.

Leti had tried and failed to get me to join her at parties after that. Although I didn't think about that boy often, I did often get swallowed up by the effect that night had on me.

I found my two friends from the barrio when we made it to the house party. I made eye contact with DeAndre as he danced with Leti in the crowd to a song by Nicki Minaj. My best friend had invited herself and dragged him along tonight for the great debut of my band. It only helped to lay the pressure on thicker on me.

He stopped swaying to the music and grabbed Leti by the hand, pulling her to come over. I still found him one of the most attractive boys I'd ever met, and judging by the way he made heads turn as he approached, I wasn't the only one, but talking to him didn't make me nervous anymore.

This whole rock band thing did.

"Are you ready, perra?" Leti asked me with a grin, her voice high over the noise inside the party house. "Show them all some Latin screamo."

I choked. "That is the strangest concept."

"But isn't it true?" she asked, shrugging. "You guys are not a conventional rock band made out of white guys from the Midwest."

The much was true. I turned back around and saw Lincoln Choi testing his DJ console, a rich Asian American with an online following who seemed to think that we were a solid next step. Then there was Madison Hollingsworth, a rich girl violinist who turned into a different person when the music started playing, tuning her bass as she chatted with her boyfriend Quinn Montgomery, a black boy on a baseball scholarship at a prestigious school that had learned to play the drums so that he could hang out with his rich white friend, Ashton Winters, who stood a few paces away from me plugging his guitar into an amp, chatting it up with his gay twin brother, Ayrton Winters, who'd brought a camera to record our performance next to Adele Holt, who in a short time had designed some merchandise for our newborn band and was trying to sell it among the crowd.

I couldn't help but think they were all so extraordinary that it made me wonder what in the hell I was doing there with them, but then I thought about it objectively.

Finally there was me, Vera Maria de la Cruz Vazquez, born from a failed entertainer. I didn't want to let them down. Not the guys in the band or the ones who were giving us so much support.

I grabbed the mic and asked my friends, "Ready?"

Among various affirmations it was Ashton's that struck a chord with me. He said, "I've been waiting my entire life for this."

So had I.

I turned on the mic. Even though there was no spotlight in the living room of this house, with all eyes suddenly on me it felt like I was on a stage. My very first one.

My normal reaction would have been to break into a cold sweat and freeze. To be caught up between my desire to glow and my fear of being at the forefront of things. But everything in my life had lead me here and maybe it was conquering my fear of what I could accomplish what would get me away from the complications of my ma.

Once I realized this, something amazing happened. I disconnected from myself.

My hand gripped the microphone harder and I spoke into it. "Thank you to the Beta Gamma Epsilons for having us tonight. We are Casual Friday Funeral and we're here to rock your brains off."

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