Esperanza gets a job working in a photo development shop. She is too nervous to take her full lunch break, or to sit down when she is tired until she sees her fellow workers sitting. During a shift change, "an older Oriental man" approaches her kindly and offers to be Esperanza's friend. She is relieved and feels more comfortable, so when the man says it is his birthday and asks for a kiss, she naively gives him one: "I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn't let go."
As if to emphasize Esperanza's departure from the world of childhood (see "Hips"), this vignette utilizes a different tone and voice than the previous ones. It is told completely in the past tense, in complete sentences, and from a more removed perspective. The only deviation is the moment at which the old man forcibly kisses Esperanza: here, she "reverts" to the present tense voice of childhood from which the narrative to this point has been told. Readers can hardly help but sense that Esperanza is reflecting on this moment long after it happened. Presumably, the unwanted kiss from the man marked an ugly movement from innocence to experience for Esperanza; it also anticipates the events of "Red Clowns." The fact that she narrates the precise moment of the kiss in the present tense indicates that, however long ago it may have happened, it remains vivid in her memory. It is an unwanted delineation of her movement from girl to young woman. Further, it underscores the threatening aspect of sexuality that is never far from the surface in this novel.
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: The First Job