Inspired by a true event
A car horn blared as Ada sped down a busy sidewalk on her scooter. She looked toward the street to see what the noise was and missed seeing a bike rack in the concrete. Her scooter hit the metal bars and as the wheel caught, she flew into the air. Ada landed hard on her elbow and shoulder. As she lay on the concrete with her face hidden in her tight, black curls, she cried softly. A few bystanders stopped to see if she was okay, but she did not look up for several minutes. When she finally got up, she wiped her tears with her forearm, climbed back on the scooter, and continued down the street.
As she opened the door to #203, Ada saw her mother on the couch talking with their neighbor. Both women were laughing, and their heavy, round bellies were bouncing in rhythm. Her mother stopped laughing when she saw Ava’s red face and swollen eyes.
“Ada, are you alright?” asked Ada’s mother.
“I’m fine!” Ada shouted, throwing her shoes in the corner and slamming the door to her room. She looked around, spotted her laptop, and sat down on the bed with it on her lap. She still had more than an hour of work to complete today.
Later, when her work was done and she was calm again, Ada sat down at the kitchen table next to her mother. She laid her head on her mother’s shoulder and sighed.
“Are you ready to tell me what happened earlier?” asked Ada’s mother.
“I wrecked on my scooter. My elbow hurts a lot.”
“Let me see it baby girl,” said her mother with a worried face.
Ada looked at her mother as she held up her elbow. “Mama, have you been crying?” she asked.
“Just a little. This looks painful, do you want a bandage?” asked Ada’s mother.
“No, it’s okay. Why were you crying? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing to worry about, just some bad news from Mrs. Garcia. Her husband lost his job today.”
“Why, what happened Mama?” asked Ada.
“Well, they had to close the restaurant where he works because of COVID 19.”
Ada’s father walked in the door as they were talking. He looked tired and his bald head was shining with sweat even though the air outside was cool. “Hi babe,” he said as he put his hand in Ada’s mother’s puffy black hair and gave her a kiss. “Who are you talking about?”
“Rodrigo. He lost his job today because they closed the restaurant.”
“Can he collect unemployment?” asked Ada’s father.
“No, Beatriz said his immigration status…” both her parents looked down at Ada. She was listening with big, round eyes. Ada’s mother smiled at her while still looking sad.
“Who’s ready for dinner? It’s almost ready, so go wash your hands and set the table, Ada.”
While Ada washed her hands in the bathroom, she could hear her parents continuing their conversation.
“Beatriz says they’re not going to be able to pay the rent this month and they’ve tried calling the owner, but he’s not responding. They think he’s avoiding them. She’s terrified they will be evicted.”
“And with their new baby coming...what are they going to do? Where would they go?” asked Ada’s father.
“I don’t know.” Ada’s mother’s arms encircled her wide belly and Ada’s father’s arm encircled his wife.
The next morning, Ada woke up early and started on her schoolwork for the day. Since she was not able to go to school during the pandemic, her parents allowed her to talk with friends on a video chat service. She was beginning her second assignment when her computer started beeping with an incoming call. She clicked the call and a boy wearing large headphones appeared on the screen.
“Hey Jake, it’s early.”
“Yeah, my little brother woke me up. My mom isn’t even up yet.”
“Is that why you’re already on Xbox? She doesn’t let you play until your homework is done.”
“Yeah. But she won’t know because I will get off and start school soon.” Jake paused and starting furiously pressing buttons on his controller. He was staring at a screen in the distance behind his computer screen. “Nooo!!! That was crap! This team is trash, I’m so done with this game!!” He threw the controller across the floor, threw down his headphones, and stood. He seemed to have forgotten about Ada.
“Okay, well, bye Jake.” she said to an empty room on her screen. Ada sighed and went back to her schoolwork.
She was almost halfway done when she carried her laptop to her parents’ room to ask her mother a question about a difficult assignment. When her mother finished explaining polygons, Ada said, “Mom, what’s unemployment?”
Ada’s mother looked surprised. “Unemployment is a payment a person can receive if they’ve lost their job suddenly. It can help them pay their bills until they find a new job. Why do you ask?”
Ada answered with another question. “But why can’t Mr. Garcia get unemployment? He lost his job suddenly.”
“Well, it’s complicated honey. Mr. Garcia is actually not a citizen of the US, so he doesn’t qualify.”
“But he lives here, right?”
“Yes, he does. But that doesn’t mean he’s a citizen. I think he would like to be one, but he’s not.”
“So, if he can’t get unemployment, what’s he going to do Mom?”
Ada’s mother frowned. “I don’t know. I hope he can find another job soon.”
“But aren’t a lot of people out of jobs right now? So many places have closed because of COVID. And Mrs. Garcia is going to have a baby soon like you Mom!” said Ada. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. “I understand why you were crying now.”
“Yes, baby girl, I’m worried for them too.” She held Ada in her arms for a few moments, and then Ada returned to her schoolwork.
Later that day, Ada came skipping into the kitchen where her mother was stirring some chicken broth for their dinner.
“Mom! I know what we can do to help the Garcias! Let’s start a fundraiser like the one we did for Girl Scouts. Remember how we made enough money selling cookies to pay for the whole troop to go to the zoo? We can raise money for Mr. Garcia to help them until he gets another job.”
“Oh Ada, that’s such a nice idea. But you know, a lot of people don’t have extra money right now for fundraisers. Even if they have jobs, people might be making less money right now, like your father. He is working fewer hours and taking home less money than normal. We will barely be able to pay the rent this month as it is. I’m sorry, I don’t know if a fundraiser will work.”
Ada looked thoughtful. “Mom, what would happen if none of us were able to pay our rent?”
It was Ada’s mother’s turn to look thoughtful. “Well, normally we might be evicted, but right now, with everything that’s happening, I don’t know. And if we all did it at the same time, I don’t think they could evict everyone in the building.” Ada’s mother paused. “Ada, that might be an idea.”
“And then the landlord would have to listen! He would have to help the Garcias!” Ada grinned. “Okay Mom, I know what to do! Let me handle this!” she said as she ran toward her bedroom. Ada’s mother looked puzzled, but grinned and turned back to her soup.
The next morning, Ada came bounding into her parent’s room early in the morning. They were both still in bed.
“Mom! Dad! Wake up, you need to see this!” Ada shouted as she held up her laptop screen for her sleepy parents to see.
“What’s this?” asked her dad.
“Look!” said an excited Ada, setting the laptop on her father’s chest. His eyes widened as he looked at the screen, and he sat up.
“Babe, did you know about this?” he asked. Ada’s mother turned over gingerly, supporting her belly with her hands cupped around it.
“Did I know about what?” she asked. Ada’s father motioned to the screen. “Ada, did you do this?”
“Jake helped me. Look how many people have responded! That’s almost half of the people in our building, and we just put this on Facebook last night,” Ada said with excitement.
“Honey, this is amazing. ‘No Pay May’? Who came up with that?” asked her mother.
“That was me! Jake helped me with the logo though. Don’t you love the picture of all the different people in our building? He’s so good at graphic art,” Ada said.
“It looks really nice, baby girl. Look what people are saying, babe. What do you think?” Ada’s mother looked at her husband with expectation.
Ada’s father was thoughtful. “I think we’re much stronger when we work together. If it were just a few people, this would never work. But against most of the building, what can they do? Kick everyone out? No way, they won’t do that. Let’s keep spreading the word in any way that we can.”
Ada was grinning. “Thank you, Daddy!”
“Do you know there’s a name for this Ada? The way everyone is working together as a community?” asked Ada’s mother.
“No, what do you call it Mom?”
“Solidarity. You’ve created solidarity among us,” said Ada’s mother with a smile.