It was 1969. College students were marching against issues they felt strongly about. Raquel tried to learn the protest songs at heart, mostly patriotic Filipino songs but she was never asked to sing. Once she tried to sing with an elitist group of students an Astrud Gilberto song. She was told that she makes a great second voice which kindly meant she was out of tune. Actually she was horrible at singing. In her catholic high school she sang hymns with passion. Her classmates would turn around and whisper to her to quit singing because she was dragging everyone into a wrong melody.
Raquel picked up the habit of smoking. There was no strict law against selling cigarette and liquor to a minor back then. A short explanation that “her father sent her” would suffice. She preferred the imported and more expensive Benson & Hedges to the locally manufactured Philip Morris and Marlboro. She did not really like smoking. The longer size made her feel sophisticated. She was dying to be seen with the stick of cigarette between her fingers.
“Why do girls here smoke in the ladies room? The boys smoke anywhere they want. Is it illegal?” Raquel asked the other five girls clouding up the air in the ladies room.
“No it’s not illegal but traditionally only prostitutes and sluts smoke openly.” Penny replied as she lighted up Raquel’s cigarette.
“If it’s not illegal is it against university regulations? Would I be reprimanded if I walked out of here smoking my cigarette?”
“No it’s nothing like that.” Penny said a bit annoyed by the girl’s questions.
“Don’t you think it’s about time decent women get the same rights as the prostitutes?” Raquel said as she walked out blowing smoke in the hall.
Penny followed Raquel watching how teachers and students in the hall would react. The other smoking girls peeped through the ladies room door anticipating trouble for Raquel. Nothing happened. Professors and students walked by trying to ignore the brazen freshman. The other five ladies came out into the hall proudly blowing smoke. The ladies room has finally given up its secret and Raquel has found something she can do well.