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Menudo

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“Look alive, Reyes!” Jaime felt the grip of his teacher’s hand shake him awake as Mr. Granillo made his way to his desk.

He was at school. Right.

In Sophomore Health class, to be exact. Every day was an adventure in there.

“Okay, punks, settle down. The bell rang, class has started.”

The conversations  died down and within the next ten seconds or so everyone was seated and somewhat facing forward. Something about Mr. Granillo’s casual respect towards his students always made them seem to reflect the behavior back to him.

“Alright, so” Jaime’s teacher started. “How are you?” he asked the class.

Some people shuffled, but no one answered.

Mr. Granillo waited for a bit, and asked again.

“I'm serious, how are you guys doing?” This time, he was responded with a couple of scattered “good”s. Jaime meant to respond his own “good” but his head just copied his awake consciousness and simply nodded.

“Nah, don't give me any of that. Give me true sentences. What's going on, right now? Anyone trying to get their licenses at the moment? Spring dance is coming up, right? And we have a test next week? How are you guys feeling? C’mon, someone share with the class.”

Jaime heard Paco speak up from behind him. “Well, I'm feeling a little stressed now that I know we have a test next week.”

Jaime laughed along with the rest of their class. Leave it to his best friend to always come through with a joke.

Mr. Granillo chuckled too. “Funny. Ok, anyone else?”

After a moment, a girl in the front raised her hand a little timidly.

“Uh. My sister got her acceptance letter for college yesterday. It just hit me that she's really going to leave.” And little by little, the class started opening up.

“My older cousin is leaving to college, too.”

“I just got a part-time job at McDonalds. So…  hit me up on Thursday afternoons and weekends if y'all want the hookup… yeah.”

“Jay-Z just released his new album and honestly it was pretty lit.”

“I think Beyonce should leave his cheating ass.”

“I have three tests next week on the same day and I don't really know how to study because I'll be taking care of my grandma this weekend.”

“I want to dye my hair but I don't know if that's allowed at school.”

After a couple more shared thoughts, some of which Mr. Granillo responded to, he asked “Anyone else?”

When no one responded, he continued.

“Okay, thank you to those who shared. And thanks everyone for listening. The reason why I wanted to start with a check-in is because we're going to be working on mental health for the next week or so. Now, the reason it's important to talk about mental health is because…” Jaime's eyes and ears started tuning out again.

It wasn't that Jaime didn't care about the lesson, he was just really tired, to say the least. The evening before, Blue Beetle was called in to help deal with a matter on the moon. A luminescent alien object appeared, and most of the others with alien tech were busy, so Batman had asked for his help in identifying it. There was a scuffle once they realized the object was a living being that fought when feeling threatened, but eventually everything was settled.

However, Jaime came back home late, and considering he tried to save “sick” days for times where going to school wasn't an option, he had homework to finish for the next day. And now, he was at school running on two hours of sleep with only his History paper done. And his body, knowing he had to train with the Teen Titans after school that day with no room for a nap, tried to take advantage of any spare moment it could to knock him unconscious. It's not like he regretted his duty as a hero, but Jaime always seemed to feel tired from the day before and anxious for the day to come.

Jaime was jolted awake by a thunderous clap.

“Okay, let's try it!” Mr. Granillo said eagerly. “We're just gonna focus on breathing techniques. So everyone, close your eyes. Don't. Fall asleep on me.” Jaime nodded back with a tinge of embarrassment when his teacher looked at him pointedly.

They practiced focusing on their breathing for a bit, but Jaime was finding it hard to concentrate.

“Later, we want to see if we can get into the habit of strictly focusing on our breathing, see if we can make monks outta y'all in a week. But for today, let your mind wander if you need to. Find your ‘happy place.’ It doesn't have to be a place you've been to, or a place you can actually get to. If your happy place is a beach on Pluto, so be it. Just any situation that lets you feel calm.”

Jaime wasn't very creative, but he didn't need to be.

He went back to yesterday,  Breakfast, to be exact.

“Okay, who's going to pray?”

Jaime, Milagro, and their dad all put their thumbs up simultaneously. Their mom didn't notice until it was too late.

“Really, you guys? This again?” Blanca said.

Alberto chuckled at his beautiful wife. “Okay, mi amor, I'll pray. Everyone bow your heads.”

It was a sunny Sunday morning in El Paso, but that didn't stop Jaime's dad from going to the closest Mexican bakery and buying some hot Menudo for his family. Luckily for Jaime and Milagro, their dad asked for the hot sauce to be put on the side and not  already mixed in, or else they really would've felt the heat.

“What do you see? What does it smell like?” Jaime heard his teacher say.

It smelled delicious. The spices in the soup were prepared well today, and his stomach was eager.

“Can you hear anything? Taste anything?”

“Milagro, slow down your food isn't going to run away,” his mother said as he tasted the fresh crispiness of onions and cilantro hit his tongue.

“Mo-om, I want to finish the book! You made me turn off the lights yesterday before I could find out if Nancy was right about this Ned guy!”

“Mija, the story will still be there when you finish eating,” Alberto supported his wife. “But right now, eat with us.”

“Yeah,” Jaime chimed in with a piece of pork in his mouth. “It won't even be worth it once you find out who dies at the end.”

“Jaime!” he heard from the other three in unison.

“I'm just kidding!” he said through a smile. “I don't even know what you're reading!”

“If someone dies at the end I am coming for your action figure,” Milagro said with a promised spite.

“I'd like to see you try,” Jaime managed to get in with a challenging smirk before his parents made them stop.

“Alright, y'all can start opening up your eyes again.”

Jaime remembered where he was again. Little by little, eyes blinked to adjust to the light shining through the room.

“How do you guys feel now? Did it help a little?”

“Yeah,” Jaime responded out loud with the others.