Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor. (3.4)
The image of a red balloon tied to an anchor is a beautiful picture of Esperanza's loneliness, and a great example of Cisneros's poetic style.
You want a friend, she says. Okay, I'll be your friend. But only till next Tuesday. (4.3)
Cathy's snobbishness provides some comic relief here – her statement reminds us of how quickly friendships can form and dissolve among little kids.
Down, down Mango Street we go. Rachel, Lucy, me. Our new bicycle. Laughing the crooked ride back. (6.24)
For once, Esperanza doesn't seem lonely – the picture of her on a bicycle with Lucy and Rachel evokes a sense of real friendship.
If you give me five dollars I will be your friend forever. That's what the little one tells me.
Five dollars is cheap since I don't have any friends except Cathy who is only my friend till Tuesday. (6.1)
Again – making friends seems so easy when you're a little kid.
Is a good girl, my friend, studies all night and sees the mice, the ones her father says do not exist. Is afraid of nothing except four-legged fur. And fathers. (14.2)
Esperanza's friendship with Alicia seems based on a sense of real admiration for Alicia's bravery and ambition.
My mama? You better not be saying that, Lucy Guerrero. You better not be talking like that…else you can say goodbye to being my friend forever. (16.30)
Just as easily as they're formed, Esperanza's friendships with her childhood friends can be easily broken. Esperanza acknowledges at the end of this chapter that she and her friends are "stupid" for fighting.
Ruthie, tall skinny lady with red lipstick and blue babushka, one blue sock and one green because she forgot, is the only grown-up we know who likes to play. (26.1)
Ruthie is Esperanza's first adult friend. Esperanza likes her because she's eccentric and not afraid to buck the expectations of friends and neighbors – in that way, she's a lot like Esperanza.
Cheryl, who is not your friend anymore, not since last Tuesday before Easter, not since the day you made her ear bleed, not since she called you that name and bit a hole in your arm and you looked as if you were going to cry and everyone was waiting and you didn't, you didn't, Sally, not since then, you don't have a best friend to lean against the schoolyard fence with, to laugh behind your hands at what the boys say. There is no one to lend you her hairbrush. (32.5)
Esperanza notices that Sally might have a vacancy in the best friend department.
And anyway I don't like carnivals. I went to be with you because you laugh on the tilt-a-whirl, you throw your head back and laugh. I hold your change, wave, count how many times you go by. […] I like to be with you, Sally. You're my friend. (39.2)
Esperanza's willingness to do something she doesn't like just to be with her friend Sally hints at a sort of unbalanced relationship. Sally gets to ride the tilt-a-whirl while Esperanza holds her change? How is that fair?
I like Alicia because once she gave me a little leather purse with the word GUADALAJARA stitched on it, which is home for Alicia, and one day she will go back there. But today she is listening to my sadness because I don't have a house. (42.1)
Is Esperanza's friendship with Alicia really based on the gift of a purse? Of course not. The purse signifies something deeper to Esperanza – it's a sign of the intimacy that exists between the two girls that allows Alicia to share a part of her home with the younger girl.
Friends and neighbors will say, What happened to that Esperanza? Where did she go with all those books and paper? Why did she march so far away? They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out. (44.7)
Does friendship have anything to do with Esperanza's agreement to come back to Mango Street? Is she coming back for her friends, or is her return an expression of friendship?