During Ena’s first winter in America she got a job working with a roofing crew. An odd choice for a woman born in a culture that seemed wedded to traditional gender roles but for Ena it wasn’t an idle choice. Smarting from the insults, the verbal abuse directed at her by the father of her young son Hector, Ena wanted to scream. Scream his name, the name of his family and all the wrong they had heaped her. Scream it at the top of the hill, above the village. Scream it on the busted up basketball court near the one gas station in town.
Instead, she left.
Ena had known Hector’s father since childhood. As a boy, Hector’s Dad soiled his pants the day following the Dia De Los Muerto celebrations. As a boy, he struggled to get through sentences, especially when tense. A thick stammer made talking in public difficult. Once, when they were children, they had gone swimming in a clear stream at the foot of a ravine. This earned Hector’s future Dad a beating. But now that he had attended college, now that he was “a man with a future” as his Mother and Father liked to say, he deserved better. This man whom she refuses to call by name, this man who was briefly her lover, had propelled her into the world. To be fair his family had a hand in what followed. Maybe, come to think of it, they did her a favor.
Thought it didn’t feel like that her first year in the States. It was a sheer act of lunacy to learn how to walk on ice while lugging hot tar on a snowy-pitched roof. She came home and cried, but less so then when she first got here. Hard to call that progress, but it was something.
One bloodshot early morning on the way to the train, Ena ran into Manny returning from a gig. He was carrying a tidy leather flute case. They stopped to talk. Other times Manny carried a sax, then a trombone. Once, he let her blow through the mouthpiece. The BLURT coming from his instrument sounded like a giant fart. And since she didn’t know the polite English word for fart, she laughed and then blushed noticeably, melting Manny’s dog tired heart.
In the spring she worked for a gardener. The work was physically demanding. The guys on her crew gave her a hard time. But she never slowed her stride. When they said nasty stuff she stopped listening and tuned in to the hum of traffic — a noise that didn’t exist in her village.
Regardless of when she left the house, somehow, Manny was there. At the train station entrance. He always just happened to be there.
Was he stalking her? When asked, he shrugged and said “kinda” with a smile. A stalker, she reasoned wouldn’t do that. So she suggested that they meet at a designated time.
She didn’t want to use the word “date”.
But that’s what it was.
A date, a first date with Manny.