The holiday season was one of adjustment for Ena and Manny. Not only were they adjusting to living together, learning to navigate one another’s quirks, moods and preferences, but, being ambitious New Yorkers, they were also wrestling with the vagaries of their careers.
For Manny, a new connection was with a musician who belonged to several bands, each one laying claim to another part of world culture. Like Manny, Arto, the other musician, was generous in his love of all different sorts of music and could leap with ease from classical to punk to Afro-Pop. You could say that Manny had a man crush on Arto and stalked him the same way he had stalked Ena a few months before. The two became tight musically speaking and hung around after hours riffing an impossible blend of world music styles that left their collaborators in the dust. It was, for Manny, a wild roller coaster ride of joy.
If you could color Manny’s emotional state when it came to music and his life away from Ena, it would be a fusion of hot pink and Persian blue. Pink for the energy and blue for the deep well of emotions that Manny could now access on his horn, his flute and ax.
For Ena, the closer she came to her son’s first birthday and the one year anniversary of hitting the road, the more frantic she became. She couldn’t control where her mind wandered while sitting in the bodega watching grainy Spanish TV after hours.
Christmas was everywhere. Just as Manny delighted in learning new musical expressions of holiday cheer from around the globe, Ena too traveled in her mind to a distant place. It was always Ecuador. It was always the same mountain, the same village where her son, Hector, was now taking his first tentative steps, calling her Mother Mama and learning how to hold a bottle on his own.
It was in this state of distracted regret that Ena let lose on the thief and subdued him. She was fearless, not because she was confident in her abilities but because she was drowning in unexpressed and conflicted emotions.
When Manny found her in this state, he sensed that he could lose her to sorrow and to a fierce indifference that could no longer be contained.
And so he proposed. He proposed that they marry, that they travel to Ecuador and bring young Hector back to New York. He proposed that they be a family.
He waited until the Cops, prefaced by a stern warning, released the young punk. He waited until Ena mopped up the mess while he tidied up the newspaper racks, the cans of beans and Clorox. He waited until they were alone in their apartment, which was neither super clean nor dirty.
And then he asked her, on bended knee if she would marry him. She wanted to talk about all her practical concerns like, who will watch Hector when we’re both at work and how can we afford this? But for the first time in her life, she said yes.
Yes, to the complications. Yes, to the messy money issues that would inevitably tear them apart. And yes to becoming a family, not with Hector’s father as she had originally assumed, but rather with this too perfect and sexy guy who could belt out a tune on his trombone that sounded nothing like the farts that she made when she pursed her lips on his mouthpiece.