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Tonight, just Breathe

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You tried to picture the color blue. It had been so long since you’d seen it. You remember things that associated with blue like the ocean, a clear day, and raspberry ice pops. You thought “coolness” when it came to the hue.

So when your friend, Anita told you the dresses were blue, you imagined the dancers as waves crashing into each other during a storm. You knew the song, they were performing to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”. It was a perfect depiction for the anxiety-inducing piece.

You could hear your friend’s heavy sigh as the next part of the piece was played. You elbowed and shushed her. Anita grouned, “Chica, when you told me you actually wanted to go to a concert, I didn’t think you meant this.”

“Well, what did you think I meant?”

You could practically hear her rolling her eyes, “I don’t know: pop, hip hop, R&B...you know, music people without dentures listen to.”

“There’s nothing wrong with this,” you mumbled. Sure you liked the music Anita listed but you were also a fan of Jazz, Blues, Classical and even musical form.

“Maria, this is boring,” she said bluntly, “You know Roberto invited us to his place and we dare turn him down for this masterpiece.”

Her sarcasm was as thick as her accent, “¡Parate! You know I don’t have a good feeling about that guy.”

“You have a bad feeling about all men,” you heard her take in a breath and a shush from the person in front of you, “Shit, I didn’t mean that, chica.”

You bit your lip, deciding to ignore her. You knew what she was talking about and didn’t want to open that can of worms. You reached down and your small hand was met with silky fur. Missy, your seeing eye dog was apparently a golden retriever. You didn’t really know what that meant but you did know that she was soft and fluffy. Even though she wasn’t a therapy dog, her touch soothed your nerves, “Forget it. He’s still a fuck boy, el pendón. Plus, I always feel his hands on my thighs too much for comfort.”

“Un momento, why haven’t you told me this before?!” Anita hissed. Before you could respond, someone shushed you both again.

You decided to just enjoy the music. Although you couldn’t see the dance, it was a chance to enjoy a great orchestra. The only time you’d been able to hear it was at a free concert event in college and at your church during Christmas. So when your mamá was able to grab tickets from her boss who couldn’t go because who really cares, you were enthralled. You were here and you let your ears enjoy the slide and pitch of the strings and the bombastic booms of the brass.

 

Anita told you to wait for the crowd to leave. She figured it would be easier to navigate once everyone left. You two took public transportation back to you guys’ apartment in Washington Heights. You were tired but you wanted to thank your mamá for the tickets before heading to bed.

When you arrived, Anita said, “I’m sure Leo is still out considering it’s a Friday. Want me to check on Mamá and Papá with you?”

You shook your head, “No, you sound tired. Why don’t you head to bed?”

You heard the weary smile in her voice, “Alright, chica. Don’t stay up too late and if the munchkins are still up, I’m not here.”

You smirked, “Fine, it that case I don’t want to find you’ve been drinking instead of sleeping.”

There was silence, “Anita?”

“¡Maldita sea Maria! You’re no fun, you know?”

You laugh and turn with Missy leading you.

“Oye, chica.”

You stopped, “Si?”

“Gracias por esta noche,” she mumbles but you caught it, “You could’ve gone with your Mamá but you decided to go with me.”

“Oye, Anita, you’re my mejor amiga. I’m just happy you wanted to spend that time with me even though you wanted to go to Roberto’s. Besides, Mamá was so tired tonight from work.”

“Forget about Roberto,” she scoffed, “Though I’ll be having a word with that el pendejo, believe me. He ain’t gonna be touchin' my chica.”

You laugh, “Buenas noches, Anita.”

Missy led you down the hall. Honestly, you didn’t really need her to go three doors down but you mamá and the little ones absolutely adored her.

“Hola Mamá,” you unlocked the door with your copy of the key. You kept the two keys instructable with one of those rubber covers you could buy from the dollar store on your parent’s places key. You expected that she would be in her usual armchair watching Spanish soap operas like she does every night. “Are you still up?”

“Maria,” you could hear a cheery but drained voice, “How was the show? Did you go with Anita?”

“Si, Mamá,” You sat on the floor by her chair, the spot you used to sit at during family time when you were a kid, “You would have loved it. They played Stravinsky, Beethoven, Stokowski… Mamá, your boss would’ve been so upset she missed it.”

You heard the reminiscing smile in her voice, “Mi Maria, you do love your música. I remember when you were a child in Puerto Rico, you would dance and sing to boleros and flamenco music. Now you know all about these fancy, flowery European white music.

You playfully gasped, “Mamá?!”

She chuckled taking your hand, patting it gently, “I know, I know. I just hate to see mi nene all grown up. These American schools have made you so smart, but don’t you ever forget where you came from.”

“Lo sé, Mamá,” you frowned feeling her hand. There was some sort of cloth-like material around her thin palm and wrist, “Mamá, is that a bandage? What happened?  Did you get hurt at work again?”

Your mother worked at a dry cleaner and she was so frail due to illness, she easily got hurt. This was one of the reasons you couldn’t bear to move too far away. She sighed and pulled her hand away to play with your long hair, “Si, a hot iron fell. It’s nothing though. You have enough to worry about.”

Your frown deepened, “Does Papá know?”

“No, he’s been taking the late night shifts lately so he can look after the little ones. With school out, someone needs to stay home. Gabriel is only five.”

You sighed, “Well Nina is almost thirteen. She can start helping and looking after the boys.”

You heard sad laugher as she smoothed out your hair again like she did when you were a child, “Not everyone is as independent as you are, Maria. Nina’s still young. I just wish I could give her a longer childhood.”

“Mamá, you already do so much. Todos te queremos,” you leaned over and kissed her cheek. You heard Missy letting out a yawn, “Lo siento, Mamá, but I should head to bed and so should you.”

“Bien, Maria.”

You got up and whistled to Missy, who got up and led you out the door, “Buenas noches, Mamá.”

“Buenas noches, Maria.”