My face after I get off the phone causes Sunny D some concern.
“What’s going on? Who was that?” he asks but I don’t have the time to answer him. There are a million little thoughts preoccupying my mind right now. I leave him in my room, dash out of the apartment and head down taking elevator to the lobby of our building. We have an unannounced guest.
I open the front door and let her in, wearing grey linen pants that flare down to her high heels, a navy cami under a white ruffled blouse.
She takes off her large, dark brown sunglasses to reveal her green eyes. Like a gypsy’s eyes I’ve always thought. She has a new haircut too. Her jet-black hair is less voluminous and cut right above her shoulders with sharp bangs hanging right down to her eyelashes. Even when flying cross-country, my mother doesn’t understand the concept of dressing casual.
“You don’t think I’d surprise you,” my mother says in her Spanish accent almost with a chuckle. She gets her tenses confused, rarely utilizing the past tense. Appropriate for a woman that has taught me to live always in the present. Mom has managed to not only surprise me by hopping on a plane on a whim and coming to visit me in New York, but she’s also surprised herself. She loves her newly rediscovered adventurous side. Reminds her of the days she’d used to go out to dance clubs in Guadalajara all night and come home at dawn. A past she couldn’t cling on to anymore.
I hug her then ask, “What are you doing here?” I try to make it sound like I’m delighted to see her, but secretly I’m also terrified.
“Few days off from work, I think, I’ll go to New York,” she says as we take the elevator back up to my floor. She has already checked into a hotel two blocks south of the Empire State Building so she’s only carrying her thick leather purse.
“Wait right here,” I say when we get to my door, “the apartment is a little messy.”
“Messier than your room back home?”
I run back into my apartment, close the door behind me keeping my mother at a safe distance. I actually consider locking the door, but then Sunny D comes out of my room and asks, “What’s going on?”
“My mom. She’s here! Hurry, go put on your pants!” Sunny D gives me the “oh my” look and turns back into the room. “And hide the pot! And the lube! And… can you make my bed?”
My mom knocks on the door. I let her in and introduce her to Sunny D, who is now, thank God, wearing pants.
“This is my friend. He also lives here. With me. Well not with me… but in this apartment. He’s my roommate! That’s why he is here too. He lives in that room. So he’s here.”
Extending his hand, Sunny D says, “Hi” in a perfect pitch for parental approval. My mom shakes his hand and smiles gleefully. She judges people instantly. And so far, I can tell she likes him. I give her a tour of my small apartment. She walks into my room, takes a quick look around and the looks at me with somewhat disappointed.
“Mijo! Your bed!”
Fast-forward to two hours later and my mom goes from merely liking to adoring Sunny D. They are sitting on the couch, watching the episode of Sex and the City where the girls go to L.A. and Charlotte realizes that her marriage is a “fake Fendi!”
They’re eating popcorn mixed in with M&M’s, a treat I was certain my mother would have second thoughts about but is not enjoying copiously like a 7-year-old pudgy kid at a carnival. She has gotten adventurous, I think, as I lounge on the other couch flipping through the pages of a magazine and watching them snuggle up on the couch like gal pals. Sunny D is making her gasp. He’s making her giggle. I knew the kid had charm, but my mom has built-in reservations. Reservations he blew away effortlessly like fan blowing through confetti.
St. Mark’s Place, the Met and Mamma Mia later, the weekend ends and my mom has to get ready to go back to California. As we wait outside her hotel for her cab, we share a cigarette and she looks at me and tells me a story of when I was a young boy growing up in Mexico.
“You know, ever since you were like 5 or 6, you wanted to live in New York City,” she says. “Do you remember?” I nod and take a drag of our cig.
“All on your own you come up with it. I never talk to you about New York or what it means to live here. To most people in Guadalajara, New York City is too far for a dream even. So who knows how you got the idea about it, but this is where you wanted to be. And it’s the first thing you do, after your graduation, you came straight out here. I came to visit because I was afraid too. It’s a big city and you’re too young. But you surprised me. You found a job and a place to live… and a boyfriend,” she says referring to Sunny D, and I blush.
“It’s true, and it happened so fast. I can tell you love to live here. This is where you were meant to be.”
My mom stomps out the cigarette, and we notice her cab pulling up. I give her a hug, and she steps in. We wave goodbye.
The entire time my mom spent with Sunny D and me, I tried desperately to keep our relationship a secret (whatever type of relationship we had). I would flinch whenever he came close to hugging me, and would give him a look whenever his details about our New York lives got too intimate. Eventually he got the hint. But the whole time, my mom knew exactly what was going on.
As her cab drives away, I think, she’s right. She’s always been right. This is where I’m meant to be.