New York City 1989
Carlos was a gifted saxophone player. His music gave everyone joy. His unique timbre would light up the show and gather hordes of tourists on the streets. Under starry skies, he performed outside Mickey Mantle's Bar on Central Park South. He was destined for the latter of success. At the bottom stood this kid from El Barrio with dreams of glory; at the top stood the world's stage: if talent alone would've been the bridge between the gap.
His climb began back in 1977 when he was only nine years old. That year the Yankees made it to the finals against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The year before, they had been swept in four games in the best-of-seven-series by the Cincinnati Reds. and for fourteen years before that, no Yankee team had made the playoffs at all. So what were the fans to expect? The general feeling was that this new and talented bunch would play as never before, but eventually loose as always.
As an avid Yankee fan, Carlos hoped for them to win. He even asked his father Rodolfo to join him prayer. Every morning during the days of the competition, they would kneel down and pray, seeking divine intervention. And for the final game seven, Rodolfo went one better. He bought a saxophone.
"Play tonight and they will win."
"But dad, I don't know how."
That night, Yanquee Stadium exploded with excitement, with the full capacity crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. While Carlos played his little heart out from the bleachers the Yankees won in spectacular fashion on the field. The Bronx Bombers were finally once again world champions. Convinced that his off-key toots had led them to victory, Carlos became hooked on his horn.
Rodolfo was glad at what he had accomplished. Raising a boy without a mother took some clever maneuvering and he felt glad that he had cleverly given his son a dream in life.
During the next twelve years Carlos locked himself in, literally. He distanced himself without a backward glance from anything that may serve as a distraction to his dream of becoming a saxophone tenor. Besides school, he never went out anywhere else. After doing his homework, he would come down and dutifully dedicated time working in his father's bodega until closing. Late at night, the rigors of a grueling day did not keep him from going back up to his room and work up enough energy for his task ahead --practicing with the saxophone.
Because he wanted to be the best he practiced with the aid of musical sheets from the recordings of the great masters like Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. The young man and his music became so inseparable that he even slept with the saxophone by his side. Carlos was determined to some day hit the perfect note. When he finally did at the age of twenty one --managed by rehearsals-grueling rehearsals that had completely isolated him from the outside world --he was ready for the big time, but not for the raw of life. The blows came fast and hard when a new excitement came to his life.
That new excitement was called Adonay.
One night while walking the streets, Adonay bothered to stop by and watch Carlos play. Amid the crowd she stood out like a flower, looking young, sweet and looked young and sweet. Her beauty was soft and delicate. Carlos was captivated by her smile. The big hurt was finding out Adonay was a prostitute. She worked the strip along Central Park South.
For the next several nights he followed her everywhere. She would normally not entertain the advances of any man that was not willing to indulge. But she was amused by his innocence and she felt bad for the wounded look in his eyes. He eventually asked her to marry him and be his wife. She smiled and said yes. Carlos took her approval as a sign of love.
When Rodolfo found out about it, he became livid. The first thing that came to his mind was that Adonay was trying to take advantage of an innocent kid. He told Carlos that he would never accept such a woman and to get on with his music. But Carlos was not willing to give up on Adonay.
"She loves me dad."
"She's a prostitute."
Carlos would not hear of it. They loved each other, what could be better? That was all that mattered to him. He burst out of the room against his father's will, telling him that he was going for a walk and not wait up for him. Rodolfo stood still, closing his eyes with disappointment.
Carlos went out and made all kinds of plans for himself and Adonay. They would get married and have children together. He could work the bar scene playing the saxophone so he can make some money and she didn't have to worry. Some day he would build her a palace where they could live and grow old together.
But just when Carlos thought Adonay was his, just when he thought he had her in the palm of his hand, she told him that it would never work out. She said that in time he would change his mind about her and leave. She was not about to put up with the heartache. So she decided to go back into the streets; the only life she knew.
Carlos went to Rodolfo in tears. How could she not love him? Why did she prefer to be with all those men? He knew that this feeling for her was eating away at him, but without her, he felt excluded from the future.
"She's not meant for you, son."
But Carlos could still not accept that. Like any kid in love for the first time, he had an aversion to being the rejected lover, refusing even to take into consideration the kind words of a loving father. When Rodolfo tried to offer him a warm embrace Carlos resisted him.
"Maybe you are not meant for me, dad."
"You are all have."
"Not anymore, dad."
Carlos turned and left the room as he done before, only this time with no word if he was ever coming back. Rodolfo stood behind in tears. Father and son were growing apart.
Meanwhile, Adonay had cleaned up her act. She was no longer walking the streets. She had landed a job as a waitress and dreamed about Carlos. She thought about the whole thing and it made sense. Carlos was willing to take her out of a life that she had been forced into, and in fact; he had offered her the chance for a better one. Now she was willing to take the chance and go with him. The place didn't matter. Just as long they could be together. Adonay dreamed about that day. Sooner or later Carlos would find her, she was certain.
During this time, Rodolfo was looking for Adonay as well. He got word that she lived in a one bedroom apartment in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Rodolfo went to see this woman.
When Rodolfo rang the bell, Adonay opened the door wearing her bathrobe. He regretted her beauty and wanted to punish her for it. He was standing in front of the object of desire, the forbidden fruit that had alienated his son away from him.
He knew for an absolute fact that he had
"My wife died giving birth to Carlos, you follow," he said. "I raised him all alone. He has never been around women. You are the first thing in his life. And you can't let that cheap smile fooled him."
She saw the determination in Rodolfo's eyes about keeping her away from Carlos. A deep sense of fear overcame her delicate beauty. She felt Carlos was beginning to slip from her hands. She regained he composure when she heard his voice and the pounding on the door.
"Adonay," called Carlos
"Carlos," called Adonay.
Adonay ran to answer the door while Rodolfo sneaked out of sight. He went into the bedroom. When Adonay opened door Carlos burst in, with the saxophone hanging from his back. They immediately felt in each other's arms. They certainly loved one another; there was doubt they would be happy together.
Suddenly, Carlos saw something that chilled his bones. Rodolfo came out of the bedroom with his bare chest exposed. Adonay was shocked with terror and tried to plead with Carlos not be fooled, but she never got the chance. He pushed her across the room, landing her on the couch. She looked at his eyes and realized that nothing on earth would convince him otherwise. Her fate with him was sealed. Carlos took the saxophone and tossed it next to her. He gave his father one last glance before walking out.
After the shut of the door, Rodolfo realized he had gone too far. "He'll never be back."
He was so right.
Neither Adonay nor Rodolfo ever saw him again.