It was quite early in their relationship that Luisa was first exposed to her eventual husband’s least desirable trait.
It was only the second time they’ve gone out together. Enrique was showing her around Santa Cecilia. The weather was nice and the two of them were having a great time, discussing their culinary preferences and reviewing locally available dining options. Enrique was just telling her about a stall that sold particularly tasty vegetables when, all of a sudden, he came to a halt.
A man across the street had just blown into a trumpet.
The moment the first sounds left the instrument, Enrique’s smile dropped. He threw a quick glance at the source of the disturbance, an all-consuming panic twisting his normally pleasant features. Before Luisa could ask what was wrong, he grabbed her hand – something he hadn’t done before – and quickened his pace, desperate to get away from the noise. He didn’t break into a full-blown sprint, but the desire to do so resonated from his every step. Luisa could have sworn the frantic clatter of her companion’s shoes against the pavement blocked out all other sounds, which may very well have been Enrique’s intention.
Only when they were far enough not to hear the trumpet did the young man come to a halt. He looked behind, alarmed, as though the musician might have followed them and his intrument were a deadly weapon. Having confirmed that the danger was nowhere in sight, the young man steadied his breath and turned to his date. As he considered her, his anxiety subdued, dominated by embarrasment.
“I’m sorry” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you…”
At this point he looked down, and noticed that her hand was still in his grip. The realization hit him like a speeding truck. Petrified, he withdrew his hand and took a step back, struggling to steady his nerves.
“I’m sorry” he repeated, thoroughly embarrased.
“Are you alright?” Luisa asked, genuinely concerned for her date.
Enrique couldn’t meet her eyes. “Yes. I’m fine. I mean, it’s nothing, really…” he mumbled, crossing his arms. It didn’t escape Luisa’s attention that is hands gripped his arms tightly, and moved up and down a couple of times. The gesture might’ve been an attempt at reducing his anxiety, she realized. It seemed to be working well enough, for when Enrique next met her eyes, he did so with newfound determination.
“I don’t like them” he declared. “I mean, what respectable people play in the streets? That’s inconsiderate. Some of us value their peace and quiet, you know”
She considered his words. “So you like your peace and quiet?” she offered.
He nodded. “Yes. I like my peace and quiet”
She thought about it for a moment. It made sense, she supposed. Some people require loud music to relax while others are disturbed by the faintest noise. Enrique clearly belonged to the latter group. That in itself wouldn’t have bothered Luisa the slightest bit, but Enrique himself seemed to be perceiving his auditory preferences as a serious drawback. When he admitted to enjoying silence, he sounded so defeated, so resigned. As if this particular trait had caused him problems in the past.
Luisa’s mind instantly filled up with images of a younger Enrique, left behind as all of his peers headed for the night club with the intention of dancing the night out. Perhaps he tried to join them on several occassions, but had to excuse himself after a brief while because of a headache. He just couldn’t stand certain sounds. And now he was clearly expecting Luisa to cross him out as a potential partner, just because he won’t be able to join her at discos, concerts, and certain kinds of parties.
Her heart bled a little at the realization. Nobody should have to feel guilty because of something they couldn’t control. Her first instinct was to tell Enrique there was nothing wrong with disliking noise, but it occurred to her he may not respond well to to having his insecurities emphasized – male egos were so fragile, after all. Thus she opted for a more general, and therefore safer option.
“That trumpet was pretty loud” she conceaded.
“Yes” agreed Enrique. “It was loud. And sudden”
He seemed to be relaxing somewhat, but maintained a certain degree of caution. So far so good.
“Like a particularly obnoxious car horn” offered Luisa, doning a reassuring smile.
Enrique’s face finally brightened. “Yes, exactly” he nodded eagerly, grinning. “Or an alarm clock”
“Or a school bell” added Luisa, enjoying herself. “God knows I get my share of those at work”
She was employed as an administrative assistant at the local elementary school (which was probably why Enrique took over the duty of walking his nephew to school and picking him up) [AN: this is actually a HC of @sweetiepie08] .
“Oh, poor you” Enrique said softly, his compassion colored with amusement.
“Neh, I’m fine” she waved her hand dissmissively. “The bell rings on a schedule, so it’s not that much of a shock. If I heard it right now, outside of my working hours, well, that would be a whole different thing”
Just as she hoped, these words earned Enrique’s full support. “You are absolutely right. Certain sounds belong to certain places. Those who want to play instruments should go to the Mariachi Plaza, and not disturb everyone else’s peace. I mean, you wouldn’t smoke in a classroom full of children, right? You’d go outside, so not to bother anybody with the stink. The same principle should be applied to music”
It was hard to argue with this logic. Personally, Luisa wasn’t bothered by music in the streets, but she understood why it could be perceived as something highly undesirable.
“My mother would agree with you” she told Enrique.
That perked his interest. “Does she hate music?”
“Only when my father plays it at full volume” explained Luisa. “She’s always telling him to turn it down, and that he’s not the only person in the house, and he’s always telling her that there’s no point in listening to this kind of music if it isn’t loud. When she tells him our neighbors may not share his opinion, he says they should invest in sound-proofing”
Another argument Luisa’s father loved to use was something along the lines of ‘If they complain, we’ll just say we’re using the music to cover your cries of ecstasy, Pan Dulce’ – at which point mother would cry in exasperation and go make herself some tea to calm down – but Enrique didn’t have to know that.
“Fortunately,” continued Luisa, “he will usually keep it at a bearable level if he’s asked by myself or my sister. We are his precious angelitas and our wellbeing comes before anything else”
The final remark was meant to lighten the mood. Luisa noticed that Enrique was deeply touched by her mother’s struggles, and wanted to let him know the situation in her family wasn’t all that bad. Her parents argued from time to time, but there was never physical violence or trully offensive epithets in the house. Luisa saw them as a perfectly average couple with perfectly normal problems, who cared for their children the best they could. In her opinion, it wasn’t that bad of an arrangement.
As for Enrique, he also seemed to be forming an opinion.
“So you mediate with your father for your mother’s sake? You’re a good daughter”
Luisa chuckled. “I’m not being entirely selfless” she admitted. “When Mama is angry, she gets unpleasant towards Lucia and myself. You could say keeping her happy is in our best interest”
“I see” said Enrique. He hesitated for a moment before adding: “I hate it when my mother gets angry, too. We all do as she says, or else we get in trouble, and I mean trouble with a capital ’T’.”
Luisa nodded in understanding. “I guess all mothers get overbearing at times”
“Yeah” confirmed Enrique. “But it’s only because they care about us so much”
“True. Nobody will ever love you as much as your own mother” ascertained Luisa.
“Family is the most important thing” added Enrique.
Again, Luisa could do nothing but approve. “It is indeed”
At this moment, she came to a very important conclusion – Enrique may have been oversensitive to noise, but he had his pririties straight. To her, that mattered more than his readiness to attend parties.
And when she looked into his eyes, she saw that he was forming similar conclusions about her, and deriving delight from doing so.
Suddenly flustered, she diverted her gaze.
Suddenly bold, he took the liberty to touch her shoulder.
The gesture was comforting on the surface, but Luisa saw it for what it really was – an expression of profound gratitude. Through this touch, Enrique was telling her 'Thank you for accepting me the way I am’.
'You are most welcome’ she thought, casually placing her hand on top of his.
They held hands for the reminder of the date.