Bruno’s eyes opened slowly in the morning. He stretched out on the small couch he had fallen asleep on. He looked over at Marla who was sitting on the bed holding Angelo while reading the letters.
“Good morning.” He smiled at her.
“Good morning.” She answered watching him walk past her toward the bathroom.
“He’s a good dad, huh?” she asked the baby who was wiggling out of her arms. She wasn’t sure if he was able to walk so she held onto his hand leading the baby to the living room. He walked on his own without her help but held onto her hand tightly as they made it to the kitchen. She lifted him up putting him in the high chair. She heard Hope start to cry waking up. “Stay there, Jello.” She told him as he started to bang his hands on the tray. Marla quickly changed Hope and led her to the high chair next to Angelo. Hope gave her a weird look. “I know. It’s not what I usually do, mama. I’ll figure it out.” As she got the babies ready for their breakfast she heard Rosie running toward the kitchen.
“Mom, mom, mom, moooommmm!” she yelled sliding into the kitchen using her socks as a braking mechanism.
“Be careful.” Marla told her daughter flatly.
“Mommaa..are you sick again?” Rosie asked her mother.
“No, baby. I’m fine.” She faked a little.
“No, mommy. You’re sick. Let dad take care of you. He always fixes it.” She said watching Bruno walk out into the main part of the house.
She watched Bruno walk toward the babies helping her without saying a word. “Rosie…go get ready for school. I’ll take you. Abuela is going to come over in a little bit.”
“Okay!” she said grabbing the granola bar he handed her going to get dressed.
“I didn’t know what to do….” Marla said to him.
“I know.” He answered. “Let me take care of it. It will come back.” He told her.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“I don’t know, Marley.” He said to her looking down.
“Is that what you call me?” she asked him. “No one has called me that since Marley and Mecame out.” She smiled.
“I do.” He said kissing her cheek.
“For some reason that feels right.” She told him hearing the back door to their home open. She saw her mother walk through the door hugging her.
“Marla…we’ll fix this.” She told her daughter not letting go.
“Rosalia! Come on!” Bruno yelled walking toward her bedroom. “Come say good bye to mom and Abuela.” She bounced toward them dancing while putting on her backpack.
“Okay! Let’s go to school!” she told them hugging her mother and grandmother. “Mommy, feel better.” She said as they walked out the door.
Bruno dropped Rosie off at school blowing her a kiss as she ran to her classroom running into the building late, as usual. Bruno drove through the city finding himself near one of the only places that he felt comfortable, his studio. Ari was in New York and Phil was visiting family in the Midwest. He grabbed his key opening the door. He walked through the studio that hadn’t been used by him since the last album. He walked over to the empty dry erase board that was a source of many laughs for the past years. He looked down in a corner where a small cloud surrounded a small note in Marla’s handwriting
Last night was fun. –xoxoxo
He smiled at the note falling down on the couch crying. “Why Marla?! Why does this happen? Things were so perfect. Marrrlllaaaaa….” he yelled laying his head in the pillow starting to cry. He laid there by himself thinking about what Marla would say to him. It’s okay. Get it all out. Tears are a way to get it all out. Cry as long and as hard as you need to. It’s okay. He replayed her voice and the statement over and over again in his head. He just sat there crying for what seemed to be whole day. There were no thoughts, not life changing moments that would lead to an amazing lyric or song. Just the emotions of not knowing what to do and what was going on in his life. One moment he and Marla were planning the next step in their lives, moving to another house, and the next he was wondering if she would ever remember him and the things that she loved about him. He didn’t even think he had cried this much the first time this had happened. He started to replay the days at the hospital in his head. He flipped through pictures in his phone remembering every little piece and every single detail, down to what she smelled liked that day. It was those things that he knew she would never remember. She would remember the small memories he handed off to her in the morning. Just when he thought things couldn’t be better. But that’s just how my life is. The second I think it’s going to be perfect is the second things blow up in my fucking face. He thought to himself throwinf a nerf ball as hard as he could hoping that it would break something instead bouncing off the wall onto the piano. He shook his head moving over to the piano just playing whatever sounds starting coming to him. Instead of writing it all down the pressed the record button and started playing. I’ll figure it out eventually. He kept playing the powerful and emotional sounds still not sure of where he was going. He then moved over to the dums banging on them as loud and as long as he could starting to sing about how he wanted all the moments back and how he was just about to give up. Just when he thought he couldn’t anymore he moved to the guitar doing exactly the same thing singing the exact same words. As he finished and thought he had nothing else left in him he let the red light dim sliding down the wall burying his head in his hands. He started to cry again not sure if the tears would ever stop. Then he remembered what he had told her. “When you run out a tears is when it gets better.” He said to himself still crying. He heard a beep from his phone jolting him out of his emotions. He picked it up seeing a familiar number, Madison. What? He thought picking up the phone. “Hello?” he asked her.
“Bruno. Phil told me what happened. Do you need to talk?” she asked him.
“Yea….yea…yeahhh. I think so.” He told her.
“Where are you?” she asked him.
“In the studio.” He told her trying to figure out what was going on.
“Stay there.” She told him hanging up the phone.
While Bruno was the studio Marla laid on the bed feeling her whole body aching and her head spinning. She had never felt that way before. She sat with the letters Bruno had written her piecing things together. It all made sense to her and most of the things were coming back to her. She hoped that she would be okay by that Monday so she could go to work.
“Hey mama…I called the doctor. “ her mother came in the door telling Marla.
“Oh. And what did they say?” she wondered.
“They want to see you. He sounded a bit more concerned that usual.” Sylvia told her.
“When?” she asked.
“In like 30 minutes.” Sylvia answered. “I’ll take care of the kids while we’re there and have your brother get Rosie at school. Okay?” Sylvia planned out.
“Okay. Okay.” Marla answered. “Mom?”
“Yeah, baby?” Sylvia asked.
“Did Bruno ever tell you about the letters he writes me?” she asked her mother.
“No. What letters?” she responded.
“These.” She held them out showing her mother. “He writes me one every single night. Just about the day. They make me cry.” Her mother grabbed one from the top reading it out loud finding one from when Bruno was in the hospital.
“Wow.” She replied.
“Did you call Bruno?” Marla asked as they sat down at the doctor’s office.
“I left him a message.” Sylvia told her daughter handing her one of the crying twins. Marla dug in her phone to call Bruno not getting an answer.
“He doesn’t do that stuff. I hope he’s okay.” Marla answered running through several scenarios flashing to the letter he had written about Madison. I don’t trust her. She thought to herself. “Mom..do you have Madison’s phone number? You know. The one that opened for Bruno a long time ago.
“No. I don’t.” Sylvia answered. “Why?”
“Oh nothing.” Marla responded seeing the doctor call her into his office.
She answered the regular questions with the doctor noting a few things. She described what she remembered and relayed the things that Bruno and her mother had told her.
“We need to get an MRI right now. “ the doctor said matter of factly.
“Right now?” she asked.
“Yes. Now. It’s late but there are other things I am suspecting other than your usual activity.” He explained. “We’ll get you downstairs right now.” He opened the door telling the nurses what they were doing.
Marla walked out almost shaking. “Mom. I need him.” She said taking out her phone dialing the phone again as she held onto one of the babies listening to it rang. She held onto it dialing again. “God. Bruno. Answer the phone.
“Mar?” he finally picked up the phone. She stopped in the middle of her steps sitting down on a bench. “Marla? I know you’re there. Are you okay?” she shook her head forgetting to talk. “Marla, what’s wrong?”
“I….I don’t know. Bruno. Everything is coming back to me. They said I need an MRI. I need you. I need you to be there with me.”
Bruno watched the door open in front of him seeing a small bleach blonde girl walk in toward him holding his hands out. What was I thinking? He thought to himself. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He said hanging up the phone.
“Bruno?” Madison asked him seeing him grab his keys.
“I’m sorry I don’t…just no Maddy.” He said walking past her holding his keys.
Bruno sat in the hospital parking lot for several minutes laying his head on the steering wheel trying to gather his thoughts and trying to figure out how he was going to walk into the hospital knowing that something horrible was going to happen. I have to be there. He repeated to himself walking down the familiar hallways. He walked past several emotional families trying not to think about the things they were going through. He kept on his sunglasses and baseball cap careful to fit in as the elevator landed on the radiology floor. He turned down the familiar corner seeing Marla sitting in the hard chair with her legs shaking and her arms crossed. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes holding onto him tightly.
“Bruno…I’m sorry about last night. I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do.” She said laying her head on his shoulder feeling his sunglasses fall on her. He took them off placing them on the small table holding onto her tightly.
“I’m here. I’m never going to leave you, Marla. Never.” He whispered in her ear looking up at Sylvia who mouthed thank you to him. He pulled away from Marla wiping a small tear off her cheek.
“I don’t know what’s going on. They said I had to do this like right away.” She unconsciously rubbed her arm touching the small marks from previous MRIs.
“But, Marley. You’ve got this. Look at your arm…you’re a warrior….” He said running his fingers along her scar. “All you need is a tattoo to prove it.” He smiled at her.
“I’ll leave that for you to take care of.” She smiled.
“No way. It’s time for you to get number 2 anyway.” He said moving his feet to her foot smiling.
“Okay. We’ll talk about it later.” She said kissing his cheek sitting down. They sat together with Bruno pushing her to get another tattoo for a few minutes until a nurse walked up to them.
“Mrs. Hernandez?” she asked the only group in the waiting room. “Are you ready?”
Marla nodded her head still holding onto Bruno’s arm.
“He can come with.” The nurse reassured her.
“Oh. Yeah.” Marla smiled.
“I always go with you.” Bruno told her.
“Oh. I guess I don’t remember that.” Marla answered looking down.
He leaned over to her still squeezing her hand. “It’s okay.” Bruno led Marla down the hallway sensing anxiety in her walk. She sat down where she was told looking down at her hand at her wedding ring. “If you leave it on you’ll blow up.” Bruno laughed.
“Blow up?” she asked him not catching onto his sense of humor. He took the ring from her watching her look at him.
“Don’t lose it, okay?” she asked him. “It would break my heart.” She told him.
He put it up to his chest looking at her. “Te prometo, mi amor.” He kissed her head watching her lay down like the nurse had told her.
“You know, you two are ridiculously cute together.” She said flipping through her paperwork. “Oh…I know why I said that. Gosh…that was a long time ago…” she said to herself. “2015….”Marla and Bruno ignored her watching her grab the needle to put in her arm. “Close your eyes….” She told them. Bruno held onto Marla’s hand so tight that she thought he was going to break it as the needle with some type of thing to make her blood light went into her arm.
“Ouch.” She mumbled looking over at Bruno trying not to laugh at his continued inability to handle needles. The nurse walked away leaving them alone for a few minutes.
“See. If you can do that you can get another tattoo.” He told her.
“Okay, Brunz. Just calm down. I never said I wasn’t going to.” She answered him seeing the nurse again giving her instructions. Bruno kissed Marla lightly watching her disappear into the machine. The loud noises were muffled by a horrible CD of 5 songs that the hospital had.Oh god. Give me something good. She thought to herself through the second time around of the CD. During the second time hearing the second song the music suddenly stopped. A familiar piano started playing followed by Bruno’s voice. Oh my god. He never stops. She thought to herself closing her eyes losing herself in his voice.
She came out of the machine rubbing her eyes. “I hate that shit.” She smiled at him.
“It is pretty crappy.” He said helping her get up handing her the ring he was holding.
“Marry me?” he smiled at her.
“Yes.” She said leading him out of the room. A few feet away they were met by Marla’s doctor holding a small USB device.
“Let’s go talk. I have some things we need to discuss.” He said in a firm and almost tense tone.
Marla leaned over to Bruno trying to calm him down now. “I think the tattoo is going to be easier than whatever he’s going to tell us.” She said squeezing his hand.
Marla sat down in the big mahogany chair next to Bruno feeling his sweaty palms. She couldn’t quite figure out if she should be comforting him or if they both were supposed to be that freaked out. The doctor took his seat at the messy desk sliding his chair over to a small x ray machine putting up the MRI results. “Mrs. Hernandez…do you see those small white spots?”
“Those have always been there. That’s what causes all this…” she told him.
“Mhmmm. And then do you see these bigger round ones..” he moved his hand over to the top right of her brain.
“Those…no…those are new.” She said quietly. “And not the same…”
“You’re right….” He pulled the x rays off and slid over to his desk pulling out more papers. “Those new ones are signs of a trans ischemic..”
“Stroke.” Bruno ended the statement.
“Like your grandmother had…..” Marla gasped. “And my aunt had….”
“What happens next?” Bruno asked.
“Well…” he said explaining exactly what he thought had happened in between the last few days on a neurological level. Marla comprehended all of it while Bruno just sat and stared. She leaned over to him as the doctored turned around.
“I’ll tell you when we get home.” She told him.
“Okay…” he said nervously. “But she’s not going to die is she?” Bruno asked.
“There is a chance that your wife could suffer quite a bit from these strokes. At your age and fitness level and all other things included, I see the medication I’m going to prescribe you to hold off any other effects.” The doctor said. “And we’re going to change up your other medications as well.” He handed her a prescription. “You will be okay.” He told her. “This is obviously another setback….but we know so much about this that there are many ways to fix it.”
“Will it happen again?” Marla asked almost turning white.
“It might.” The doctor said.
“Oh.” Marla answered looking at the medicine. “We can do this, Bruno.” She told him.
“We can.” He said still as nervous on the inside as she was on the outside. They took the paper and set a follow-up appointment and walked to Sylvia. She told her mother what was going on causing her mother to almost break down in tears.
“But, mama. It will be okay. It always is.” Marla told her mother as they went to their cars. Marla and Bruno said good bye to Sylvia getting in Bruno’s car. She watched him carefully get in the car putting his keys in the ignition to start it. She sniffed her nose a little starting to cry. “It’s not going to be oaky.”
Bruno turned to her with the same look on his face as he had every single time something bad was going to happen. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, Marley. I keep trying to be strong for you, but this time…I just don’t know what to do for you to make it better.”
“Just write me a letter tonight. That will help.” She told him watching his hands grip the steering wheel tightly.
This is going to be long. Put on your reading glasses.
Mar, I love you. I love you more today than I did yesterday and I’ll love you more tomorrow than I did today. I love our life together and I love what we have. But if I said that all this was easy I would be the biggest liar in the world. It’s so hard, Mar. I went to the studio today and drank the rest of the Vodka we had left. I didn’t write anything. I was just there. It was me and my music. And I cried. Mar…I know we’ve cried together but it’s hard to be so strong when no matter how hard we try something always gets in the way of us being the happy family that we are. I can’t even begin to explain how I feel when these things happen. It’s like being with you when you told me you had epilepsy so long ago. My heart races and my emotions go crazy and I can’t help but think what if I didn’t have you. What if the next thing that happens is it? What if you don’t wake up? Or it changes you so much that you really can’t remember me? No matter how hard I try? I know these are all what ifs and you don’t answer these. It’s those things that drive me crazy and go on in my head. I know you know exactly what I’m thinking and when I finish writing this you’re going to put your arms around me, half asleep, telling me that everything is going to be okay. But I just don’t know what okay is anymore. It breaks me into a million pieces to even think about tomorrow and what it’s going to be like. Marla, I don’t think, no, I know, I would not be able to go on without you. You make me who I am and even the idea of these things happening drive me crazy. And they make me nervous and scared and like I just want to yell at God and ask him Why? Why my wife and the only person that will ever understand me? She deserves to have the most perfect and amazing life and you keep getting in the way of it being perfect. Just tell me why. Why???
And then you’ll tell me to believe in fate and have faith in what is happening. I’ve lost faith in all of it Marla. I’ve lost it all. …..
When Bruno walked out of the bedroom that next morning he squinted his eyes seeing Marla sitting on the couch with the babies and Rosie sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast watching the cartoons Marla had put on.
“Good morning, Bruno.” She smiled at him watching him walk over to Rosie kissing her head.
“Good morning.” He smiled walking back to her kissing her head the same way he did to Rosie. He sat down next to her watching her intently. :Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine.” She paused leaning over to get the letter he had written her. “Are you okay?”
He shrugged his shoulders not sure how to answer. “I think if I can get it out I’ll be okay.” He told her.
“So you’re going to go to the studio?” she asked him.
“Yeah. I think so. But after I do those voice overs.” He told her.
“Oh. So you don’t know when you’ll be home?” she asked him.
“I don’t know. I mean…” Bruno started to get worried.
“Bruno….” She set down one of the babies in a walker wrapping her arms around him. “Do what you need to do to feel better about this. I can see it in your eyes…” she pushed a curl out of his eye trying not to cry. “It’s okay.”
“Are you sure? You’d have Rosie and the babies…” he worried.
“Yes. Go. Go to the studio. We’ll be okay.” She answered watching the babies move their hands next to each other.
Bruno looked over to the table of soda and cigarettes. He grabbed the cigarettes not even caring that he was inside pacing back and forth by himself. He glanced at his phone seeing that it was almost 9 at night. With the cigarette in one hand and a pen in another he started writing again. This is shit. He thought to himself. “This is shit.” He said outloud.
“No. It’s not.” He heard Marla’s voice behind him. He quickly turned around seeing his wife with her hair in high ponytail, sweat pants and one of his shirts with flip flops on.
“You’re going to freeze wearing that.” He told her.
“I think I’ll survive.” She laughed walking closer to him.
“Marley….sit down.” He said to her patting the chair next to him.
“Okay…” she smiled grabbing his hand.
“Listen to this….” He said pressing a button playing a few seconds of the song he had been working on throughout the day. She laid her head on his shoulder closing her eyes hearing his voice feeling his heart race.
“Bruno….quit being so hard on yourself. It’s good. I can feel everything with the song.”
She felt him lift her head up turning her toward him. “I love you.” He said to her leaning in to kiss her lightly. She grabbed his face with her palms holding onto him tightly.
As he stopped kissing her she opened her eyes smiling at him. “I love you more.” She told him sweetly.
“Mar…where are the babies?” he asked her.
“They’re fine. They’re with Travis and Lisa.” She said getting off of the chair wrapping her legs around him in his chair.
“Oh. Okay.” He answered still not catching on to where her mind was.
“Bruno!” she exclaimed.
“What?” he wondered looking at her.
“I am sitting on top of you with the easiest clothes in the world to rip off and I’m obviously not wearing a bra.” She looked down at her shirt shrugging her shoulders.
“Oh…right…yeah…” he laughed laying his head into her neck starting move his hands up her back. “Damn. You weren’t lying. You don’t have a bra on….”