Marisol and I were working on getting The Big Apple Routine exactly right. She was in love with that authentic jazz choreographed circle dance from the 1939 movie Keep Punching, wanted me to teach it to as many Madrid lindy hoppers as possible so we could get big groups to do it at social dances. First, though, there had to be at least one person other than me who could perform the routine, so people could get a sense of how exciting, fast paced, adorable and fun it could be. Marisol’s plan was for both of us to demo it at a La Industria, then recruit lots of people to join a Big Apple workshop taught by me. She volunteered to do all the promotion herself. Talk about a gift.
Unlike most Spaniards I had come across, Marisol spoke very good English. Hers was a British version, practiced in Leeds where she had done some studying in her college major of pharmacology. Out of charity to me I suppose, at the beginning of each of our rehearsals she would use Spanish, but her speech was so rapid I barely could catch anything. In the name of accomplishing our dance goals, then, we communicated in English.
Anyway, on this particular Saturday in March, 2010, Marisol and I didn’t get around to practicing The Big Apple because I wanted to show her some solo blues dance ideas. We spent the hour gyrating and writhing to Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood.”
Then 4 o’clock rolled around and it was time for a double-date private salsa lesson I had set up - and was paying for completely. That’s how much I wanted Taj, Brad and Melody to latch on to Latin dance with me. I’d booked the guy who taught classes at Nachos on Saturdays. He had the unlikely name of Prospero, and an even more unlikely appearance. A black madrileno, he was shorter than me, but extremely buff and lean, his hair in dozens of neat braids down to the middle of his back. He always asked me to dance at CATS, and he was terrifically goofy: the type of dancer who regularly pulls feats like quick drops and triple spins, all with a ridiculous smile on his face and usually both preceded and followed by some overly romantic or supplicating gesture. Whenever I danced with Prospero he simultaneously challenged, glorified and impressed me - all while making me burst into laughter at regular intervals.
At 4:05 when my boyfriend, his best friend, and the latter boy’s friend-with-benefits were still not in evidence, Prospero began a warm-up with just me. Then we social danced, much to my delight. After that he taught me a follower’s figure. We were beginning to put that together into the partner dance when the missing trio finally arrived.
“Hey, did you take my abono by mistake?” Taj asked me.
An abono is a monthly metro pass, costs between 45 and 55 Euros depending on the zones you need it to cover, and gets you unlimited metro rides (and some bus rides) all month long. The actual ticket part of the abono is little, like an old movie ticket, but it slides into this cheesy plastic laminated card about the size of a small thank-you note, and it bears your passport photo plus some identifying numbers. It sucks to lose yours obviously, especially early or mid-month, which this was. I didn’t think I would have mistaken his abono for mine but anything’s possible, and my heart seized with embarrassment and fear.
This must have shown on my face, because Taj said, “We’ll deal with it later.”
Of course Prospero simultaneously was giving them his magnanimous greetings, man-hugs for the guys and two kisses for Melody, whom he was meeting for the first time.
The lesson got underway in earnest. It was pretty much like a regular class, Prospero teaching figures and not going into lead-follow very much. I was a little disappointed as far as that was concerned. But I didn’t let that ruin my fun.
Brad got the figures the most correct, I suppose. In fact, Taj didn’t get to practice the second one, because he was still trying to feel comfortable with the first. It was complicated: a hammerlock double spin and cross-body lead, and the guys had to remember their footwork too - they were still beginners.
I delighted at dancing with each of the boys. I really hoped Brad would pursue his previously-stated intention of becoming the “king of the salsa world.”
Taj was wonderful. I swear I am not just saying that because he is my boyfriend. Remember that I taught him to blues dance before we started dating, when I was still fielding calls from different men and wondering why wasn’t into any of them. Taj knew and understood things that he immediately put into practice in that one-hour blues lesson, and at the end of it I knew intuitively I could trust him.
Now it was a few months later and he was really concentrating on getting these complicated figures, which he could complete sometimes. The thing was, though, whatever he did was a lead and it made sense to me.
Also, if he went a lot slower than the music it was fine with me, because I could both dance with him and appreciate how luscious he looked that day.
His hair had gotten a little long and was very curly. He was freshly showered and I could smell his lip balm and cologne. Then there was the shirt. Now I still think it’s hilarious that men wear their shirts open like Neil Diamond used to in the 70’s and it’s supposed to be all sexy and whatever. I have never found this sexy on anyone except Taj. The shirt was bright red-and-white checked, because he was planning to dress up as a cowboy for Mathilde’s birthday masquerade that night. I guess this was a preview. Anyway I think it was a shirt with snaps instead of buttons. I just wanted to unsnap the rest of it.
But there was class to take, and I got to dance with Prospero a lot (he used me as a demo partner), and watch Melody try to get the figures with Brad as she made her semi-self-conscious British-accented exclamations.
She looked good, too, in her tight ripped jeans and sparkly T-shirt. We all always wore jeans. Always. I miss those days.
Well, eventually the lesson ended and I gave Prospero his 50 Euros, out of sight of the rest of he crew. I felt a little depleted: buying my skimpy little expensive costume and now this, in the space of an afternoon.
The four of us repaired to my place, but the three of them left me briefly to buy some wine at the Bangis’ while I got out the pita and homemade hummus. We rounded up at the long formica table in the square, hardwood, high-ceilinged living room with the two tiny balconies overlooking Calle Moratin, snacking and getting silly while Mathilde flitted about with the party preparations.
Sometime before 7 Taj said, “Well, I guess we’re gonna go.”
“Oh. You’re not going to just stay -”
“We’ll come back around nine,” he explained. ”I have to shower and put on my costume. This is only part of it.”
I said, “Well yeah, I have to get ready too. And Bruce is coming.”