i spent a summer in minneapolis and created a monster.
a salsa-dancing monster.
there was a mixup with the place i was supposed to stay. so i rang up a complete stranger. well, she wasn't a complete stranger. a girl from the program (whom i'd only just met) went to college with her in florida. and me, one of the most paranoid people in the midwest, I trusted her after one 30-second phone call. it was a lucky good decision.
we were an odd pair -- her: 6-foot-something with flowing blonde hair that others only hope to get from a bottle, and me: 5-foot and little more, dark with long dark hair and an attitude for strangers. my new pal, a violinist, was curious about everything and had enough enthusiasm for both of us. i had picked up a taste for salsa dancing and decided to share. it made for one interesting summer.
now, i'm not going to be pinning a number to my back and spinning around the parquet floor anytime soon, but i knew the basics. this girl picked them up in an evening and by the end of a month danced circles around me and nearly everyone else in the city. it got to the point where we were out dancing 2 to 3 times a week. and it was fun. in a town where a lot of people are far from home, there are a good number who turn up just to dance. (where i live now, you'd better come with a decent partner or the only dancing you'll be doing is manuvering away from some slimy grabbyhands slurrily asking you the same question over and over.)
soon i began to tire of the 24-hour salsa party, but my pal couldn't get enough. she picked up some spanish and wanted to know all the words to her favorite songs. she even found herself a casanova with a limited vocabulary but plenty of moves. that's when i knew she was hooked.
the summer came to an end. i hung up my heels and returned to school. she kept dancing. we kept in touch, but i really had no clue what kind of influence that summer had until she called me up one day to tell me she'd decided on what she wants to do when she grows up: be a mariachi. all that dancing got her into all kinds of latino culture, and here was a chance for her to showcase her classical string skills, too. it was the perfect match.
today she lives in texas and plays in an all-girl mariachi band. people specifically request 'la rubia.' she speaks a good amount of spanish and of course, is still tearing up the dance floor. to this day when i call, she tells people that i was the one who taught her to salsa. i blush at that because all i did was show her the basics and natural talent did the rest. but i am proud to have seen how far she's taken it beyond us sashaying in front of the mirror in her apartment all those years ago.
i think i was meant to meet her that summer. i could have been assigned to indianapolis or austin or des moines. but i was meant to hold out that first marc anthony cd and open up a new world for her.
damn, where would we be if i had a taste for breaking back then and busted out a doug e. fresh and the get fresh crew album instead?