“One more dance”, is what Stefani pleaded to me as she pulled me by my hands back to the center. The irony was not lost on me as in the salsa, it’s the man who leads and the woman who follows. Tonight, I was not a date so much as I was a chaperone. Or maybe a big brother? Stefani had grown very fond of me, and I had been going out with her to the clubs with Eva’s approval, to much of her amusement.
The salsa in Costa Rica, it’s Cuban style dancing. Or to be more accurate, it more closely resemble Cuban style as it would be taught in a school in the US. In truth, like jazz, martial arts, and sushi, salsa develops into all these different forms in all the countries it enters and takes root. Each salsa is defined by each country, and each one of them is the ‘best’ salsa.
For the layman, Costa Rican dancing is more elaborate and confusing than intimate, but it’s basically a necessary social skill. And unlike smoking or alcohol, you do not really have a defensible excuse not to learn it. You read up on all the travelogues and check online, and they will all say that you need to go to a local salsa class if you want to have fun in their bars.
Stefani was a harsh teacher, but a liberal partner out on the floor, and I get it. In the school, I need to keep pace with what the Costa Rican ladies were used to, and I was getting groomed just so that I would not embarrass myself. Here and now, though, it was all about her, and she did not care about me looking good to other ladies so much as having fun for herself.
More than once, I felt her presence was a heavy anchor on me. Too many other pretty ladies pass by the corner of my eyes, but even the ones in front of me do not get a chance to meet me. I did not have a partner or a teacher with me, I had a needy little child.
The spoiled little thing was growing to be a pretty little thing, way past her awkward years. She did not have quite the guitar silhouette her older cousins had, but I could see her getting there in a few years. Costa Rican women really are a wonder. She was going to snag herself a really lucky boy someday.
Maybe I was starting to break from the attention, as she finally walked off the floor after a particularly hectic song. “Will you be OK?” I shouted as I motioned towards her. “I will be if you had stop scowling at me like that, macho”.
I found her sulking at me now, and of course I did not want to leave it at that. “No joda”!, she murmured, and I just decided to take it as a blessing to scout the floor.
Fortunately for me, some women came approaching as I started doing my thing. I had my pick of a few lovely ladies, and was about to make my little pick when I start to hear some moaning at the back of me. No more dancing.
“I’m sorry, let me just take you home.” Stefani finally broke into a faint smile and gave me that familiar faint kiss across my cheek before motioning to get up and go home. Thankfully, this ended all the seething glares I was getting from all the men surrounding her. Costa Rican men aren’t as outwardly macho as the Latinos in other countries, but they still have the machismo for sure.
“Was I being a burden to you, macho?” She murmured from the corner of her seat.
“No, it’s OK. I just wanted to dance with other girls. You should have danced with more boys too.”
“But I went out just to dance with you.” This was getting embarrassing.
“That’s sweet, but I was not having fun doing it with only you.”
“Would you rather be dancing with Eva?”
“Eva already explained it to you. I am just another guy to him, but also, she wants to take care of me like a pet because I am foreign here. We are not an item.”
“Would you rather be with me?”
“I would, but it’s bad to date your teachers.”
That, finally, broke the tension. The rest of the ride home Estefani found her usual bubbly, charming self, chatting me up on all the dance steps I got wrong, how terrible I was at reading people, and advice on how to get girls in clubs, which would have been useful to me if she told me this on the way there and if she was not getting in my way.
Everything’s forgiven after warm goodbyes and a solo drive back to my hotel home.
The next few days, I would find myself in company that would take me away from Eva and Stefani’s company indefinitely.
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