Salsa (written May 2008)


We made quite an entrance at the party. Unintentionally, of course. Not owning anything white, we were all flouting the “Wear a white top” instruction for a start. The apartment was packed with short, stocky, Latin-American men, clad in white shirts contrasting with their exotic skins. We were white enough. Claire was freckled with fiery red hair; Helen, also freckled, had straight, fair locks. I had jet-black curls and porcelain pale skin. Not knowing what to expect, and wondering if we’d be able to speak with anyone, we hovered around the drinks.  Alcohol, the greatest of all social lubricants. Unless you live in Saudi Arabia.

For a while after our entrance, the room was divided into Salsa-dancing Latin Americans, and us. Stereotype central. To me it seemed that they were having way more fun on the crowded ‘dancefloor’ than we were, chatting by the drinks table, clutching our rum and cokes. “Sod this,” I announced. The girls flicked curious glances at me. Ever the lover of dancing, I made my way to a friendly looking, though not particularly attractive guy. He put out his hand, “Yo no puede bailar la Salsa,” I attempted in sober Spanish, which is a far less eloquent dialect than intoxicated Spanish. Apparently, it didn’t matter. There was nothing for it but to get into the swing of it.  I knew my friends were watching me as I cast off the shackles of Englishness. It wasn’t long before Helen was dancing with a different guy. Eventually, Claire joined us. Finally, some guy who suffered from verbal diahorrea (not far removed from average Spanish conversational habits) drove her to seek out a dance partner from sheer earache. Gradually the room mixed like coffee and cream. Despite outward appearances, I was actually the shyest of my friends. It was only the high rum count in my bloodstream that allowed me to accept the passionate kisses of a hot guy whose name I couldn’t remember the next day.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts that night, I suffered from some typically English behaviour. Propelled by the escalating high from salsa, alcohol and hot guys, I accepted offers of drinks until the room spun. I was oblivious to the fact that everyone except us and the people whose apartment we were in had left the party. It was 5am, a normal night in Madrid, so time to go. We left amid protests and offers of more rum, or a tequila shot. “Pretty English girls! Stay and dance!” Outside, the fresh air played its favourite game, making me giggle hysterically, become weak at the knees and embrace the pavement. At this point, you know who your friends are. Oh, I knew who they were, Goddess bless them.  I just didn’t know who I was.

The next afternoon I awoke with the devil’s after-party in my head and a shipwreck in my stomach. I tried to remember what had happened. I was alone, of course. After all, I’m the shy one. I was wearing last night’s sexy outfit, now crumpled, but had somehow managed to remove my contact lenses. I’m always baffled as to how I manage to do that. I turned to my room. Coins lay scattered all over the floor. Taxi fare? Before even contemplating getting up, I called Claire.

“What happened?” I asked. Laughter.

“You’re a dead weight girlie!”


“Are you up? Look at your knees!” I moved my knees towards me and observed large purple bruises on both of them. “Ow, guess I hit the deck? Forgot to tell you, that sometimes happens. I think I’m still drunk.”

“Haaaa! Us too! Cinema later?”

“I’ll let you know. I’m gonna vom now, I think. Text me later. Thanks for getting me home.”

“No worries hun. Feel better soon.”

“Hope so. Later.”

Drinking on an empty stomach is never wise. Less so when you’re as small as I am. After relieving myself of last night’s poison, I remembered the fun party I was now paying for. The memory was of another world, a magical night when we could all speak fluent Spanish and dance Salsa effortlessly. Now I could barely speak English. There’s only one place you can go in cases like this. Bed.


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