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The Joy and Misery of Salsa Dancing or Not



In a moment of weakness, I am convinced to go Salsa dancing. I have been once before, with disastrous consequences for my psyche. No lesson is too painful to be forgotten.

I arrive at the bar early but the beginner's lesson before the main event has already begun. I try to infiltrate the lines of newbies, and already I'm lost. People are spinning and twirling. I stand awkwardly to the side, trying to mimic the man next to me. It's hopeless.

I go to the bar and order a Dos Equis. I think it's my first Dos Equis draft. By the time the drink arrives the lesson has changed. The men and women have paired up in opposing formations and are repeating the most basic move—some fashion of reluctant shuffle. This is exactly what I need but it's too late. The partnerships have been formed.

I remain with the other cast-offs, sipping beer, wondering what elemental differences separate us from the graceful. I read the New Yorker on my phone. My feet ache from standing. They still haven't recovered from the Appalachian Trail. It occurs to me that Salsa Dancing is the opposite of hiking. Everyone is clean and dressed up; they have so much extra energy.

I want to sit down, but all the chairs are covered with jackets.

There are a lot of Justin Beiber types here.

The beginner lesson ends and the main event begins. The lights go down. The music is very loud. Good thing I brought ear plugs.

Man these dancers are good. I feel a pang of longing. Maybe I should grab a girl and head out on the floor. And step on her toes repeatedly. And hurl her into a table at the first attempted spin. I literally don't even know how to move my feet. What are they doing? It's kind of like stepping back and forth. Who invented this crap?

"This isn't Salsa," a drunk woman is saying to anyone who will listen. "It's Bachata. They do this every time."

Finished a whole issue of the New Yorker.

It's hot. I go outside and cool off. People are smoking. It's cold. I go inside to warm up. I have never wanted to be somewhere else more in my entire life. I go to the bathroom. A girl is helping a guy practice the basic moves in the hallway. 

The friend I am meeting arrives. I say hi and make an excuse for leaving. She heads onto the floor and joins the dancers.

An elderly couple is sleeping in the subway terminal. I walk past them and then backup. "Do you need some money?" I ask, stupidly. I give them all my cash: $6. They bless me.

When I get home I'm possessed by a roiling negative energy. I take off my pants and slip on my running shoes, and tear into the night. It's dark, and late; no one cares about the guy running in his dress shirt and briefs. My phone picks good music. I feel better. Some people eat their feelings, some people burn them. I reflect that walking and running are a much more liberating use of the feet.

But I know I'll try this Salsa shit again.
 

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