salsa-dancing-birthday-girl

The Salsa Dancing Birthday Girl

This is the fourth in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

4. Dancing: Who’s dancing and why are they tapping those toes?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I’M SORRY I CAN’T SALSA DANCE!”

“COMO?”

“I SAID, I CANNOT DANCE SALSA!”

“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”


Why indeed?

I’d been asking myself the very same question since I’d paid ten euros to get in the door. I asked it as we pushed through the crowd. The music was deafening, the atmosphere hot and stuffy. It smelled like booze, sweat and body odor. It almost made you wish they hadn’t recently banned smoking in clubs.

The place was a maze. Open staircases going up and down, doors leading to smaller, more intimate rooms, the bar, the toilets (never, EVER go to the toilets). Our leader seemed to know where she was going, though, so we sharpened our elbows and pushed on, following as closely as we could through the mass of people.

We climbed a sticky staircase that lead up to what I can only assume was the holy of holies. Huge windows went from floor to ceiling, dimmed lightbulbs encased in class spheres hung suspended from the ceiling at artfully varied heights. The floor was wooden, polished with use in the middle. It was the top floor of the club, the huge dance hall, open only to people who actually knew what they were doing.

Why, oh why was I here?

Upon closer inspection, there seemed to be plenty of other people if not as clueless as me, at least as awkward. The onlookers gathered close to the walls and the bar, leaving a large oval open space in the middle of the room. That oval was where only true dancers dared to tread. And boy, did they dance.

All eyes were turned to them, and everyone watched in awe as couples twirled and spun, the men masterfully making the women look amazing, the women moving like goddesses. In spite of my Irish, Scottish and German blood, my hips started to sway.

That’s when I was accosted.


“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”

“WELL…”

…How could I explain? I was brought here by force? Peer pressure? I shrugged weakly, shook my head and gave what must have been a pathetic grimace.

It turns out the young man couldn’t dance much, either. In halting Spanglish, he told me he had taken a couple of salsa classes, and he would be happy to show me the basic steps. My companions were between us and the dance floor, craning their necks to see and be seen. They were close enough that I felt safe, and so in a corner of that temple to salsa, he shyly took my hands and we started to move.

Despite some treading on toes and awkward giggling, we had gotten into what could pass for a groove when suddenly the music changed. A salsa version of “Happy Birthday” began to play, and we all crowded closer to the dancefloor to see what was happening.

A plump young woman in tight black pants and a teal tank top was dancing alone in the middle of the floor. Her body seemed to move in line with her own curves, smoothly and confidently. She danced with her eyes closed, a smile on her face, totally unselfconscious. Then a young man stepped out of the crowd and took her hand. There was no interruption to her movement—he simply glided in and suddenly the two of them were dancing together in what looked to be a choreographed routine. But then another man stepped forward. Seeing him, the first man smoothly passed the birthday girl’s hand to the second man, and on went the dance, as seamlessly as the first.

One by one, men stepped up and took turns dancing with her. There was never a halt, a hesitation or a misstep. I thought it couldn’t possibly be improvised—nobody dances like that! But then one of my group, a young man fancied by a girl I was with, stepped forward. I knew for a fact he didn’t know the birthday girl. And yet he took her hand and spun her around the floor.

My new salsa teacher slipped his arm around my waist as we watched, and tried to whisper (but due to the volume of the music, ended up shouting) in my ear, “You could dance as well as she does.”

I said nothing. I just gazed at her. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe him.

Bompa’s Boat

This is the third in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

3. The Vessel: Write about a ship or other vehicle that can take you somewhere different from where you are now.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It wasn’t officially christened Bompa’s Boat until after he died. But it didn’t matter—we all knew whose boat it was. Even when he retired as captain, it was still his.

It wasn’t—still isn’t—a fancy boat. I couldn’t tell you the model or what kind of motor it had. It was about 4 meters long and had a raised space in the bow. Underneath he stored the anchors and life vests. Against harbor master’s rules, his grandkids used to sit at the bow with our legs dangling through the railings, over the edge.

Blinding sun, bright blue sky. The heat of summer stinging my skin. The smell of salt and sunscreen. My mother looked the picture of elegance, sitting with one of her long legs crossed over the other on the little seat right in front of the steering wheel. Behind her, shielded by the windscreen, stood my grandfather at the wheel with my dad by his side. The captain and his first mate smiled behind tinted glasses. My brothers and I vied for prime seats at the bow.

Once through the harbor Bompa would open up the throttle. Then all you could hear was the roar of the motor and the whipping of wind in your ears. Impossible to speak in anything less than a shout, so we didn’t bother. Each of us would silently take in what we enjoyed most about Bompa’s Boat. The speed, the feeling of floating, the salt spray. Shrieks of laughter as a larger boat’s wake splashed us.

Each generation of our family has been transported to a happy place on Bompa’s Boat. Everyone had their favorite destination. Some liked Ship Rock. Others preferred the sand bar that surfaced at low tide. Though it was a long trip—all the way around Gooseberry Island—my favorite spot was Barney’s Joy. As the tide ebbed, the current from one of the inland ponds flowed out between the dunes, through a narrow throat and into the bay. That throat was Barney’s Joy. We’d anchor offshore, dive in and swim with our life vests or innertubes to land. Then we’d trudge up the stream a ways, jump in and be whisked out to sea. It was heavenly to float on that current, surrendering myself to the tide. Better than any water park lazy river.

Now my dad captains Bompa’s Boat as my husband stands by as first mate. I cross my legs on the seat in front of the steering wheel. Our boys and their cousins shriek, stumble and laugh in the bow. Sometimes I feel my grandfather is there, too. Smiling his quiet smile, basking in the joy his family still gets from Bompa’s Boat.

https://www.pictorem.com/74827/Empty%20Diving%20Board%20And%20Water.html

On a Diving Board

This is the second in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

2. The Unrequited love poem: How do you feel when you love someone who does not love you back?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It felt like I was standing on a diving board.

Blindfolded.

I didn’t know if there was water in the pool or not.


I could jump.

The water could be cool, clear and welcoming.

Or I could hit rock bottom.

I could back away, back off the diving board.

And go back to not knowing you.


Sometimes it felt like you were next to me.

Other times it felt like you were somewhere else.

Maybe sitting in a deck chair, suntanning.

Sometimes you seemed to care.

Other times you were cold.


It turns out you were smarter than me.

You understood us both better than I understood myself.

We’d cling to each other in the water, dragging each other down.

We’d both drown in murky waters.


You wanted to control me.

I wanted to love you.


So I backed off the diving board.

I walked away.

I left you standing, eyes uncovered, clearly seeing what could have been.

Did you regret not talking me into jumping?

I decided I didn’t care.


Because in the end I loved myself.

I loved myself more than I wanted to love you.

https://morealtitude.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/evening-star/

The Evening Star

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of posts following a daily writing prompt. The prompts are taken from ThinkWritten.

1. Outside the Window: What’s the weather outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the weather like somewhere you wish you could be?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

I’d need a sweater if I were to stay out much longer. The sun has set, but there’s still plenty of light. The first thing I notice when I get out from under the portico is the evening star, shining brilliantly in a pale blue sky. I smile as soon as I see it.

Swallows, or maybe starlings, are darting around, hunting in the dim light that is something between day and night. They’re noisy and swift, making quick, sharp turns. Someone’s been grilling and it smells spicy and sweet. I look around for the glow of a barbecue, but all the front balconies are still. Though all the parking spaces are occupied and I know everyone’s home, I feel alone.

I shiver, and remember why I came out. Nothing in the mailbox, drop the shopping bags in the back of the car, disturbing the peace with the dissonance of the automatic tailgate’s beeping.

I turn back to look up at the evening star before heading back inside, back into lockdown. It feels delicious to be alone out here. I watch as day ends and night begins. Then I shiver again.

As I turn to go back inside, I think to myself, “Better wash my hands.”

Well that went quickly

And here I thought that being in lockdown would give me plenty of time to write!

Turns out, there’s lots to do when the entire family is at home.

Who’d have thought it, right??

The end is still far…

Our state continues to operate on lockdown, with no word about reopening before the originally projected date of June 10th. At this point, it almost seems like June 10th might be too soon.

We’re currently in week 8 of staying at home, and while some of the days drag by, on the whole the time has gone quickly. As I’m sure is true for everyone, some days are better than others.

Some days we have lots of fun. Other days we struggle to pull ourselves together. Some days we cook. Some days we warm up something frozen or order take-out. Some days leave the house. Some days we don’t.

I’ve written before about tedium and child-rearing. It’s a thing. With the added factor of having to stay at home, some days it has gotten to nearly unbearable levels.

The pressure to keep brain cells active

Aside from reading and activities with the kids, I haven’t done much in the way of keeping my brain cells active.

At one point, I had plans. I thought this would be the opportune time to practice and perfect something. Anything, really.

My Instagram feed has been full of ads for Master Class, spinning tutorials, different crafting hobbies (which conveniently would require me to buy equipment and online tutorials from these advertisers). I could learn Arabic in less than a month (!), or perfect my piano skills using an app!

It’s true that these companies have something right. It is important to keep the mind in shape, not just the body (not that I’ve been keeping the body in shape much, but let’s not go there).

But at the same time, it’s hardly productive for me to put yet another kind of pressure on myself.

And yet…

And yet, I do feel the need to do something. For my mental well-being and to remind myself that I am better at more than laundry, cleaning and cooking.

For those who have jobs that challenge them mentally, this might not feel as critical. But for those of us who stay at home anyway and were already suffering from lack of stimulation, I think it is especially important to activate the brain cells now.

Where to start?

A simple Google search should do it. I can easily get overwhelmed by all the information I find on Google, but a little time to focus and some perseverance should give me some ideas.

I’m thinking of creative writing classes. Has anyone done any? Got any recommendations?