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Published: January 3rd 2021
Sunset on the Beach
Clandestine meeting #2
After our secret date at Alejo Barrio in Valparaiso, our clandestine meetings continued. However, I still didn’t know what we were doing. Nothing had been declared yet. Did Koke like me? Or were we just two dancers enjoying hanging out in secret during the daytime?
A week later, the group was proposing meeting up at the beach, yet no one could solidify the plans. I had been dying to go to the beach and so had Koke apparently. He messaged me privately again and we went together. Long after the sun left the sky we were still lying in the sand laughing and talking and then he treated me to lemon pie at Bravissimo. No one in the group knew about it and it was exhilarating.
The next week, emboldened, I slid into his DM and we went out for sushi. After the meal we meandered through Valpo for hours while a thousand percussion ensembles paraded through the streets, their tribal beats pulsating. Walking arm in arm with Koke, we conversed about everything under the sun as we enjoyed Los Mil Tambores.
Eventually, his best friend and his girlfriend picked us up off the street to hang out
with them. When they dropped me off at my house that night, I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe it. I had hung out with Koke for 9 hours and honestly hadn’t even felt it. It was becoming quite apparent that the connection we had wasn’t just on the dance floor. It was in real life too, and in other settings. Maybe we were on to something.
Whatever this was, I wanted to keep it a secret. I didn’t want it to be awkward in the dance group if it didn’t work out. Because if it didn’t, it was going to super kill the atmosphere. The only thing worse than dating drama is dating drama with an audience.
So then Bachata Fest rolled around. Only one of my favorite events of the year! A full weekend of gallivanting around Santiago, the capital of Chile, late night dance socials, all day workshops, sharing meals and a hostel with my dance friends. It was like being back in college again only better. It was like studying abroad again. My eyes had stars in them just thinking about it.
I threw my stuff in a bag and
hailed a colectivo.
I couldn’t wait!
But as I wound down the hill on the way to the bus terminal, my excitement mixed with uncertainty. I seriously didn’t know what my relationship status was. Were Koke and I dating?? I was okay wandering in that weird space of not knowing as long as it was just the two of us but now that we were going to spend the entire weekend with mutual friends, I didn’t know how to act.
I thought about the night of Los Mil Tambores. In his friend’s car we had held hands for the first time. Arm and arm slowly slid down into hand in hand. My cheeks burned furiously but I was too thrilled to move my hand. But then we didn’t mention it afterwards.
"So who in the world should I sit next to on the travel bus to Santiago??", I thought. It would be weird to not sit by Koke but I didn’t want to be obvious either. As far as I knew, our dance friends still knew nothing and I desperately wanted to keep things on the DL (down low). But to not sit next to him would
feel like a betrayal of all the time we had spent together.
“Arg!” I grabbed my bag and entered the bus terminal. I guessed I would just sweat it out as I went. I greeted everyone warmly and we hopped on. But then Koke ended up missing the bus anyway, so that decision was made for me.
When we got to Santiago, we all met up at the metro station to then go our separate ways until the dance social that night. Something happened with the hostel and so we had to scrounge to find somewhere to stay that first night. It was decided that me, Koke and Maria would all stay that first night at Koke’s cousin’s house while the rest crashed somewhere else. I met his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend, ate once
with them and still didn’t know how to act at all. So I just acted like any old dance mate. Haha
We met up with the rest of the group for the dance social at 11 pm and man, Koke was super affectionate. Some people were noticing and I was stressing out because keeping things off the radar really wasn’t working out
as I had planned. When the social ended at 5 am, Naty came back to Koke's cousin's apartment with us because she didn’t have anywhere to stay for the night. Maria and I shared the couch and Naty commandeered Koke’s bedding. Therefore Koke slept on the bare, livingroom carpet with no pillow and no blanket. Poor him! But such a gentleman though! Haha
The next day, we had workshops at 12 pm which meant we only slept a measly 3 hours. Yet because of the excitement of bachata fest I woke up more charged than ever. Before the workshops, some of us wanted to eat, some didn’t, insisting that they didn't want to be late. However, Koke, Naty, Rezo, Maria and I went to eat. I personally didn’t care if we were late. There was no way I was going to do 7 hours of dance workshops on an empty stomach. Haha Nope! Wasn't going to do that. And turns out that was the right decision because only 4 hours into the workshop, the majority of our dance crew, including the instructor were DYING. Rodrigo was literally laid out on some chairs, wilted like he was going to melt
into a puddle on the floor. It was hilarious. I scoffed and told him he should have went and had some of that chicken.
Anyway, back to my love story. On the way to the workshops, Koke unabashedly grabbed my hand. That's when I started to panic a little. I didn't want to snatch my hand away as if something had burned me, but I didn't want our dance friends to see. So I tried to be sly. I put our hands in front of us and then squeezed next to Koke while our friends walked behind us, so that our hands were not visible to them. Then when our dance friends walked in front of us, I scooted away and then put our hands behind us. I felt so silly but that’s all I could think to do. However, once inside the workshops Koke was kind of up on it which was really cool but again I was stressing!
After the workshops, we were happy and famished! The ones who hadn't eaten were more famished than happy but that's besides the point. Haha! We all decided to have buffet sushi around the corner. The entire day had
been dreary but while we dined it got extra cold outside and a dense fog descended. Rodrigo and some others stayed behind doing only goodness knows what. Koke didn’t have a coat. Ricardo didn’t have a coat. Maria had a thin sweater and my coat was thin as well so we decided to get out of there and book it back to the hostel. Koke grabbed my hand again and I tried to do that thing I did earlier. But now we were with a different set of people. And that's when I thought, “screw it. It’s obvious at this point.”
As we walked, it was heavily cloudy and the rain began to drizzle. I put my hood on my head. It was so cold but at the same time it was very refreshing to just walk and hold his hand. In that moment, I just accepted that people knew something was going on. It was done for. I scooted away and let our linked hands be clearly seen. I didn’t know what we were and I didn’t want things to end up in flames but life is taking risks. No risk, no reward either.
That's when things
became comical. All of a sudden Renzo and Simon who left the sushi joint after us, came sprinting across the street, dashing through the park, hauling booty, pell-mell towards the hostel. They were evidently freezing their butts off and so had decided to run. But the funny thing is, just so happen both of them were wearing florescent lime green shirts whose vibrancy comet-ed across the damp, and otherwise muted scene. They literally looked like two runners who were losing a marathon or something! They jumped and leaped over hurdles in their way, ripping across the park. We and others looked on agape until they had cleared earshot then we busted out laughing!
After that, some kind of way Koke and I got separated from the rest of the people we were walking with. We were a few blocks from the hostel when suddenly he looked down at me and said “I have to tell you something.” I looked up and met his gaze. It was really drizzling now, the air had become more frigid and there we were holding hands on the city sidewalk, alone, as the sun was setting. He looked at me and said, “I need
to tell you that I like you a whole lot and for a really long time I’ve been wanting to do this.” At which he grabbed my face and kissed me.
I kid you not. It sounds like I’m making this up but it’s as if someone had hired Hollywood. The moment could not have been more perfect. The rain came down leaving all the city skyscrappers stark and glistening. The last rays of sunlight lustrous on the asphalt. An effervescent kiss and a confession of admiration from the guy I had furtively liked for months!
We held hands and walked to the hostel. Isa, Priscilla and Gonzalo had just gotten there. I think they took a taxi from the sushi joint. Smart. They saw us and their eyes bugged out as the realization dawned on them. Haha This would be the expression we’d see many more times as Koke and I continued to go out over the next couple of months, always somehow running into another dance buddy who didn’t know and was caught off guard by our display of affection.
That night we went out to another dance social but this time I relaxed completely.
He had confessed. We had our first kiss. It was so gloriously out there.
On Sunday we went to the workshops again and on Sunday night we all went to a culminating masquerade ball.
But as thrilling as bachata fest was, nothing can compare to the slow, unfurling reveal of this new relationship culminating in a big confession in the rain in Santiago about 3 blocks away from our hostel. As the memory of the bachata fest and its revelry slowly fade, the memory of my timid suitor working up the nerve to confess his feelings will never fade.
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