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Published: December 31st 2019
There’s no way to say it but to just say it I suppose. I started dating someone from my dance group…in secret…and on accident. I know that sounds really weird. Let me explain.
I met him last year back in November when I joined classes at the YMCA. But like I mentioned in my last blog, I wasn’t too impressed with anything or anyone. My instructor made me dance with a chair, remember? And the “already cool people” that the instructor spent the majority of his time with? This guy was one of them. They were awesome dancers but, the class being separated by levels, I would never get the chance to dance with any of them.
However, one of those guys started asking me to dance with him during the breaks. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. He was really tall, 6’3”, which is an extremely rare height for Chilean men. I figured he was asking me to dance so he could practice his moves with a tall female, balancing out his skills. He never asked me my name, I never asked for his, but I enjoyed him taking me for a whirl so expertly
on the dance floor.
Fast forward 6 months.
After a visit to the U.S. for Christmas, a trip to Peru, a visit from my mom, and getting totally disenchanted with this other Chilean guy, I suddenly reappeared on the salsa scene. Then they introduced me to the bachata class, and that’s when I got addicted.
I went to the bachata classes, rain or shine, never missing. I was in love with life. I was in love with dance. And one day, he walked in. It was that same tall guy from the salsa classes at the YMCA. The one who would ask me to dance during our breaks. I hadn’t seen him for months, while I was off traipsing the Americas. And go figure. He was good at bachata too! But that’s as far as my noticing went. We danced with each other in class for about a month, and again, I simply thought nothing of it. I wasn’t there to meet men; I was there to dance. So I continued dancing with blinders on. I wasn’t trying to find “love at the club.”
Until one frigid day in June. He walked in El Cubanísimo
the cold, button-down shirt, scarf, beanie, looking good, smelling good. He grabbed me for a dance and that’s when it happened. I suddenly started feelin’ him. It was out of nowhere! He was the same guy I had danced with at the YMCA but that day, in bachata class, I looked up at him and saw stars.
As our dance group melded together in our shared dance obsession, I started seeing Koke a lot. That’s what everyone called him. But we still never said a word to each other until the 1st
bachata fest, at the end of July. There, I asked him his real name and he asked me my age. Awkward.
The next 2 months continued as they had begun, except something was different. I didn’t enjoy dancing with anyone as much as I enjoyed dancing with him. But unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. Koke, albeit really nice, and fairly quiet, was a freaking cult leader on the dance floor. All the girls were always lining up to dance with him. He practically had a fan club at Join Vito, our Wednesday night club spot. Rarely did he sit. Song after song, if he didn’t
Look at me waiting in line. Haha
ask some woman to dance, some woman was lying in wait to ask him. But the best thing about Koke, he was humble. It’s so common in the dance world to meet great dancers whose monumental dance moves are only eclipsed by their even more monumental arrogance. But he would ask any woman to dance, regardless if she had been dancing for 10 years or 10 minutes.
It seemed like Koke loved dancing with me too, as I noticed he began to ask me to dance more than any other girl. But that was neither here nor there. I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I liked him. Heaven forbid my dance group think I was taking these dances too seriously. Plus, I didn’t want to “pasar el manso rollo
” (make a mountain out of a molehill) by assuming he liked me when maybe we just had a good dance connection.
That’s dancers code 101. Never forget it’s just a dance. You’re like actors in a music video. It’s artistic entertainment. You enjoy it thoroughly but it’s not something you run with.
So around came the infamous 18 de septiembre
, Chile’s week-long independence day celebration. My second one yet. This week always holds such great surprises and this year didn’t disappoint. My first independence week adventure included partying in the basement of a barbershop, after hours,
Picha, Smara and Me
...with that stranger.
with a complete stranger. I didn’t find out he was a stranger until later of course. I thought Picha’s friend, Smara actually knew the guy but come to find out she had just met him online that day. Who does that?? And there we were hanging out and having a dance party in the basement of a barbershop where he worked during the day. So sketchy on so many levels. You know what they say. God protects, old people, babies and fools.
My second independence week adventure, came in the form of an asado at Renzo’s house, with all of our dance crew. These people I actually knew, so gratefully it was less adventurous than the first, though not without. We ate way too much, laughed way too loud, and played games until the wee hours of the morning.
My last, and favorite adventure came on independence day itself. I woke up cheery, loving life, overlooking the colorful hills outside my window. Cuenca
music floated in from the surrounding neighborhood. My host family was scrambling downstairs, the grill’s charcoal fumes wafting in the air, promising. I was stoked. Today I would go to the ramadas
in Alejo Barrio
in Playa Ancha, the furthest hill in Valparaiso. I had to go. It was like the Chilean version of the state fair but cheaper and so much more poppin’. Last year when I went with Elisabet, we had crazy fun. I got dressed and then sat on my bed to check my dance buddies’ group chat on Messenger. Some of them were talking about meeting up at Alejo Barrio that night. I was all about that. People were getting plans together until Maria Jose started making a raucous about how ghetto it was and how she much preferred the ramadas
in the Sporting Arena in Vina del Mar. And surprisingly people started changing their minds. Well, I didn’t. I had already done the ramadas
in Vina (also with that complete stranger) this year and needed to go to Valpo. Plus Valpo had free entry. So I stated that sometimes you need a little ghetto in your life and that I would be going to Alejo Barrio, yes or yes. No one said anything. I put my phone down, resolute. They didn’t know what they were missing. On my way downstairs, to hash out the plans with Eli, I heard a ding on my phone. It was a message from Koke. It read, “If you go to Alejo Barrio tonight, let me know.”
“What?!”, my inner thoughts screamed. No way. Was this THE Koke? The one I had secretly been writing poems about and giving pet names to for the last 3 months? Yes. It was. And it seemed like he was wanting to go to the ramadas
…with me. But one problem. We had never gone anywhere alone before. We were always in the dance crowd. With each other but not really, because we were with everyone else as well. I started sweating bullets. But then suddenly I remembered that Elisabet was going with me. Problem solved. “Okay, cool. I’m going with my host sister,” I responded with clammy hands. “I’ll let you know what time.”
I sprinted downstairs, two steps at a time, to let Elisabet know what was up. Problem returns. She actually wanted to go to Sporting in Vina and not Alejo Barrio... So my mind started working quickly. I had already told Koke I was going to Alejo Barrio. While I was nervous to be with him by myself, I didn’t want to totally wimp out and cancel on him. So I messaged Zumba to see if she was still going. Maybe she could also meet us there so it wouldn’t just be the two of us. Although, deep down, I really did just want it to be the two of us. Dang it! I had already hit SEND. My own fingers were betraying me. Zumba responded that she’d get off of work at 9:30 and could be there around 10:30. Perfect. That would give us time to be alone, but not indefinitely just in case it was awkward. So I messaged him again. “Change of plans, my host sister actually can’t make it. But if you still want to go, we can meet at 9:00 P.M. at Alejo Barrio.” And I added just for good measure, “Zumba will meet up with us after she gets off work.” Boom. Done. He said it sounded good.
So everything was working out just fine until Rodrigo, our dance instructor, started hyping things back up on the group chat. And within a couple of messages, he managed to dismantle all the work Maria Jose had done to dissuade everyone from Alejo Barrio. Now Rodrigo had a group of people hyped and ready to meet at 9:30 at Bella Vista and ride up to Alejo Barrio together. I casually refrained from responding to any of his messages illiciting a mass gathering to go to the ramadas
. I noticed that Koke was unusually quiet as well, seeing the messages but not responding. However, Rodrigo was relentless. Adding 3 questions marks after every question. Typing in caps. Naming us directly. He made it impossible not to respond.“@Chekeitha: Will we see you at BELLA VISTA at 9:30???" “@Koke: Are you going to the RAMADAS???” One of us had to say something! So I did. From Chekeitha -
“@Rodrigo: Sorry! I’m already on my way to the ramadas so I’ll see you guys up there.” From Rodrigo-
“@Chekeitha: WHAT??? You’re going to the ramadas BY YOURSELF???”
*Sigh* He was really going to make me spell it out. From Chekeitha-
“@Rodrigo: …no. I was already going to the ramadas with Koke...”
Apparently that message fell on the group like a bomb, because all that could be heard afterwards was frantic scattering and backpeddaling. From Rodrigo-
“@Chekeitha: Ahhh… So you’re going with Koke… Ya po. Nevermind. 😉”
Then I guess Koke tried to step in to do some damage control. From Koke -
“@Rodrigo: You guys should come. You don’t have to back down.”
But Rodrigo wasn’t having it. From Rodrigo –
“@Koke: I’m going to send you a Whatsapp message.”
What was said in that mysterious Whatsapp message, I wouldn’t find out until way later. All I knew is that when I hopped off the bus at Alejo Barrio, Koke was there waiting for me and none of the other dance people were in sight. It still took me a while to catch on though. We walked around, my arm in his, feeling oddly comfortable. For this being the first time hanging out alone, we weren’t acting like it. We laughed way too hard, doubled over. He told me some deep stuff about his family. And we played games, rode rides, and blissfully ate churros filled with manjar. All the while, I was trying to figure out if this was a date or not. I figured it probably was, because he kept paying for my stuff. *Thumbs up*
Ironically a couple hours later we ran into our dance mates, including Zumba. I greeted them warmly and tried to go with them, but then they all looked at Koke and hurried away. Haha! Koke didn’t even look surprised. That’s when I caught on a little bit more. Our dance cronies were trying to help us out! What did they know that I wasn’t privy of? It was fine. God bless them. I wanted to be alone with Koke anyway. We were having an amazing time and we kept having an amazing time for a whole 6 hours, finally deciding to leave Alejo at 3:00 A.M.
After that, we went and met up with our dance people at El Cubanisimo
, but honestly no estaba ni ahi
. Even with its accidental quality, this was THE best first date I had ever had. And I was on cloud nine.
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