I’m dancing with the girl in yellow, pivoting and swirling, a little surprised that she had returned but resolute that this dance will be better than the last.
She smiles and matches my movements, following more closely than last time, more easily picking up my improvisational dance movements over my more traditional and flawed Latin dance moves from 15 minutes ago.
And then she’s a fist.
Or rather, where she was just a moment ago is a fist. A fist that connects with my right cheek. Boom.
I’m confused for a moment and then I realize that the guy in gray is standing in front of me, ready to hit again, and my gay posse is holding him back, dragging him away from me and from what he clearly wants to do: hit me again and again until I can’t dance with his girl any more.
The Other Club
The night started like any other since I’ve been in Lima. I was sitting at my laptop, desperately trying to find a way out that would circumvent the transportation worker strike that had kept the country in gridlock for the better part of a week.
A new acquaintance who I’d helped set up his WiFi connection the day before comes up to me and introduces himself, first names finally exchanged. He goes upstairs and friends me on Facebook, sending me an instant message and inviting me out with him and his friends to a bar a few blocks away.
My stomach was a little tremulous (as it had been since I arrived in Lima) but I decided to go out, desperate for some excuse to separate myself from the hostel where I’d been cloistered since I arrived many days before.
I put on my leather shoes instead of rocking the flip-flops I’d been sporting since I arrived and it turned out to be a good idea. It was a club, not a bar, and a gay club at that. People were fancy and I’m was feeling not fancy.
But apparently I was looking fancy enough, because the attention was becoming overwhelming.
A lot of people — men and women — started accidentally bumping into me and striking up conversations, or staggering my way with extra drinks they happened to get from the bar.
This wasn’t terribly uncommon at such places, but it was a little strange in the moment. I hadn’t showered that day and was only prepared for a sports bar or something equally low-key.
The Girl in Yellow
But then I noticed a girl. She was wearing a yellow 80’s oversized shirt and shiny black leggings. She was kind of my type. She was dancing seductively.
I took the opportunity to clarify for my compatriots that I wasn’t gay, but that the girl in yellow was the kind of girl I was into if they wanted to be my wingmen.
Chica Amarilla (yellow girl) and I exchanged eye contact a few times from across the club, but that was it. When she walked our way, my new friends made sure to find out what she thought of me.
My new friends declared themselves to be my gay posse, and everything seemed to be going splendidly. She was kinda’ into me, too, and her gay posse seemed to approve as well (very important).
In South America, it would seem, it’s not good to show your hand before you rummy. For me to express too much interest would be a death warrant, and she would be bored before we started.
I rail against this rule and then try to accept it. I went into this night with no expectations…it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I were to ignore this girl and nothing were to happen.
She sways by from time to time, and then my friends tell me that the party is moving to another club. I’m game. I consciously don’t look her way as we leave to see if she notices.
Oh, the games we play. I’m so bad at this.
Knights and Dragons
We walk 4 or 5 blocks across downtown Lima to a place that is even more fabulous than the last. Apparently that other club closes at 3, and this one closes at 5. “What time is it?” I say in Spanish. “Three,” one of my friends replies.
After about 20 minutes at the new club, which is medieval themed, Chica Amarilla shows up with her crew of two guys, the Guy in Grey and another, less description-worthy fellow. Both sit down at the bar and she starts dancing.
I’m noticing her out of the corner of my eye but disciplining myself into not ogling.
I’m dancing with my friends and she wanders over. One after the other they dance with her and I finish my drink as I wait my turn.
I step up to bat and the DJ is playing a distinctly Latin beat. I do okay, but I give myself a 5 out of 10, tops. She clearly ranks me the same and heads back to her crew, scooping up the non-Gray fellow and starting to dance.
I head back to my posse, defeated and let down, sipping more beer as it’s handed to me and dancing up a storm. The music shifts and I’m feeling it. This is a good thing.
She’s watching from across the club and I know it. I’m ignoring her pretty well (my ignoring skills are up to a 7 out of 10 on a good night, after this many months in Argentina). After a little while she comes back over and gestures at me with her finger. “You, over here” it says.
I come over obediently (after a few minutes of dance-foreplay), moving in sync with her rhythm. The floor opens up a bit.
After a few minutes, out of nowhere, a fist claps my right cheek and it’s over. Damnation.
My first response after the Guy in Grey hit me in the face was to apologize. I realized what was going on pretty quickly “Oh shit, that’s probably his girlfriend.” My bad. Lo siento. I didn’t realize.
But my friends, after pulling him back from his assault, said that this would be no good. “He’s a local and has the bouncers on his side,” they said. “And he’s just jealous..she did this to you. She told him that you touched her ass or something like that and he hit you.”
I was flummoxed.
“Can you go over there and tell him I didn’t realize she had a boyfriend and that I want to buy him a drink?” I begged one of my compatriots.”It’s just a misunderstanding I’m sure. I hate to feel like I can’t go over to the bar because he’s sitting over there.”
They weren’t having it. He was itching for a fight, they said, and she was itching for attention from her man. It was a setup, this kind of situation. To keep the passion going in a relationship. I had provided the fuel for them, and that was that. Anything else I might do would only make things worse.
They pulled me away to leave and I didn’t look over to the Chica Amarilla or the Guy in Grey. I felt betrayed by both, one for using me to feel loved and the other for ruining my opinion of his city.
Update: November 26, 2016
Yeesh. This was a weird night, but I cringed at the telling of it more than the memory of the night itself.
For a while I was convinced that this was the kind of thing my audience wanted to hear about. These are moments everyone has, and in the ‘writing about travel’ and ‘location independent entrepreneur’ scene, this was the bread-and-butter of what brought people back.
It’s the sort of writing I left behind years ago. Not because there isn’t an audience for it, but because it frankly doesn’t interest or inspire me in any way. Yes, these things happen. But does every moment need to be shared? No. Does it add anything new to the conversation? Sometimes, but rarely. I would argue that this story doesn’t, really. I’ve written other pieces about how dating works in Argentina and other Latin cultures, and those, to me, are more helpful and informative. This alludes to some of those things, but doesn’t include as much context as I would have liked.
But this is why I’m doing these updates; in part to add some commentary from the future, and in part so I can see how I’ve grown, personally, as a writer and as a human being.