Thursday night at Club Q. I take the salsa lesson, along with some of the usual suspects and a few newbies: a couple of women who are fast learners; a Latina, who's got the moves down pat and has probably had them since long before her birth; and the Latina's companion, a gringo with no rhythm, lead feet, and a low tolerance for his own ineptitude. We move through the lesson more slowly than usual.
In the women's restroom, where I go to freshen up, hangs a poster announcing that tonight is a 5-DJ-Birthday-Celebration. This is confirmed by the appearance of a ton of equipment, which is being set up on the stage even as I re-freshen. The music starts and dancers begin trickling into the club.
My "old" friend, dancer extraordinaire, and recent college grad Kim is back in town. Tall and strong, he greets me by literally sweeping me off my feet, with a grand reunion hug.
The music booms so loudly that Kim winces and cups his ears. I happen to have an extra pair of earplugs in my bag, so I gift them to him. With our earplugs blocking all sound (with the exception of the blaring music), we resort to lip-reading and sign language. We eventually give up all attempts to communicate, as lip-reading and signing are difficult to do while one is twirling or being twirled around the dance floor.
Kim dances with me several times. A natural salsero, he is even more adept than I remember and has progressed way beyond my ability to follow his intricate moves. I remain on my feet, but just barely.
I dance with others throughout the evening. At one point, Kim approaches holding his ear -- which is still, incidentally, attached to his head. He has, it is obvious, lost one of the little green earplugs, which are prone to popping out of one's ears and under someone's shoe while one is executing complex turns.
"Wait," I tell him. "I think I've got an extra."
I locate my bag, which I'd stashed under my jacket and street shoes, and take it to an area where there is enough light to allow me to scrounge around for the earplug. After about 30 seconds, I fish out the spongy item -- and with a flourish and a triumphant "TA-DA!" -- I hand it to my friend. Kim is so grateful that he hoists me into the air again.
Upon consummating this transaction, I realize that, in the midst of this shadowy, bouncer-filled club, a-swirl with dancers and drinkers; with police stationed outside and with plain-clothes officers (no doubt) stationed inside, preparing themselves for multiple and sundry trespasses of local, state, and national laws; it is only then that I realize that the little scene in which I was the principal player could easily be misconstrued, misinterpreted, and mistaken for a drug deal.
Several moments fraught with fear and paranoia ensue and pass. When I am neither detained for questioning nor hauled off to the police station nor revealed on TV news as a woman of a certain age dealing earplugs, I return to the core of why I am at Club Q on Thursday evening at 10:45 p.m. I am no dealer but I am addicted -- to dancing.