It's hot tonight in the Salon de Convenciones dance hall. No, I lied; it's sweltering. There's no air conditioning, and the ceiling fans are working so hard they're running out of steam.
But not so the fans of dance. A thousand or so people cram into two huge rooms, one featuring a live band playing mostly danzon, the other showcasing a group playing salsa and cumbia covers. It's 7 :00, already too late to find a table untaken, a seat un-sat-in.
I pick my way through the salsa room, looking for people I know and a place to stash my sweater and Japanese fan and to change into my dancing shoes. A male acquaintance shepherds me to a table where two women are waiting patiently to be asked to dance. As I swap my footwear, we introduce ourselves. Then I'm off to salsa.
The place has been renovated since I was here last year. The formerly cracked and pitted linoleum floors are newly tiled in shiny white and black, and the ceilings are hung with some sort of sculpted black and white architectural forms. Everything looks fresher and cleaner -- except for the dancers, myself included, who are dripping like sea lions just up from the ocean.
In addition to six or eight old and young dance buddies, I've attracted a new, sweat-soaked partner who helicopters five feet around my table, trying to catch my eye. I take frequent trips to the ladies' room, to escape his steady, sweaty gaze.
Whenever I'm not dancing or escaping, I spend time inching around the peripheries of the dance floors, searching for my daughter and her friend and his friends, who may or may not be coming to meet me. Along the way, and despite my honest protestations that I really do not dance danzon, I end up danzoning part of the evening away, anyway.
I tell everyone to keep an eye out for my daughter.
¨What does she look like?¨ they all ask.
¨She´ll be the prettiest woman you see,¨ I tell them. ¨Long, thick, black curly hair; coffee-colored skin; dark brown eyes...¨ I haven´t even finished, but they're all on the look-out and can´t wait to meet her.
I stop to watch the best dancers do their moves. Five gay guys are putting on an electrifying show. Energetic, sexy, creative, acrobatic, they´re putting everybody else to shame. I want to ask them where they learned to dance. I want them to teach me. I want to dance with them. They don´t ask me to.
One of my young friendboys grabs my hand. We locate a spot in the corner, under a fan, where we actually have room to maneuver. He´s fun to salsa with, and I´m really getting into the swing of things when I suddenly discover why this coolish corner is relatively empty.
Friendboy flips my hand so that my back is facing him and my face is facing the men's room, to which there is no door. This ¨open-door¨ policy yields a direct view into private moments that nobody should be privy to. As I catch sight of a line of huge, hairy bellies, I thank fate for contact lenses that have not restored my vision to 20\20. Still, truly horrifeyed, I fight my partner´s lead in an attempt to turn around and away.
Friendboy wants another go-round, but I want to move out of the line of sights. I also realize that FB has been dancing with me a little too often, smiling at me a little too much, looking into my eyes a little too intently. I send him off to find a younger partner. When he returns, after just one number, I tell him to ask the two women at my table to dance. One at a time.
It´s 9:00. My daughter and friends have not showed, or they are lost among the pulsating crowds. I head for the subway, in the company of several of my friends.