Yasmin Ramirez


Yasmin Ramirez is a native El Pasoan. She stays active in the literary community and writes And Then, a weekly blog. Her work is featured in: HUIZACHE, Hispanic Culture Review, and Cream City Review, among others. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. Currently, she is an Associate English Professor at El Paso Community College and also serves on the board for literary nonprofit BorderSenses. She is completing her first book of creative nonfiction titled, Por Un Amor. Visit Yasmin's website to read more about her and links to her work. www.yasminramirez.com 

La Sabrosura


         Era jueves. Thursday. And Diego, like every other week looked forward to this day more than any other day. Claro, que everyone looked forward to the weekend, but the weekend were just days. Jueves, was where it was at. Era lo maximo. Era dia de bailar. Tu dices baila, pero Diego dice dance and baila and anything else that shared that tan tan he felt in his heart when he heard those salsa beats. Los bongos. Las congas. Las maracas. Las trompetas.

         El ritmo. 

         That’s what it was. It was all those sounds and moves and tan tans de su corazon rolled up into one, and as Diego walked down the busy city streets with his messenger bag holding three shirts bouncing against his left thigh, he grinned with excitement.

         When he got to the front of Son Havana, el barsito mas chimba en todo Medellín, the anticipation he’d felt all day spread from the pit of his rounded belly down his hips through his legs and up into his heart that he swore sometimes matched the beat he heard in Rubén Blades, Héctor Lavoe, and Cheo Feliciano songs.

         His heart beat salsa El era sabrosura.

         Anyone who knew Diego, felt it too. Whenever he heard the music something changed in him. His stocky frame became graceful, light, and his feet glided from note to note without effort. Diego danced like some people breathed air.

         When he stepped into the narrow doorway and smiled. He was already nodding to the music playing overhead. He shimmied through the small round tables and uneven wooden chairs to the rhythm of the song. When he saw Balotelli, the bouncer with skin the same color as the famous soccer player, he winked without losing a step.  The set up didn’t seem to have any arrangement other than to leave a walkway through the long narrow building towards the back where there was a little more room to move and dark stairs that led to a bathroom. Diego placed his messenger bag on the counter, leaned against its edge. He was ready.

         The music was loud. Lights had dimmed. After songs by Celia, Ruben, and Willie the people who filled the place swung in and out of the haphazard spaces as if they didn’t even exist. Tables were all topped with mojitos, medias de aguardiente, and rum. So much rum. In the center, a table of middle aged salseros sat passing a bottle of caramel liquid like they would have passed a dance partner. People sat, walked, and moved around the band in the center of it all. The lights gleamed off their brass instruments and the already shiny head of the singer.

         Diego twirled a blonde woman back and forth moving and shaking. It was the second song he’d danced with her, but her heart didn’t beat salsa. Diego knew as he guided her que ella no, no lo tenia. La cosa. La sabrosusa.

          Diego glided, se movia, el si bailaba, the way the songs deserved, no begged, to be danced. Even when his button down had become untucked, and sweat stained the center of his chest, he only stopped moving from partner to partner for a second to change into one of the three shirts he’d stashed in his messenger bag. Now, clad in a blue t-shirt, he was fresh and ready.

         Son Havana was bursting with people, todos moviéndose, bailando, como si fuera el fin del mundo. Inside the only thing that mattered was el ritmo, the thing, esa cosa that some feel y otros nomás no. Hips rocked and dance partners spun. High heels were traded for tennis shoes and third and fourth rounds were ordered.

         Diego’s blue shirt had turned navy, and he changed into his second dry shirt a dark red v-neck when the band took a short break. That’s when he saw her. Sandra. His beat was off from the music for the first time that night. He knew he might see her. At first, he’d looked for her each time he’d spun toward the doorway, but then he’d lost himself, as he often did, to the music.

         But, now she was there in front of him dancing con un man que no sentía la salsa. Sure, he danced, pero no la sentía como Sandra la sentia. Como Diego la sentia. Eran dos lados del mismo disco.  He knew it, and she denied it, but moments later when the beat slowed and the people sat to take a break and drink from their watered down rum glasses, she went to him. They didn’t say anything, but simply stood in front of each other on the small rectangle dance floor carved out in the back where he’d first been.

         She grabbed his hand, and they started to move. Short then long steps back and forward. Back and forward. Moviéndose. Los pasos sharp and clean. People turned to watch them as they did a spin ending with Sandra bending back about to touch the ground. But, Diego held her cradled from the neck. Then up. And back. And turn. Paso atrás y adelnante. For the duration of the song it was just them. Bailando como si no hubiera nadie. Sus corazones al mismo ritmo. But then, the song ended.

         Sandra stared at Diego’s face, her hand still resting on his chest. He opened his mouth to say something, but she just shook her head and moved into the crowd. The band was ready to play again and it was easy to get swallowed in movement. Diego wanted to move toward her, but he knew this dance, too. When the blond from earlier tapped his arm, he nodded. They slid across the tiny space between other dancers that bumped one another without apologizing, but it wasn’t the same.

         Méndiga, Sandra.

         Even though he wasn’t looking he saw her white and blue flowered dress move in and out of the crowd as she went from partner to partner. In and out. In and—

         For a moment, she even came back to him, and they danced another song, but when he tugged her hand for her to stay, she gave him a small smile, and shook her head. They moved from person to person even as the crowd began to thin and the salseros, esos salseros who didn’t care that tomorrow was a work day, gestured to Ballotelli for another media.

         Diego’s shirt was a deep burgundy now and even though he had one last dry shirt in is bag hidden in the corner, he didn’t care. He was too busy bailando. With each spin and twirl of the beautiful women in front of him, his heart tried to forget the synchronized beat he’d felt with Sandra. It almost hurt to know that she was out there, but could never be his. He’d done a good job messing that up. Now, she just danced with him every now and then when they found themselves on the same floor. Thursday was his night, but he knew she’d broken the unspoken rule because of the live band full of famous musicians playing tonight. He should have known. He’d been so caught up in the sabrosura, he’d forgotten he might see her. Eso era. 

         The night was late and even though he wanted to stay, there was just enough space on the dance floor that he always saw the blue and white flowers as they moved. His shirt felt hot and sticky. All the heat that he hadn’t been aware of earlier came at him all at once, and he just wanted to get out of the small cramped building. He looked at the people still twirling and swinging in and out, and he just wanted to be home. He grabbed his messenger bag and made his way out into the fresh air. 

         He felt a chill in the open air even though it was warm. His damp body made sure of that. But even halfway down block, the memory of when the blue and white flowered dress had been his to hold all night was still quickly twirling in his mind. He thought about how he’d woken to Sandra next to him and the dress had been crumpled on the floor from where they’d hastily taken it off the night before. He could almost taste the sweet salty flavor of her in his mouth if he squeezed his eyes hard enough. But, that dress had stopped being his a while ago, and no matter how much it hurt, he had to let her go.

         He still heard the echo of the music from Son Havana even though he felt he’d been walking awhile. The music wasn’t from the band though, it was the music he felt, the one he heard all the time, el ritmo that his heart beat when he heard the music. La salsa lo llamaba. Diego paused and looked up and the down street. He ran his hand through his damp hair and grunted as he turned back.

         More people had left. But, he had no problems spotting the dress spinning on the dance floor. He moved and stood in the center of the space and stared at her with his thumbs in his pockets. He had to wait until the song was over, and even though there were women he could ask to dance, this last one of the night, el ultimo tenia que ser con Sandra.

         When the music changed, she moved away from her partner to Diego. She hadn’t looked at him once, but he’d known she felt him just like he felt her. For him, it would always be la salsa primero pero con Sandra the two came together. He placed his hand on the small of her back and didn’t even bother taking off his messenger bag. It wasn’t going to be that kind of dance. He looked at her and this time she didn’t smile. What he felt was the mess of love and hate and la cosa que tenían con la música, que tenian juntos, was there in her dark eyes.  He didn’t know if he’d ever find that again, so he kept coming back.

         Los dos kept coming back.  


© The Acentos Review 2017