There was no alcohol at the refreshments stand (Salsa dancers rarely drink—they need to concentrate). For the rest of the evening, Tara and I sat and watched, like nerds at the prom. I knew I'd disappointed her, but I was too miffed to say so. I'd proved my point about dancing, and felt lousy about it. A girl with flashy moves kicked me in the leg as I sat there, a moment that summed up my night perfectly. Why Geeks Are The New Chic
I wish I could say we came together at home, that we reconnected over the shared awkwardness of the night. But Salsa hadn't sparked romance, or steamy passion, only steam. We took our usual battle stations: my general mopey-ness vs. her pointing out my general mopey-ness. "I hate it when you're so negative," she told me. "It affects me." Somehow a night of Salsa had become a referendum on my failings as a husband. I needed to make amends. And make a new salsa memory.
I got my chance the following week, at Session 73, on the Upper East Side. Ten bucks each bought us an hour lesson with other Salsa wannabes, before the serious dancers rolled in. Boys and girls were separated. Hector, a man wearing white, pointy loafers that curled off the ground and made him look like a Salsa elf, taught us dudes the basic step, the cross body, and a right turn. On the other side of the room, I could hear Tara. She was her usual effervescent self, laughing, asking questions, making friends. And I, practicing my bumbling cross body, was struck by how impossible my life would be without her. Read: More Evidence Opposites Attract
My pulse jumped when they announced we'd be rotating partners. I didn't want to dance with anyone but Tara—I mean, she had to stick by me, sickness and health, bad Latin moves and all. But dancing with the girls in my class turned out to be a tonic for my insecurity. They didn't know how to Salsa either. One poor creature, eyes downcast behind oval glasses, was too terrified to move. She bobbed in place, and whispered, "thank you," when it was time to rotate. And I don't like to brag, but one girl told me I was the best partner in class.
"Rotate," Hector shouted, and I found myself standing in front of my wife.
"Hi, I'm Tara," she said.
It sounds cheesy, but I think pretending helped. I didn't have to be that guy from before, that joyless wonder. I could be: the best partner in class.
"I'm Craig," I said, and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you."
The music started. I still couldn't feel anything. But for a minute there, for a few sultry counts of eight, we were dancing.