A Sultry Salsa Affair Beyond the Panorama June 1, 2020

A Sultry Salsa Affair

beyond the panorama

My next-door neighbor is a strange, old man. The last bit of black desperately clings to his head, and his 1950s moustache reminds me of the horrible stench of aftershave that I could love if used by him. He’s old and strange, but I am lonely and the little notes he leaves at my door give me the thrill of a forbidden love story. 

It’s all a fantasy though. Our love isn’t forbidden; I’m old enough to make decisions for myself and am free to love and commit to whomever I desire. There could be a number of reasons for that; one being I am a two-time divorcee, and secondly, I live in a one-bedroom apartment, cut off from my parents who never cared for my far-fetched dreams of a big city life. 

On this dull Wednesday evening I return to my humble palace, covered in dust and filth, lights flickering and bugs buzzing. I notice a snack box left at my main door, accompanied by the celebrated notes I’ve come to love so dearly. Immediately, the familiar scent of coconut curry floods the house and I hurriedly unfold the piece of paper.

After reading its contents I gasp and throw it away, overcome by anxiety and restlessness. He told me in his broken English that he’s a big fan of Mexican culture, and to impress one of his cousins coming all the way from Amyerika, he wanted to learn the salsa. 

To put it modestly, my acting career didn’t take off as I expected. But in my zeal and passion, I took up a few tango lessons. How different could they be? 

Quite different. No number of Youtube videos taught me how to balance my feet correctly, and the intimate moves were nearly impossible to master without a partner. I had two days to perfect my skill, and every twist and turn, each note of the trumpet made me dizzy with the thought. 

Come Thursday night, I had a dress ready- cherry red, cut in the right places, and covered in the right. A co-worker gave me lessons during office hours, and I had conquered the basics of the sexy dance form. Priding myself on my newly acquired skill I was sure I had better command over this intimate dance form than Mr. 1950’s moustache. He was awkward and stiff, the only flexible thing I ever saw him do was bend to collect his newspapers from the doorstep. Surely a middle-aged Indian man with a belt pouch and collared shirt couldn’t match up to my coordination and expressions. 

Hope to see you tonight! Was the Friday evening note courtesy of next-door neighbor. I was a tad bit nervous but excited nonetheless. I could hear him blasting Spanish songs through the roof, and the pungent smell of sour cream plagued the entire building. 

The floor rattled rhythmically from the bass, and I knocked on his door with clammy hands and a nervous smile. I felt a little exposed in my tiny red dress and stilettoes, especially when I saw the man behind the closed door.

His mouth fell open as he examined me from top to bottom, and I couldn’t help but mirror his expression. He looked as plain as ever, in his customary collared shirt and ironed pants, along with his belt pouch, of course. His eyes grew double in size, and he let out a choked gasp- as if he had never seen a woman before and wanted to cover his eyes. 

Desperately, I tried to cover my torso with my hands as I looked behind him at the guests who were to join us tonight. Clad in simple clothes and horrified expressions, I could almost cry from the humiliation. 

Stuttering and stammering all over the place, he opened his mouth and closed it. Once, twice, several times. Then in a voice no louder than a whisper he spoke, “I wanted to learn the salsa”, as he pointed at the chips and red dip in his hands. 

Nandini Sethi
Nandini Sethi

Sometimes dolefully insightful, sometimes plain distressed state of mind, but always love. I think there’s a bit of love in everything we write. 


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