Baila Mi Hermano is one of those old-school salsa songs that I will always, always hear at any salsa party in Cairo. I could be dancing salsa at Bellini on a Tuesday night and that song will play. I could be sitting at Nile Maxim on Wednesday and that song will play. I could be standing next to the DJ booth at Bian Caffe on Thursday and I can put my money on it, that song will play.
I don’t especially hate that song, but I don’t especially like it either. I don’t have any idea what baila mi hermano means in English, and I certainly don’t have the time to google translate that now because, speaking of the devil, that song starts playing on cue and it is absolutely no good for drowning out creepy guy number four who starts sprinting towards my direction in an attempt to ask me to dance. So, I quickly maneuver to my table and dig my face to a slice of pizza.
“I’m eating. Maybe later.” I say between mouthfuls that my voice sounds chewy, wet, and stuffed all at the same time. The disgusted look on creepy guy number four’s face is priceless! He gives me an uncomfortable nod then turns around. I think he gets it now: later means never.
I have been dancing salsa long enough to know that there are only two types of guys at any salsa venue–there are the guys who I say yes to because they are there to dance, and then there are the guys who I say no to because they are there for something else. At the moment, there are seven guys who belong to my guys-who-I-say-no-to list and about 100 different ways on my how-to-say-no-to-guys-who-I-say-no-to list.
No, I’m having a break.
No. Maybe next dance.
No, I’m smoking a cigarette.
No. I’m too tired.
No, I told Alaa that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told Mokbel that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told [Whattheheck?! Insert any guy friend’s name here] that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I don’t like this song.
No, my dancing shoe broke!
No, I’m eating. (Even though there is absolutely no more slice of pizza left on my plate.)
No. No. No.
But saying no is not the only thing that I know and absolutely not the only thing that I do. I also know the seemingly new faces that pops at a salsa event every once in a while. I know because I am watching closely. I am watching closely not because I am creepy, but because I have been dancing and observing the same people at least two nights a week for the last three years that I can tell who is who just by looking at their shoes. So, if there is a new shoe on the dance floor and that new shoe is killing it, I’m hoping those shoes are from a guy who I can potentially say yes to. But how can I say yes to them if they never ask me to? And if they never grow the balls to ask me to dance, then the answer is always a ballsy no.
However, there are occasions when I do the asking because chivalry is apparently dead and forgotten. Nine out of ten times, I would get an easy yes. No sweat, except when–
“No, Pam, I can’t. I promised Radwa I will dance with her on the next song and this is the next song. Sorry, habebty, next one,” Amr says when I tried to pull his hand to the dance floor the moment Adele Set Fire to the Rain. All the guys who I like dancing with are already doing cross-bodys and underarm turns, and whatnots on the dance floor while I sit on my spot and watch as one of my favorite salsa remixes goes to waste untouched and unloved and unjustifiably danced. The one out of ten times that someone says no, and it has to be on an Adele song!
Despite this minor glitch, I do love going to salsa parties because it can be the only social thing that I do and it can also be the only non-social thing that I do. Usually, when I walk in at a salsa party, I always feel like I’m walking to a red carpet night minus the red carpet designer long gowns and paparazzi. I say hello to everyone and do the cheek-to-cheek a bazillion times before I can find my seat. Or everyone will come and pull me for a quick hug and howareyous before I can change into my dancing shoes. As much as salsa dancing is very social, it could also be very anti-social. Once DJ Migo starts blasting music in the background, that’s the cue for everyone to shut up and start pairing up on the wooden floor. So, for someone like me, who always fails at small talks, and who thinks silence is awkward, dancing salsa is the best bet. I don’t have to speak more than six words to people who aren’t my friends and who I have no interest in being friends with. I can just simply say a non-committal hello, or shrug, or nod, or wave, or smile, or not smile, and no one will think that I’m being rude. In fact, no one would suspect that I’m being rude. It’s like, yey! I get to be rude in your face and you don’t even know it! Awesome!
I’m not forced to be with anyone either, yet I am here with everyone at the same time. I can be an insider as much as I can be an outsider. I can introduce myself to new people, start chit-chatting with anyone at an arm’s length. I can connect and totally disconnect. I can give a fuck and not give a fuck. There will always be loud music playing which means I don’t have to deal with the silence until the party ends, and even then, the silence won’t be so bad because I’ll be huddled and snuggled, and cuddled to goodbye hugs and drowned to seeyounexttimes that it won’t be totally silent at all.
It’s just the best of both worlds for the social-non-social me, and that is probably why I keep coming back every Thursday night even though Bian Caffe is a two hour drive from home on a really bad day. And even though I don’t drive. And even though the only person who can possibly give me a ride home tonight has said no to dancing with me when Adele Set Fire to the Rain, and is still, in fact, dancing with Radwa even after Adele’s voice fades out and Yo No Se Manana fades in.
He better say yes to driving me home tonight!