Originally published in the Winter 2006 issue of Arabesques: The Modern Romance


The first time I heard the Gypsy Kings, I was somewhere down, deep, in Andalucía, southern Spain, the land of past conquerors, sultans, conquistadors.   It was hot there, always this searing heat, which during the day danced wildly, reflecting itself off the sand and water, the light fracturing itself into pieces, falling on all those willing or not.   At night, the air cooled considerably, the only light now offered faint by the moon.  Still the previous days' warmth and tomorrow's promise of the same remained, felt through the soles of feet traipsing the sand, wandering the surf, both warmer then than the air above.  

I found myself there, then in Andalucía, somewhere near the Straight of Gibraltar, Cadiz, so close to Africa.  Perhaps that's where it originated, this heat now, though I'm not sure.  What I remember is being stranded there, now wandering with him outside this dusty town the early evening our train had stopped running.   It was the first of many times we'd end up somewhere thanks to circumstance, mechanics, fate.  We'd originally been on our way to see where Joyce's Molly and Bloom had found themselves rolling, falling beneath, entangled in the rhododendrons that held her, her home town – the rock.

Not there yet, he confirmed, before asking me if I wanted to wait along the tracks.  So we could either sit at the station for no known amount of time, to catch our train's replacement if it came, or spend the night in Cadiz, taking the same line leaving tomorrow, departing this seemingly tired town.  And with that, I breathed in, inhaling the smell of salt, thick and heavy; it convinced me to stay.   So I answered him, exhaling "yes, yes, and yes."  And that's where I heard them, here in Cadiz, the Gypsy Kings, golden tones reflecting the day's light; and it was here I learned to Salsa, spinning sand flying, still hot, even when stripped down by the surf.

So, there was a festival that night down on the beach, bands playing, and people whirring, grounded only by the bell sounding time.   We happened upon it, really.  We'd found a room in a tiny villa, a sign hanging from a small banana tree, in letters spelling out "accommodation."   So after a cold shower to erase the dust, no hot water here, the sun had begun to set and Dona Maria, of de Casa Maria, "accommodation," told us we should wander down, take the board walk out, find the festival below.   There would be food down that way too, fish caught and roasted with sea salt over the drift wood washed ashore.

You could see the fire, smell the years of old olive wood burning, becoming one now, flickering in time to the faint beat playing below.   Stepping onto the sand, it grew stronger, this rhythm you could taste it in the wine, a Chianti, flowing freely from open bottles and passed out by the sons of a man, Don Amillo; he owned the vineyards we'd passed on our way in.  

So I drank, drank in the salt, the heat radiating up, drank in the intoxicating abandon of the other women, wearing little to nothing, gyrating below, shoulders held fast, solid, moving together with the fire, amongst the men, before collapsing in the sand, between the dunes below.  

It was hot.  The heat too intense, so I motioned him away, wandering now into the surf.   "Follow me, darling," I called to him.  Follow me out to the edge of the world, into the watery depths, this origin of exploration and empire.   This place, marked by waves alone, where Asia, Africa and Europe meet, the heat of the Mediterranean crashing into the icy waters of the Atlantic.  And so it was here I heard them, too.  The Gypsy Kings playing ashore, their rhythm pounding out the current, the power of three continents, washing me up to my waste, now splashing near my shoulders.    

And it was here awash in these worlds, shoulder deep in the current that I slipped, falling backwards into him.   Completely submerged, he pulled me up again, carrying me, tight to him, this time moving back towards the shore.  Yes, yes, and yes. And he was warm, now warmer than the sea, engulfed in sand and surf, the taste of salt and the sounds of Salsa.