Traveling isn’t always going to reach Before Sunrise levels of romance, okay y’all? Sometimes you wake up in the morning realizing that last night’s daring flirtation was actually a sloppy mess. I guess we can’t all be Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
Remember that ‘sexy’ dance you were doing? Well, it turns out the robot and the twist don’t mix. That classy pickup line was incoherent to everyone but you, and you smeared your smokey eye down your cheek.
And your dignity? Blown away in the Spanish winds.
Sure, I’ll bet that some of y’all are smooth operators, mustachioed gentlemen sweeping dancers off their feet, dazzling divas who make a room hold its breath, and so on. Maybe you’ve never experienced this type of embarrassment. If so, I offer you my congratulations, for that is certainly not me. I am the chunky to your smooth, that type of peanut butter you bought on accident and forgot in the back of your pantry.
And this crusty jar of nut butter should’ve never hit the dance floor.
The incident in question happened when I was fresh off of five months studying abroad in France, hopping around Europe until starting a pastry program in July. I met up with my friend Alaina to stay with her friend Paloma in Alicante for Les Fogueres de Sant Joan, a week-long festival of parties and fireworks that culminates in a series of intricate wooden sculptures set aflame.
Incidentally, if anyone out there is from Alicante and wants to contribute a history of this festival, please do!
The three of us got dolled up for the first night of the festival and headed out the door around 10:30. This was intimidating to me, dear grandma Julia, as typically I’d have already been asleep for half an hour by then. Still, I hitched up my stockings, spit out my dentures, and wobbled down the street in a borrowed pair of heels.
Our hostess’s friends met us on the way, and they swooped in with smiles, Spanish, and kisses on our cheeks. I stopped in my unsteady tracks and looked down at my wrinkled dress, a bit out of season, a touch ripe after weeks bumping around in my carry-on. Then I scanned their impeccable outfits.
They were lovely. I thought to myself that they could’ve been models, then found out later that one of them actually was. They spoke a musical Spanish, none of which I understood, and fanned themselves gracefully in the heat. Lord help me.
I returned their smiles, feeling like a grinning Quasimodo in comparison, and managed to not turn around and go home immediately. Quite proud of myself for that.
We got to our barraca, a sort of fenced-in party zone with tables and a dance floor, and tore into our tortillas de patatas, drinking freely in the open air. An hour or so into the revelry, I saw him across the crowd, the unfortunate subject of this article. He came over and spoke to his friends at the table with a strange mix of awkwardness and misplaced pride. He was tall, lanky, a little pale. His sense of humor didn’t much click with mine, and we barely spoke anyway. Even if we had, my Spanish didn’t go much beyond ¿Dónde está la biblioteca?
Still, he seemed attainable, somehow, and that’s all I needed to come down with a hazardous crush. This guy would just have to be my spicy foreign fling, whether or not we had any real chemistry. How dreamy.
I spent the first two nights getting acclimated to the art of late-night partying, staving off sleepiness and shooting what I thought were seductive looks at the mystery man. In hindsight, those ‘looks’ may have been more like creepy gawking.
It wasn’t until the third night, my last, when I decided to make a move on him – a horribly misguided move. Alaina and I had purchased 1-euro corner store wine that tasted like gasoline, and instead of pouring it out, as any rational person should, we decided to just drink it faster. Get it over with, right?
Mom and Dad, if y’all are reading this, it isn’t your fault.
You really did raise me better. Sometimes kids are just dumb.
I hit the dance floor like a squirrel trying to climb a greased bird feeder. Man, I had a goal, and I was going for it – to be the embodiment of the flamenco emoji – but there was no way I’d ever get there. I aimed for Dirty Dancing. I achieved Robbie Rotten.
And then there he was, this poor unfortunate soul, coming to join the circle of beautiful dancing Spanish women, plus me. The time had come. Grandma Julia had gone to bed. Sexy Julia was out to play.
(Spoiler alert: no. no, she wasn’t)
I lead him by the hand out of our circle and into a far corner of the dance floor, surrounded closely by strangers. Understandably, he was bewildered. For what felt like an hour but was probably less than a minute, I wiggled and waggled in what I was sure was an irresistible dance. Turns out it was very much resistible.
Also, I may or may not have whispered in his ear, “I’ll show you how an American dances.” However, you cannot prove that, and I’ll deny it to my dying day. Regardless, my apologies to America.
Believe it or not, he escaped me. Wild, I know. After looking nervously over his shoulder, my victim said something in accented English about needing to see a friend and disappeared into the crowd. I slunk back to my group and shouldered off their questions, defeated.
Later on I noticed him hanging close to another woman and figured ah, that solves it, then. He was already seeing someone, so that must’ve been the reason he rebuffed my advances. Surely it wasn’t my jarring approach, cringey dance moves, and painful pick-up line. I can’t be sure, though.
It’s a mystery the world may never solve.
So good luck out there, single travelers. I wish you right swipes galore and night after night of thrilling, safe, consensual flings, if that is what you seek. May you dance well and flirt successfully, with a lover in every city. I, on the other hand, will wrap myself in monogamy and cling tight to a relationship that began slowly, over months, with no dancing until he was in too deep to escape me.
Just as it should be.
Grandma Julia’s here to stay.