In The Time Of Heartache
Written by: Lorraine Avila
Mama used to tell me stories to scare me into keeping my legs closed.
One was about the time Petan ran her into a rushed arranged marriage with Papa
because the Devil’s brother had fallen for her dance from afar.
“Dancing is liberating,
pero para nada silve si el compañero no es para ti.”
What I got from that narrative:
Dancing can become a prison.
But Americans hardly listen,
So I’ve been dancing to wrong tunes for much longer than I once envisioned
Searching for a fitting dance partner–
one who doesn’t step on my toes,
one who doesn’t turn to shit at the sight of the leader in me.
I’m not sorry to let down my Dominicaness
I love dancing only when I want to dance.
Exhibit A: I danced a decade long merengue with my ex
Only because the Bronx raised me thoroughbred
I didn’t pop like guitar strings.
Called it quits
and sat down only when I felt like it.
Exhibit B: I’ve lulled others with my dances around the truth.
I was brought up with the belief that too much of it hurts,
so I’ve dizzied myself into break-ups, make- ups,
until there is nothing left to make up.
But lately my body has been following a merengue that has grown at the base of my heart.
Marching feet from cage to liberation’s gates,
the beat has positioned me as an observer to everything,
and one thing out of the dozen that has got me fucked up
is the ways this generation does love.
Reconstructing love as complex for the sake of tightening our schedules and managing it.
Was it our cheating papis and our “to lo hombre son iguales” Mamis
that made us forget that love is the process of flowering?
Care, affection, and attention will fall into an everlasting flow
on the dance floor only
when soul is goal.
In the potential of this statement is where I’ve left hope.
Millennials man, how did we end up like this-
Dancing with people like we’re being forced at a family party.
We don’t want to feel because it feels too real–
in our fear
we thirst for love.
We sprouted in the 2000’s.
When modernizing meant romance turned robotic,
and even though our people couldn’t get down like that
we went on typing love letters out,
erasing them, only to retype ‘em
on notes and copy and paste’m hoping someone got the message.
And when it all falls down time after time,
we sit on the why.
Still the congos won’t stop to give us a moment to get the heavy off our chest.
Too busy in the rat race trying to prove that we are better than race.
Imagining our sentiments are like the repetition of la güira,
letting chances go to waste.
Because we’re still young, ain’t that right?
Chances will rise at the same momentum they fell.
we can create love on a screen;
the digital sea is said to be filled with pixeled fishes except even there BP has killed more than a trillion,
so the chances have dropped–
that doesn’t make us rethink giving up.
I got into a dance on a foundation made of hot ice with a boyman this year. The tambora beat is calm in me now, but for a while my stomach twisted when I got a student with his name or when I heard about the part of the Caribbean his family came along with. I googled the conditions to the symptoms forgetting his training- pretending it could be anything but what those bachata songs say. I wanted to swipe him out as quick as I swiped him in, but the Dominicana in me doesn’t operate on herself that way. She must mourn injuries even when the tongue rolls soy el principio y el final with conviction.
On the brightest days,
I have held onto hip-hop lyrics as my scriptures,
knowing that the 5th element- knowledge- heals everything.
The lessons move in my hands,
I shove them in my pocket
plan to take them out and gulp them down with the hunger of a ciguapa when another comes in.
Cause I’m a Millennial- God knows we always have other opportunities
to get into that warm, tight dance that connects me back to
Mama’s voice on her stronger days.
Bio: Lorraine Avila is an educator and writer. You may follow her on IG at @Afrociguapa