salsa salsa salsa on toast
Picture this: it is the beginning of September, the city of Edinburgh is crawling with nervous freshers ready for a week of intensive ‘bonding’ and heavy binge drinking in the hopes that someone (please, anyone) will want to be your friend and save you from the sudden, crushing realisation that you know no-one… and there is only one bathroom.
Ah, freshers week, it really does just paint a picture all on it’s own. The chaos! the pandemonium! the wide-eyed terror as practical strangers, united only by their choice of city and unwillingness to fully enter the ‘real world’, instead choosing to settle into this somewhat cushy new level of independence, we now must battle to find those life long friends everyone told you could only ever be achieved through entering those hallowed halls of university (plus the £9,500 entry price – pretty expensive friends if you ask me…).
It is such an acute feeling, this sudden disconcerting degeneration and wham! You are back in school, saddled with a shit-ton of pre-pubescent ache and filled with a deep anxiety about having to make entirely new friends from what feels like thin air. A task which feels daunting to the best of us, especially when you are much, much older and far past the point in which ‘no way! but purple is my favourite colour, too!’ is a solid foundation for a friendship. That black hole in the pit of your stomach as you look around at the motley lot of prospective friends (and, naturally, the handful of sordid enemies) and think, ‘but what if I don’t like anyone?’ Or the subsequent, and far, far worse thought: ‘what if no one likes me?’
Now, the point of all this traumatic stumbling down memory lane, is one in which I, perpetually startled and earnest fresher, made my first proper friend at university. How on earth did I do it? Well, let’s just say that it began with a misunderstanding, that turned into a lie, that ended with lots of salsa dancing.
I feel I must preface this by stating that the lie in question was not really a lie. It was more of a product of the aforementioned misunderstanding, that then bloomed into a deep, dark, long-held, never to be uttered aloud secret. But, now that I am safe in the knowledge that I have successfully swindled said targeted-friend into unwittingly becoming my for-real-friend, I think now is the time to tell this story.
We open on a scene much like any other freshers week, at any other university, anywhere in the country. This one, however, just happens to be set in Scotland, and so you must understand that it is fucking freezing, and much like penguins in the arctic, this fresh batch of desperate freshers are just looking for something to cling onto.
[ Camera pans in on the shot. Two freshers sit at the sticky table in the communal kitchen. There can be absolutely no doubt in the viewer’s mind that these are student digs, aka. the cesspit of subhuman-standard living. The unsightly 70s style raisin plastering and manky, mysterious-stain coloured carpet have fled here to escape the cruel scrutiny and modern intolerance for the passé nature of such abhorrent design choices. ]
Fresher #1 is seated, though due to her overwhelming anxiety surrounding making these fellow freshers her friends, she is quite jumpy and now appears to be preforming some kind of seated interpretative mime dance.
Fresher #2 is considerably more cool and effortless, though slightly more shivery (for, as I will come to learn, this Southern dwelling gal is always cold, and is perhaps the only person I know who will wear her heavy, woolen winter coat in spring).
[It is cold, and the frost is actually appearing on the inside of the window. Both of our freshers seem to be staring at something on the floor.]
Fresher #2 : *shivering quite loudly* What do you think that stain is?
Fresher #1 : *pauses for a hot sec to consider* Urmm… kinda looks like blood.
Fresher #2 : Oh, whew! I thought it was sick or something. That would have been gross.
Fresher #1 : Yeah. So gross.
[Beat of silence. Fresher #1 wracks stupid brain for something cool and disarmingly impressive to say. All she can think about is how the stain looks kind of like Jesus on the Cross. Is this a sign? she thinks giddily, but Fresher #2 has other ideas.]
Fresher #2 : So, there are lots of societies and things we can join? Have you seen any that you might try?
Fresher #1 : *panicky* Yup, I… urmm… yep, I think I might give that Japanese Medieval Yoddling one a go…
Fresher #2 : Oh, yeah! I was thinking about that one too. *shivers violently, as though struck all of a sudden by an idea* You know what could be fun? Why don’t we join the Salsa society?
Fresher #1 : *enthusiastically, and drastically misunderstanding* OMG! Yes! That sounds amazing! I love salsa!
[The onlooker may discern that Fresher #1’s excitement stems from the fact that she believes the ‘salsa’ of which Fresher #2 is referring, is in fact the one you eat, and not, as Fresher #2 actually means, the style of dancing.]
THE INNER MONOLOGUE OF SWEET IGNORANT FRESHER #1
Holy shit! This is great! She wants to be my friend! And, even better, she wants to go to the salsa society! I mean, I haven’t heard of it, but what could there be not to like! I guess, we like, meet up, and learn all about different kinds of salsa, and then make some of our own- and, of course, lots of eating salsa! Yum! And then there’s the accompaniments, the array of salsa accoutrements- the tortilla chips, the tacos, the-
[OK, I think that’s enough of that. Back to the real show.]
Fresher #2 : That’s so cool! *does not know they are talking about two drastically different kinds of societies* Have you ever tried it before?
Fresher #1 : *far too enthusiastically, and still wildly misunderstanding* Tried it?! Of course I have! I love it! It’s so tasty!
Fresher #2 : *laughs* Ahhaaa. Yeah, el sabor right?
Fresher #1 : *laughs, slightly confused, still barking up the entirely wrong tree* Yeah, haha. Salvur, right!
Fresher #2 : So, it’s on a Wednesday night- should we go and see what it’s like?
Fresher #1 : *trying to stop the tears from falling as she is so overcome by joy at having a friend* It would be an honour and a privilege to go to the salsa society with you.
Fresher #2 : Sweet!
[Next scene. We fade in on our two freshers, one donning her best dancing shoes, the other donning her most forgiving jeans. They enter the student building. Salsa music blares, Fresher #1’s first clue.]
Fresher #1 : Wow. They must have started already. Sounds like they’ve got some kind of major sound system set up.
Fresher #2 : Well, yeah.
Fresher #1 : Tunes while we chew! Haha!
Fresher #2 : …..
[Clearly, this university’s admission policy has gotten lax… OK, clue #2 for Fresher #1 : they enter the room to find a circle of people all staring into the centre, where two people are entangled in some intricate form of movement, some may refer to as SALSA DANCING.]
Fresher #1 : *thinking she’s being rather funny* I guess they make us dance for our supper!
[Oh, Fresher #1…]
Fresher #2 : *looking down at her feet* I hope these shoes will be alright.
Fresher #1 : *looking down at her own feet* Well, I reckon we can outrun anyone here to get to the last servings. Look, that girl’s even wearing heels! Haha-
Very energetic, very Scottish man with microphone : Hellloooooooooo ladieeeeeesssss andddd gentlemeeeeeeen! Welcome to your first Salsa class!
Fresher #1 : *the truth slowly dawning* …. Oh…..
Very energetic, very Scottish man with microphone : *does a little jig on the spot*
Fresher #1 : *the truth approaching at sudden speed* … Oh….
Very energetic, very Scottish man with microphone : I hope you all have your dancing shoes on! It’s time to get down and funky to some salsaaaaaaaa!
Fresher #1 : *now fully aware of the truth* Salsa!!
Fresher #2 : *laughs* Yeah, salsa. What do you mean, ‘Salsa‘?
Fresher #1 : Oh… nothing… just… Salsa.
And thus, ladies and gentlemen, the truth dawned, the music played, and I was forced to dance whilst my poor stomach cried out for the salsa it was promised.
However, this one misunderstanding did in fact lead me to something that would prove to be much more fulfilling. Although, for the first while, it was hard and I felt uncoordinated and constantly in doubt over whether I had truly learned my right from my left. But, after a while, the salsa got into my head. I mean it. It was like some kind of witchcraft. The steady rhythm of the clave, the way you could turn and be spinned and spinned and spinned- like you could go on for days.
And, of course, it had brought me my dear friend Sofi. I only recently told her the full story, confessed the deep, dark, never to be revealed truth of our first real friendship foundation. She thought it was fucking hilarious, which, let’s be honest, it is pretty funny. And now, I love salsa. And I have made the most amazing, wonderful, dancing friends (because, we must face the cold hard fact that whether it be salsa or not, if the music is playing we will all be dancing like lunatics).
In conclusion to this tale of salsa on the dance floor, I must confess that that this experience taught me some quite handy things. And I feel that I am now aptly equipped with enough hindsight and wisdom to summarize them as thus:
- Sometimes in life, mistakes, misunderstandings, or miscommunications, can lead to the most unexpected and exceptional of places. Try and go with the flow- you may just end up with some new friends (though, I cannot promise that they will be as fabulous or as salsa skilled as mine)
- Lying can actually be quite lucrative! You’ll go far in life with a bit of harmless omission here and there. Seriously, kids, give it a go!
- Salsa is not just a delicious creation intended for consumption. Oh no, sir. Salsa is much, much more.