Yeah Write Me!

by Amy Issadore Bloom

I wrote this piece as part of the Yeah Write Me Super Challenge. We had 48 hours to write on the topic of “discomfort.” (Of course, that meant about 2 hours before the deadline for me as I couldn’t get away from my kids that weekend!)

Discomfort at the Feria

I lifted my arm, and Jen gasped. She was my best friend from childhood, my partner in most things, and my roommate in Spain.

“I’m sure it’s not that bad” she assured me when I first confessed my new problema.

Under my right armpit was a huge wet spot. It was like a middle-aged PE teacher sweat ring.

“What about the Feria?” I asked. She assured me there would be so many other things happening at the famous spring festival, that nobody would notice. Plus, after a few rebujitos (a dangerously delicious mix of 7Up and sherry) I wouldn’t even care. Still, I bought special deodorant from the farmacia – a conversation none of my classes or guidebooks had prepared me for.

The Feria of Seville was like the prom and a wedding all rolled up in one. It’s a huge deal, with months of preparations building the fair ground, decorating the pavilions, and putting together your outfit.

Up until the sweaty pit, I assumed my biggest anxiety would be over dancing the Sevillanas. According to the website, Andalucia.com “The Sevillana was originally a courting dance where the man sets out to woo the woman in a display similar to two mating flamingos.”

The men do sort of remind me of a cross between a flamingo and a matador. But, the women carry themselves with a stunning grace and confidence – like they were just born to do this dance. They claim the key to the hand movements has something to do with picking an apple, but I feel like something gets lost in translation.

While Sevillanas has evolved into something more casual and friendly, the steps do tell a story, and follow very specific moves and rhythms. It’s a lot tougher to fake your way through than say, the hora at a Jewish celebration.

That Andalusian gypsy music stirred something in me – the desire to write poetry, to talk to strangers in a foreign language, to drink ridiculous amounts of wine, to be more promiscuous. I just had a real hang-up about the choreographed dance, the Spaniard looking deeply into my eyes, the rest of the crowd watching.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. My friends spent weeks before the Feria, teaching us the steps of the dance. Concha, normally more reserved than the others, was like a Russian ballet instructor – cigarette between her fingers, puffing smoke into the air, calling out, “vuelta! vuelta!” Turn! Turn!

Jen loved dancing, and was confident in her body movements. Everyone was impressed with how well she learned. Though for all the shit she took for her short blond hair and careless grammar mistakes, Jen was due for a break.

When the first day of the Feria arrived, I looked in the mirror, and saw an incredibly authentic looking woman from Seville looking back. My traje gitana was yellow with polka dots and lots of ruffles. I loved the manton – a beautiful light blue shawl with fringe. My hair flower was yellow, and so were my chunky earrings and bracelet. I wasn’t so sure about the shoes, chunky-heeled espadrilles, but everyone wore them.

Concha, Pillar, and Rosario were glowing with pride as we took off that first night. They loaned me the dress, took me shopping for accessories, and spent hours at the coffee shop educating me about the customs. (Not to mention those dance lessons.)

We took a walk around the fair grounds. Going to the Feria is like stepping back in time – men on horses, women like models from a middle school Spanish language book. Lights and paper flowers hanging above you.

For reasons I still don’t understand, we left this beautiful surreal atmosphere to go to a botellón. This is basically a group of young adults standing around drinking from plastic cups. I guess it’s cheaper. I never liked them. At the Feria, it seemed out of place.

None the less, I drank my whiskey and Fanta like a champ, as I had been doing for the past six months. Everyone commented how beautiful I looked, how much I fit in – which is exactly what I thought I wanted when I moved to Spain.

I shared the brown eyes, brown hair, and bushy eyebrows of most of the girls from Seville. I adapted a southern Spanish accent, wore tight clothes, got tan. But still, I always felt like a foreigner – wearing jeans when everyone else wore a skirt, wanting to drink cappuccino when it was time for beer, being vegetarian in a country were jamón was like a religion, feeling shy when back home I could chat with anyone.

But on this night, I felt like maybe I did belong. When it was time to return to the Feria, I felt giddy, confident, perhaps even ready to dance. I turned to wave goodbye, and in one fatal step, all of my efforts came crashing down. I was the center of attention – the clumsy foreigner – before I even had a chance to dance Sevillanas and lift up my sweaty arm.

It’s debatable whether it was those damn espadrilles that didn’t fit properly, or a poorly placed empty whiskey bottle – but I fell with a thud that became legendary among all of the spring festival stories shared around the town.

Despite the pain in my knees (or maybe because of it) I popped up quickly, hoping nobody saw. But everybody did, including Jose, my sort of ex-novio, who came rushing over to valiantly help.

The fall was intense, leaving black skid marks from the pavement on all five layers of my dress and crinoline. My knees were bleeding and swollen within minutes. I lost the ability to say anything – in English or Spanish.

“Dolor? Barbara asked as I tried to hide in her arms.

“Si, pain.” I replied, and paused to find the word I was still looking for.

Jose knew. Vergüenza, he suggested. Embarrassment, shame.

Yes, indeed.

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