Latinera

WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE, in this very same venue, some of us even wearing the same flashy outfits as the last time. When I say “we,” I’m not just talking about the Wives (which is what we call ourselves, whether or not we possess an actual marriage certificate), I mean everyone: salseros, nonprofit drones, ethnic imposters, lesbians. We are all always the same.

Or we will be, when everyone arrives. Right now this lovely old dance hall, with its red velvet banquettes and gilt mirrors, is empty and harshly lit, with cables crisscrossing the dance floor; it’s a disenchanting sight, like a drag queen without her wig. The guys are onstage, setting up instruments, testing mics, prodding monitors, cracking wise. I have just greeted my beau with a long, stagy kiss before walking over to the Wives’ table. The other women coo their big-sister salutations as I approach, vying for my attention; even they, who ought to know better, want a piece of my man, and I’m as close to him as they can get.

I take my seat at our designated table and ready myself for what’s sure to be a long, dull night. Men rarely ask me to dance at these gigs, not wanting to disrespect Josh, and it wouldn’t be fitting for me to get up and dance on my own. And chitchat with the wives—with anyone—is nearly impossible once the music starts. There always comes a moment, however, late in the evening, when the lulling-pounding rhythms and harmless carnality overpower everyone, and eventually I’m infected, too, over here on the sidelines. It is then, watching all these revelers, that I can almost believe what they believe about me: that by securing the love of Josh Gonzalez—bandleader, community activist, heartthrob, forty-seven-year-old homeboy—I have achieved a superior life; I’m done; I’m happy. I need that now and then.

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