By Adriana Paramo–
Zumba Class, YMCA, Lakeland, Florida
I think my Zumba instructor knows me. I think she is a witch, some sort of sorceress that scans my heart as soon as I enter the gym. You see, she seems to know exactly what I need and it worries me that I’m so transparent, or that her sorcery is that potent.
On days when my heart puts on weight and I can hardly contain its heaviness in my chest, she plays calypsos, sometimes from Trinidad, sometimes from Tobago, Brazilian sambas and merengues from the Dominican Republic.
Not nice, gentle merengues that you can sway your hips to or follow with a flutter of your feet. No. That would be too common. She plays the angry type called perico ripia’o, which she must smuggle straight from the slums of Santo Domingo.
A musical concoction so intoxicating in its temperature-rising effect, so balmy on my forehead, so risky to maneuver, so incandescent, that by the time I came out of the class, the sun was peeking out from behind gray clouds and the ice was beginning to thaw out in the strawberry fields.
On one occasion, burdened by the loss of a loved one, I dragged my feet to class, bloodshot-eyed and wary. Instead of seeing me, I think she saw grief, which she seems to be allergic to.
Quickly, she pushed some buttons in her iPod, her antidote to everything gloomy, and filled the room with the ferocious drumbeats and the clarion of a high-pitch cane flute of a Colombian cumbia. I let me hips go, undulating and fluid.
I glided over the wooden floor, my pelvis swayed back and forth, to and fro shamelessly. My African ancestors possessed me and my feet spoke their tongue.
I sashayed at the waist like the Yoruba brought to this land in chains did when their masters were asleep. I made mine this cadence that is purely black, not Indian or Spanish, but ebony from the belly of our mother continent.
I invoked the grace of Yemayá and the powers of Changó and before the end of the song, the orishas had welcomed me in their family like a prodigal daughter. And from the safety of their home, with each step-step-glide, step-step-glide, I unburdened my heart little by little until I felt the last remnant of sorrow leave my body.
Adriana Paramo is a creative non-fiction writer residing in Florida.