When I met Mauricio three months ago, I filed him away as a tall, smiley lawyer with a skinny dog in tow.
We swapped numbers then, but only spoke for the first time last Tuesday, when he called me during lunch.
I was stuffing my face and struggling with Spanish.
“Hey Vicki, how are you?” he chirruped.
“How come you didn’t run the 10k with Diego on Sunday?”
I almost choked on my chips.
“Haha, very funny,” I spluttered.
“You know I spend my days drinking coffee and eating cake.”
He interrogated me about my Spanish before eventually asking if I was free for coffee that day, after university. I wasn’t, but the following day I found myself walking from campus to Mauricio’s office, which just happened to be close to the little bar where I learn salsa.
Even better, we’d agreed to meet on a Wednesday, exactly an hour before my weekly dance class.
I found the office – with help from the needlessly detailed text he sent, in which he described the building as ‘neo classical’ – and we gossiped and drank tea at his desk for 45 minutes, before I decided some mischief was in order.
“You wanna do something fun?” I grinned.
“Maybe have some beers?”
“Sure,” the Colombian replied. “Where?”
“Oh, I’ve seen a little place near here. Never been in, but it looks fun from the outside,” I lied.
“What kind of music?” he asked, suspiciously.
“Electronic, I think,” I lied again.
But, of course, my cover was blown the moment we stepped through the door. The barman, Julio, greeted me warmly and slid two salsa class tickets across the bar.
“You tricked me,” Mauricio groaned, shaking his head.
I wanted to gloat but before I could reply, I spotted Lina.
She is one of my closest friends at salsa, even though she is just 19 and can’t speak a word of English.
“Vicki,” she yelped, running over to give me a kiss.
“Why do you look so pretty tonight?”
Now it was Mauricio’s turn to burst out laughing, while I turned red and muttered something about looking the same every week. Thank you Lina.
Still, the Colombian soon recovered and insisted he’d never attended a salsa class and wasn’t about to start.
Fortunately, I know their weaknesses.
“Oh, that’s fine,” I smiled innocently.
“To be honest, it’s a really hard class. The teacher is practically a professional. I mean, I’m okay because I come here every week… but you would probably struggle.”
Of course, we danced the whole class.
“This is a funny kind of electronic music,” Mauricio grumbled halfway through, but he was grinning from ear to ear.
Salsa does that to you.
Still, it was two hours before we flopped back to our table.
“I can’t believe you tricked me,” he laughed ruefully.
“I really enjoyed it, but if you had told me it was a salsa class, I would have refused to come.”
“That’s why I didn’t tell you,” I laughed, shaking my head.
“No seriously,” he grinned back.
“One of my friends has tried to get me to a class all year and you manage it on our first date.”
(“A date?” I thought. “What?”)
“Don’t you have a girlfriend?” I frowned, remembering our conversation some months earlier.
“Yeah, I do, but we’ve been together for years which is why I like dating other women,” he replied, shamelessly.
Ahhhhh, welcome to Colombia.
Sensing my weary amusement, he began to regale me with his misadventures – including the time his girlfriend demanded he choose between her and another woman.
“But I want both of you,” he claims to have replied.
His girlfriend promptly threw a drink in his face and sent him trotting into the arms of the other woman. Two weeks later, he returned to his girlfriend, incensed that the other woman had wanted him all to herself.
As the story drew to a close, I looked at Mauricio closely.
You’re a smart, funny, easy-going guy, I thought. You’re relaxing company, you laugh a lot, you’re as tall as me and you are not exactly unattractive.
I am never going out with you again.
It was as if he’d read my mind.
“So are you going to help me prepare for my English exam?” he asked seriously, eyebrows raised.
No, no, no, no, no.
“I’ve even got a little proposition for you,” he continued, grinning wickedly.
“If you help me with my English, I’ll take you away to Medellin for the weekend.”