Contaminated by Romance – A Short Story

It was a salsa dancing night in Washington DC that I will never forget. The trombone spoke my language, and my feet listened happily. I had taken the Metro to Dupont Circle, where I was to meet her at 10:30 pm at a place called ESL or 18th Street Lounge. At the bar, the neon lights made her eyes appear brighter blue. She ordered a Maker’s Mark, and with my beer in hand, I could feel the salsa music moving my legs.

Amidst the loudness, our eyes exchanged loaded instances, our telepathic eyes communicating. The disco lights flashed through the room and onto the blue of her eyes. As we danced and laughed, our eyes would lock again in the shadows of the flash, evoking the strangest and most beautiful feelings in me—smiling, sighing, feeling vulnerable yet alive. The music was so loud that we could only speak through our eyes. With each spin, we conveyed thoughts to each other, like “I wish I didn’t have to go back to Miami,” “Yeah, I wish you would stay a little longer,” “I feel so happy right now,” “Me too,” “You dance so well,” “So do you,” “I want to kiss you,” “I hope he kisses me,” “Nah, she would totally reject a kiss…” and we kept on dancing.

The last Metro of the night had just passed, and we continued to dance. Another spin, my hands on her waist, and another spin. I knew there was a pretty good chance I would never see her again. Pulling our bodies together at the beat of the Latin bassline, time went by so quickly. I felt so lucky, yet it all happened so fast. Then I snapped out of it when I saw her come close to kiss me on the sidewalk, saying to me, “Was so nice meeting love, muah…” She kissed my cheek and pulled away quickly, waving a cab. I was speechless, raising my hand slightly to wave and saying, “Yes, nice meeting you too, thanks for inviting me out to salsa!” but she was already inside the cab. I waved one down; the cab stopped.

“Where to?”

“Brookland, please.”

“No, that’s too far for me, sorry.” Then I heard her voice, “You okay there, Oscar?”

“Yep, no worries!” I replied as I waved another cab down, got in, and said, “Brookland Station, please.” I was able to see the tail end of her cab disappear into the cold DC night. Farewell to the girl with the sun in her eyes started playing in my mind. I felt sad and happy. I was just me again, with the fresh memory of her eyes, the music, and the flashing lights. How could time go by so fast? Her name was at the tip of my tongue. I knew I had just experienced a powerful poem on my one and only night out with Felicia in Washington DC.

The next day, I was back in Miami, back on Biscayne Boulevard. My Dodge Dart drove itself to the Bay just to welcome me back. The Vagabond Hotel was just days away, and the sunset colors on the Bay were electric orange and purple. With my eyes closed, I could feel the Biscayne wind reminding me I was back home. I got back in the Dart and headed back on the Boulevard, through the rearview mirror seeing the neon lights of the motels flickering, stopping on red, driving on green, and my memory journeying back to DC. That’s when she texted, “Hi Biscayne Poet! Hope you had a nice flight!”

“Hi! Yes, it was a nice flight, thanks for the salsa dancing!”

“That was a lot of fun!”

“Time went by too fast though, wishing we would have talked more.”

“I know! I was going to suggest breakfast, but I knew you were heading back to Miami early, and it was already super late.”

“Lol, yeah… guess I’ll need to come back to DC for more salsa and more of you!” And for three weeks, we texted back and forth, the texts becoming long phone conversations, and then Skype calls. We developed a routine with good morning voice messages and late-night heavy breathing phone talks. Until one day through a text I told her, “I’m gonna buy you a plane ticket so I can see you again…”

“I wish! I can’t go to Miami now, I’m way too busy here with dance, work, and all, but can you come to me?”

“I believe I can, actually,” I told her while searching online for a plane ticket back to her. I booked a flight for June 25th, and it was only May 10th. Thank God I bought that ticket. I knew there was a good chance I could die of lustful desperation if I didn’t make an effort to see her again.

“Oh my God, thank you for doing that! That’s like 45 days away!! I don’t think I can wait that long,” she said to me, laughing excitedly through the phone speaker. All I could imagine was Jet Blue Airlines taking off all the way from here, back to DC, and onto her bed. Long days that felt like weeks went by dissolving into texts and imaginative projections of how we would love each other come June 25th, but it was only May 12th. The Vagabond was just one day away. Then she called, “Babe, guess what?”


“I’m coming to Miami on June 6th!”

“What? How? No way! This is great!!!”

“I can’t wait until June 25th, so I’m coming to you!”

In a world full of dogs, the thought of staying alone at the Vagabond Hotel, writing just feet from Biscayne Boulevard, with picture-perfect days, pretty women with fashionable smiles, and so much fooling around that an artist like myself could dive into… it was interesting enough. And for the first time in a very long while, despite the distance between Washington DC and Miami, I’m actually happy with this long-distance phone affair with my sweet Felicia.

Yesterday was V Day, May 14th, 2015. My first night at the Vagabond, and to kick off my five-day writer’s residency, my musicians and I had a stellar performance by the pool. It all felt great. We sounded phenomenal, Matt’s saxophone was on fire, Carl’s guitar was smoking, and just like the old days, the poetry-jazz combo was back for one night only, feet from the Boulevard. The Dodge Dart parked on the side of the hotel, my friends sitting at the bar across the pool, and the four water stream strings deep splashing. Today, I can really appreciate the Hotel. It feels beachy, antique, and stylish, vagabondeando with style. And in a way, it’s nice to know there’s a place for hybrid vagabonds like us. It’s been a long train coming and going, with Felicia in my mind, the mid-century modern architecture inspiring the muse. Felicia again enters my mind. It’s this hopeful feeling that pushes us off the cliff, parachuting the vagabond spirit forward.

It’s 12:41 pm.

I leave the Hotel  towards the Dart, and the Coppertone girl with the pooch across Biscayne Boulevard makes me stop. I take a deep sigh, thinking to myself, this is home. I get on the Boulevard heading south, the Dodge Dart cruising. Through the rearview mirror, I can see the string of motels moving, the Biscayne wind in my lungs slowly turning me into a wolf that’s about to howl. Stop on red, drive on green. My memory journeys back to DC, back to that dance floor, back to the salsa moves that I improvised flawlessly, spinning her. Her blue eyes were even brighter in the dark, the flashing lights of the club making her appear and disappear. It all happened so fast. She’s visiting me on June 6th. I’m visiting her on June 25th. It all makes perfect sense to me.

I make a left on 35th street and head all the way down to the Bay, my daily Miami ritual, honoring the story of the poet that falls in love with the shadow of death, the raven-haired beauty that lives beneath the waters of Biscayne Bay, where he was last seen walking alone with her, not fearing her danger. “Now the sun from tower to tower. The hammers. The hammers,” he would say to her, flirting and laughing with lady death, and she would listen. “Because yesterday in my verse, I heard the clappings of your boni palms—and you gave ice to my voice—and an edge to my tragic life. I will sing for you the flesh you don’t have, your missing eyes, the red lips that used to get kisses. Today and from here forth, my sweetness, death of mine. Oh how good with you alone. With these blowing winds of my Biscayne,” he would say to her, from rocks and dreams, on the Bay. A sickness of the poet… I sigh again and smile.

I get back in the Dart and head South on the Boulevard, to 20th street. And right before making that right turn on 20th, I realize I’m not alone in my car. I can feel her sitting next to me. She’s caressing my shoulders as I drive, heading over to Kush for some gator bites and a beer. The muse doesn’t only live beneath the waters of Biscayne Bay; she also lives in the Wynwood wind, in the breeze streaming through my Dart. Immortality could never feel more real. A call to action, perhaps? The lazy wolf syndrome. I knew I needed to get back to the Vagabond and continue writing. Kush is on the corner building of North Miami and 20th street, the same building where Cornerstone used to be. Inside Kush, the wall painting of Purvis Young looked through me, so I turned and faced the window instead, facing North Miami Ave. I continued sipping on my beer and waited for my gator bites. Felicia had just texted me a video of her tango performance in front of the Washington Monument. She looked so pretty dancing in the red dress, a red flower on her left ear. I really couldn’t wait to see her. June 6th was around the corner. The Vagabond retreat will have passed by then, and the Vagabond Hotel book project was already underway. Another Miami river of ink contaminated by romance.

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Oscar Fuentes

People know me as The Biscayne Poet. I write personalized poetry with one of my vintage typewriters.