Flamenco is the perfect art form for people of mature middle age. The music and movements express profound sadness, passion, joy, grief and love. To communicate all that requires a deep well of experience that takes years to fill.
After my friends, Marlys, and I had both turned 50, we decided our wells were sufficiently filled to take on flamenco. We’d gather once a week for private instruction in my small dance space with Diana, our instructor. We’d clack our castanets, snake our arms around our bodies, stamp our feet, whip our shawls around. We made lots of noise and sent riotous amounts of emotion bouncing off the mirrored and brick walls.
Four years into this, when we had evolved into a tight threesome, when I was still a happily married woman, we hatched our plot, polished to perfection over the next two months of classes. The deadline was the birthday of Peter, Marlys’ husband.
Birthday night the two couples; Marlys and Peter, Diana and Chuck; show up at our door with their contributions to our Spanish-themed dinner. We eat the ensalada de temporada (tomato salad) and the paella and sip the Rioja, and during the lull before bringing dessert to the table, just as we agreed, I set our plan in motion.
I excuse myself from the table, go up to the second floor, drag the big round ottoman from the den into the center of the dance floor and dump a pile of silk scarves onto it.
I call downstairs to my ex-husband, “Alan, could you please come up and give me a hand with something.”
He shows up, a puzzled look on his face. I place my fingers on my lips. “SSSh,” I say. “Don’t say a word. Sit down.” He complies. I pull his hands behind his back and tie his wrists together.
I call downstairs again. “Marlys, we could use your help.”
She comes up, waits a minute, calls out, “Peter, you’ve got to come up and see this.”
Peter appears at the top of the stairs. She covers his mouth with her hand, pulls him over to the ottoman and pushes him down next to Alan. She ties his wrists behind his back with one of the silk scarves and uses the other to tie one of his elbows to one of Alan’s elbows.
We wait silently. Two, three minutes pass. We hear Diana say to Chuck, “I can’t believe they’ve just left us here. How rude! Let’s go check out what’s going on.”
From the top of the stairs, she guides Chuck to the empty spot on the ottoman. He says, “What the heck?” as she pushes him down. All three men are laughing now as Diana ties Chuck’s wrists behind his back, one of his elbows to one of Alan’s and the other elbow to one of Peter’s. There they are, our three husbands, all trussed up, looking at us expectantly.
I pull our three flamenco shawls from the closet. Diana just brought them back from Seville, Spain. Hers is yellow with silk flowers in pink, blue, red and purple embroidered all over the surface. Marlys’ is black with deep red embroidery. Mine is also black, with gold embroidered flowers.
We station ourselves in three corners of the room, each of us standing in profile in front of our own husband. Each shawl is spread in a large triangle on the floor at our feet, each of us holding hers by a corner of one hand extending out behind her.
The tableau is set. Our husbands stop talking and laughing. I press the button on the CD player and a deep, cracked, ancient voice fills the room.
Slowly, just as slowly as the song builds around us, we draw the shawls up our bodies. As the shawls move up our backs and towards our shoulders, we stride in a circle around the three men. We hold our heads high, arch our backs, thrust our breasts forward. We don’t look at the men. It’s as if they don’t exist. All our concentration is focused on the shawls gliding like living creatures up our bodies.
Simultaneously, guitars break into the song, the shawls come up our shoulders, one end is flung over the opposite shoulder, we spin to face the men and stamp our feet, one loud bang with our right foot.
Now we’re off. For the next three minutes we spin and swirl around our husbands. The shawls fly over our heads, flare around our waists, caress the floor at our feet, hug our hips as we shake them at the tied-up men.
At a point in the dance the focus falls on each one of us separately. The other two fall back as the featured dancer leans suggestively in to her husband and whispers a private phrase that only he understands.
In the dramatic final moment of the song we each return to our corner of the room, our backs to the men, wrapped tightly in our shawls, heads down. It’s over.
Chuck stamps his feet. Peter calls out, “Bravo, bravo!” Alan says, “Georgia, you’re too, too much.”
Each husband is untied by his wife. We go downstairs for birthday cake. The guests leave.
I don’t know what happened in the homes of Marlys and Peter, Diana and Chuck, that night. In our home, Alan proved to me how very much he enjoyed the night of the tied-up husbands.