I have written sharply and very critically about the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel and I still don’t much like what that place represents. Last night we got to the concert quite early so María and I sat and watched. Her eyes were wide open and though I was feeling just this side of warmed-over death, I was quietly content. Behind me I could hear people from Medellín speaking in their distinctive accent. I could hear others who hail from Cali, and a few Bogotanos. Amazing, how happy it made me to be surrounded by those accents! At the beginning of the performance Juanes did shout-outs for different nationalities but mainly, he recognized different regions and cities of Colombia and we were there; man, we were all there it seemed.
When I bought the tickets for this concert, I was aware that I constantly search for ways to give my daughter whatever I can of a teen ager’s life. This concert wasn’t the same as a Justin Beiber concert, which she probably would have enjoyed even more. I might still try to figure out how to take her to a concert like that some time. Probably the differences between Juanes and Beiber are miniscule. But the sheer commercialism of the Beiber machine makes me a little sick to my stomach. And this was good, in fact, it was great. María got to experience what it is like to have a full throttle loud band where it felt like the percussion section pounded so hard it edged towards respiratory therapy for my aching, congested lungs. She loved the noise and I was glad I had my ear plugs. There is something about being jam packed with people you don’t know but who can sing along just as lustily as you do—and that too was part of the experience for my girl.
It wasn’t more than a few beats into the opening number and we were all on our feet dancing to Tengo la Camisa Negra. We sat back down for a very few ballads but the rest of the night was all about the dancing. Miss María was enraptured. Juanes engages his audiences and it seemed like everyone there was an old friend of his and everyone knew all his song. In fact, several times, he stopped singing and the audience carried the melody. She with her gimpy ankle, I with my gimpy hip, we are two improbable dancers, my girl and I, but we danced.
At one point, María leaned most of her body back against mine, so thoroughly and innocently enjoying the rhythm and the closeness. I know María was hardly ever held as a baby and even as a little girl, she struggled to let us hold her. Every unexpected chance I get like this is a small moment to redeem what can’t be changed. It was also one of those flashes of understanding that isn’t so much about words but what your body can teach you. I am mindful of the irony that it is when we most clearly inhabit our bodies and inhabit the world in the fullness of our incarnation, that we are also most able to transcend it. This, this strong young, somewhat awkward body, solid and real and right there dancing leaning against me, this was my daughter. My own body, aging, aching last night, but still upright, was a wall she could lean on.
Along with beat and rhythm that had no subtlety, there was a tiny bit of the magic that was beautiful and poignant and barely visible. A person with María’s cluster of vulnerabilities tends to be extraordinarily egocentric. From the first time she heard we had tickets, she was sure that Juanes was going to be so happy to see her. We weren’t in the nosebleed section but we weren’t front and center either. I watched María bring up her hand shyly, almost tremulously, with that combination of hope she might be noticed and dread he might see her, and kept giving these little fluttery waves in his direction. Some of the time she tried to do it more vigorously, but not too much. I am here. Can you see me? I exist.
You can see her waving in the little snippet at the top of this post. The singer did not—could not—turn and look directly at her and wave back. We were simply too far away. But this morning, when her dad drove her to her day cam program, she told him Juanes had waved to her. Whether he did or not is beside the point. A couple of the people close to us did make eye contact with her and smile. The very beautiful young woman sitting on the other side of Maria danced with her for a bit. Sometime towards the end of the concert, María put her head on my shoulder and said quietly, “this is a nice birthday”. She never stopped waving. I have wanted my daughter to know she exists in all her radiant, complicated, fractured singularity. All that waving was an annunciation of sorts. She was there. She exists.