Como Se Llama, Bonita 

Reagan Brownell

© Copyright 2018 by Reagan Brownell

Photo of Shakira album cover.
ďHips Donít LieĒ plays all the time in my house. I am seven years old, and I know all the words. I especially like the singer, but I wish he let the girl sing more. I donít think Iíve heard any other voice like hers before. When my family listens to the song, Mom wonít let us play it too loudly because she is trying to work, but we all dance anyway, and sometimes we even convince her to join us. But the best is when Iím in the car with Dad and we can listen to it as loud as we want and sing as loud as we want. We do this almost every time we drive somewhere together. He rolls down the windows and plays the song and I keep turning up the volume even though he says his Old Man Ears are sensitive, whatever those are. Plus heís not even that old, he only has a few gray hairs. I am very proud of myself because I know all the words to ďHips Donít LieĒ, and I only know all the words to a few songs. Learning them all takes a long time. It is my favorite song I think, but I also like ďThe DistanceĒ. The band is called Cake, which is silly but my dad listens to it all the time because he really likes it. I know the words to that one too.

My dad is what most people like to call a Mister Mom. He prefers the term ďStay At Home DadĒ, saying that heís no mom, he just enjoys getting to spend so much time with my brother and me, that he could never do the work that my mother does all day. Heís humble about how much he actually does for us. Cooking, cleaning, constant carpools. Itís worth it, he says, just to know I get to see your smile all day long. I think thatís a little cheesy, but it makes me giggle so I guess it works.

You would recognize the sound of the horns at their first blare. Shrill, each note perfectly tongued, an ethnic display of instrumental aptitude. Two men holler a few phrases back and forth, their voices syncing with the rhythm of the trumpet, issuing the kind of prelude that seems inconsequential because the energy in the air is already so infectious. People want to dance, people want to move, and that moment is almost here. Once the men have made their claims, the crowd awakens. A new voice, raucous and rich, prefaces the incoming uproar of sound and, in doing so, cuts through straight to me. You can hear the smile in his words. I am excited for this moment every time.

I accompany my dad to the grocery store on some nondescript spring afternoon, windows down and volume up. Weíre listening to ďHips Donít LieĒ and I am fumbling with the word Barranquilla, trying to sing it, but the song is too fast for me to keep up with all of the unfamiliar syllables. And when itís in a sentence, no sir, that is not happening with my seven-year old diction.
-Do you know what language that is? he asks.
I think about it for a moment. I know most of the words that Shakira and the man are saying. At least, Iíve heard them before, though I suppose Iím not entirely sure what they mean. But if I've heard them, that means itís English, because I speak English. The answer to his question seems simple. I am worried itís a trick.
He chuckles. I donít know why.
-Atta girl. Most of the song is in English, but what about the words you have a hard time saying?
-I dunno.
-Itís Spanish. Isnít that cool?
That is cool. If I can figure out how to say them, then that means I will be able to speak Spanish.

The song pushes me off edge of the cliff I was leaning over and the wave of rolling percussion lifts me back up. The singerís voice swoops in, crooning some words in a delicious medley of English and Spanish. I donít know what those words mean, but I have heard them so many times that I can almost deliver them with perfect inflection.

And then the woman. Her voice is throaty, a bit guttural, but alluring to the point that I always savor her parts of the songs the most. I think her name is Shakira, and considering the amount of times the men shout her name in the background, they must be very excited to have her on their song. Her lines are brief, but I savor every silvery note she holds and every hurried gasp for breath in between.

Donít you see, baby, this is perfection, she says, and I agree.

Looking out the window, I could imagine myself dancing with Shakira and being as beautiful as Iíll bet she is. When her parts ends, itís easier to shift my eyes away from the blurred line of trees outside the window and face the passenger seat in front of me. The man is singing again, and my legs are kicking my seat in rhythm before I even notice. A bunch of men are shouting Shakiraís name through the whole song; a clue that she is about to return. Her chorus tugs me from side to side, spinning me up in its energy. I could try and will myself not to dance, but why would I want to? I just wish she would sing a little more. I understand that itís not her song, but she has such a rare voice that I love so much. Not to mention, sheís the only girl singing with all of these boys, and I am awestruck that sheís not intimidated at all.

Music is a constant in our household Ė that is something my dad makes sure of. To wake us up in the mornings for Walker Elementary, he bursts into our rooms, throws open the blinds, and bellows RISE AND SHINE AND GIVE GOD YOUR GLORY, GLORY! over and over until we uncover our heads from the pillows we have buried them under and shuffle to the bathroom.

When we listen to music in our house, it is blared through the speakers. My momís pleas to ďturn it down!Ē are no match for the flurry of giggles from my brother and me as we prance around the living room and leap across furniture, shrieking with glee. Inevitably, my brother will lure her into this childlike realm of joy with his big eyes and little diapered tush, and I will grab my dadís hand, using all of my child strength to drag him near us, thinking that I am finally strong enough to get him on my own, not seeing that he chooses to join us every time.

Every time I beg my dad to press the button in our car that will rewind the CD, he just laughs. I make him play it again and again until I can fumble my way through the Spanish sections, blurting words that donít sound anything like words but hey, theyíre in rhythm. I am so preoccupied, I donít even realize we should have been at the grocery store at least three songs ago and instead are circling the same few blocks. I keep singing.
-Does he have any other songs? I ask.
-The singer.
-Sure she does.
He keeps his gaze on the road in front of him.
-No, I mean, the main singer. The man.
Now I catch his eyes in the rearview mirror, one eyebrow raised, his smirk growing.
-Reagan, Shakira is the main artist. The man is just featured.
I pause.
-You mean heís not on all of the songs, but she is?

I lean back in my seat and stop kicking my legs. I get to hear her voice sing other things, I think, and maybe sheíll be the only one singing. Maybe I wonít have to miss her when she leaves and wait for her to come back. I look out the window at the smattering of blurred trees and bushes. I think that I am proud of her. I think that I am proud to be a girl like her.

On the way back from the grocery store, we listen to ďHips Donít LieĒ all the way through one more time. I feel like I know a secret. I understand now that the man is singing about Shakira. She must be very good at dancing; itís all he sings about. For the first time, it becomes very clear to me that this song is about her.

He never really knew that she could dance like this. She makes a man want to speak Spanish. She is on tonight. Her hips donít lie.

The average trip home from the store takes two repeats of this song, so we listen again. When I sing, suddenly some of the Spanish is no longer so difficult.   Como se llama, bonita.

I am finally beginning to understand the words as best as a seven-year-old can. Shakira is in charge here. She will dance when she wants to and she doesnít need anyone else to sing on her song to make it good.

As we pull into the driveway, I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean as far forward as my body will stretch until I am right behind his shoulder, speaking into his ear.
-Dad, how do you know if you have honest hips?
I want to be just like her.
He laughs, struggling to put together some words.
-Well, I would say itís when the movement of your hips, um, accurately reflects your intentions?
I shrug. That is good enough for me.
I am 17. I have listened to ďHips Donít LieĒ countless times in the past ten years, and it always has an uncanny way of coming up when I shuffle the music on my phone. But right now I am listening to something else, something fun and vibrant, and I dance to it alone. I lean into my bathroom mirror and lift the mascara brush to my eyelashes, trying to coat each lash evenly while also keeping the songís rhythm in my hips. I take a step back and examine my work, blinking at myself from several different angles. Itís not perfect, but Iíve already spent five minutes on it and I still have to pick a lipstick color. I pout my lips in the mirror, judging which shade from my collection would best match the color buffed into the crease of my eyes. There is a pause, a lapse in time, as the song previously playing from my phone ends. The silence in the bathroom holds in the air, leaving me suspended and weightless and waiting for the moment the music will begin again, wondering what the first note will be, whether I will recognize it, whether I will like it. I do not realize I am holding my breath.
I recognize the sound of the horns at their first blare.

I am seven years old, we just got back from the grocery store, and my dad and I have listened to ďHips Donít LieĒ at least eight times today. I think that I could listen to it a hundred more, but I donít think he feels the same. I would listen on my own, but I donít know how to work the CD player. Instead, I creep up next to my dad and tug on his sleeve.

I think he knows what I am going to ask but he just looks at me. He is going to make me ask it anyway. Iím okay with that.
-One more time?

He smiles, walking over to the TV and slipping the disc into the slot. He presses a few buttons on the remote but I am so anxious I donít pay attention to which ones. The car is good for driving, but no good for dancing, and all of this energy from the ride to the grocery store is still inside me.

The notes from the horns are piercing and perfectly clear. The two men holler their phrases back and forth, and the scene inside the song awakens once more. The voice with the smiling words has returned, here again to introduce her, and then it is the moment I am excited for every time.

I sing. I dance.

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