On a WOMAN. She is moving to the rhythm of sensual SALSA music, the kind of music that defies stillness. You can’t help but sway to the beat and this woman is sheer poetry in motion. It’s already a steamy, hot, and humid New York City night but the music has kicked things up a few degrees.
THE CAMERA PULLS BACK to reveal that the woman is moving in tandem with a confident-looking FEMALE PARTNER and, all around them, other DANCERS sway and swing like spirits in the thick air of a small social club in Astoria, Queens. All of them are female and they all appear to be both Latina and in their early to mid 20s.
From outside, we can hear a LOUD THUNDERCLAP, and the gentle SOUND of light rain beginning to fall.
Drinks are downed, red lights swirl and flash, feet move in synchronicity: it’s party-time until we:
Two glasses: optimistically half-full, sitting side-by-side on a table. The liquid is quivering…almost imperceptibly at first, but then the quivering becomes more obvious.
The eyes of a YOUNG WOMAN at the table. She too has noticed the quivering rum-and-cokes and this little discovery clearly has her concerned…her eyes aflame with emotion. We now hear a subtle RATTLING noise.
The glasses. The liquid is past the quivering stage and the two glasses are now TAPPING lightly against one another.
CLOSE-UP of the front tire of a motorcycle, spraying rainwater in all directions. The SOUND of the bike’s engine is deafening.
That first young woman, dancing so carefree until:
The rattling glasses have now been joined by a chorus of clattering bottles from behind the bar; the NOISE almost beginning to drown out the salsa music. On the far wall, a framed photo of Lolita Lebron shakes, rattles, and rolls until it falls from its bracket and plummets to the dance floor, sending shards of glasses everywhere.
The front tire of the motorcycle. It’s standing still…its engine quieter as if waiting for an order to move. The rain begins to fall harder now.
The social club. The music stops. The dancers stop. Everyone stops and gapes at the broken picture. It’s dead silence—except for the TAPPING of light rain—punctuated by facial expressions that run the gamut from anger to concern to dread to downright blind fear.
The silence holds for five seconds. Ten seconds. Fifteen seconds, and then:
WHAM!!! It’s the loudest THUNDERCLAP of all time, just as a roaring motorcycle blasts directly through the plasterboard wall where the portrait hung. Immediately behind it comes another bike, followed by six more until the dance floor looks like a goddamned Harley dealership. Through the hole in the wall, we can see that it is night, but we can’t see for long. The smoke emanating from the bikes melds with the sudden influx of plaster now floating in the room to form an eerie scarlet cloud, illuminated by the flashing red lights.
It’s on! The MALE BIKERS, still wet from the rain, dismount and are immediately engaged in battle by the FEMALE DANCERS. The sounds of a full-fledged rumble fill the small social club: screams, grunts, broken glass, and flesh-meeting flesh: mixing with the ever-intensifying thunderstorm, and then:
One of the DANCERS is propelled into the stereo, accidentally turning on the salsa tape once again. Now, hell has a soundtrack and the battle royale is in full effect. It’s the most incredible barroom brawl ever. The dancers are fierce but the bikers are most definitely winning!
In the midst of the madness, none of the combatants notices a shadowy figure slip in through the hole made by the motorcycles. Between the dust cloud and the fighting, we can’t see exactly where the figure has gone, but we have a damn good idea when the music suddenly STOPS.
In an instant, SILENCE: Everyone is suddenly standing completely still, some people in mid-punch, as they slowly and deliberately turn a collective head towards the now-silent stereo, each of them shuddering slightly as if they were suddenly very cold.
EVERYONE’S POV: A figure is barely visible through the blood-red fog and the sudden cessation of movement slowly—we’re talking painfully slow—eases the fog and brings the figure into clear focus.
THUNDERCLAP: Then, in a flash of lightning, we see that the mystery woman is CALLE.
WE PAN UP HER BODY: Bronze, toned, ripped, immovable, yet oddly ethereal. Long black hair pulled back into a ponytail, a female symbol earring dangling from her left ear and a gold cross hanging from the right—framing a face that is simultaneously as hard as steel and as a soft as a kiss. Dressed to kill…literally.
Calle is most definitely not pleased, but when she speaks, her voice is low…barely above a whisper: The kind of voice that forces you to lean in closer just to hear.
There was a young man who came to me once, begging for wisdom, he claimed. No matter how hard I tried to discourage him, he persisted. (beat) So, I suggested he try this little exercise: “Close your eyes,” I told him, “and imagine that you and all the rest of us are being thrown off the highest building in New York City.” (beat, flash of lightning) “Then, imagine that each time you grasp onto someone or something to save yourself, you realize that whatever you’ve grabbed (beat) is falling, too.”
After a beat, Calle calmly pulls a cassette tape from her back pocket and fiddles with the cassette player a bit before allowing herself a tiny smile as she presses: “play.” Infectious, raucous salsa MUSIC booms from the speakers. The party-goers scramble for cover.
The social club. After another flash of lightning, the eight shivering bikers form a semi-circle, facing Calle, as she spins into an elaborate dance maneuver. What follows is a pugilistic tour de force; the most amazing display of martial skill you’ll ever witness. Calle wheels into action and does some serious damage, Bruce Lee-ing these clowns into another goddamned time zone.
She makes it look so easy, as she moves to the rhythm of the music that reverberates throughout the social club. In fact, Calle even takes time to perform a few more flashy dance steps during the melee.
When the last of the bikers has fallen, the party-goers assess the situation. The woman we first saw suddenly gasps.
Oh my god, she’s gone.
WOMAN’S POV: As mysteriously as she appeared, Calle is gone; no where to be seen as the crimson mist wafts gently over the dance floor.
(beat, flash of lightning)
The shivering dancers, unable to move, look around the club, at each other, at themselves—they’ve been touched by something special and appear unwilling to let it go until, through the immense hole in the social club wall, they hear some muffled VOICES in the distance, followed by the loudest GUN SHOT ever. The REPORT echoes louder and louder and louder, as if it will never end, and then:
THE SCREEN FADES TO BLACK
I wasn’t there that night in the social club many years ago and it was long before cell phone cameras would’ve made it viral. But a friend of my big sister’s was in that room. I’ve interviewed her and many others and yeah…I knew Calle. A little. I was around her enough and have talked to enough people to know she’d read this and smirk and whisper, “You knew me? Don’t flatter yourself, white boy.”
Someone’s gotta tell her story. A white male high school dropout/wanna be writer may not be the logical choice to produce a book (or is this a screenplay?) about a virtually forgotten Latina street legend, but someone’s gotta do it before all that’s left is rumor and hearsay.
My name is Alphonse. You can call me Allie. I was born and raised in Astoria. And I’ll be your guide for the next couple of hours.
(Stay tuned for more excerpts from this work-in-progress)