Jocelyn Edelstein, OR

Senior Writer

Jocelyn’s stories have covered the glee of samba dancing in Rio, the lust of gelato hunting in Florence, the dark scent of an Oregon pine forest after a heavy rain and the journey of one girl learning to ride a bike at twenty-eight. (That girl was Jocelyn). She has published creative nonfiction in literary journals and travel writing anthologies, and worked as a copywriter for blogs and major companies. When Jocelyn isn’t wielding the written word, she’s making documentaries about Brazilian hip hop dancers. She believes there are many mediums where story resides.

As a Story Terrace writer, Jocelyn interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Rhythm Queen

Up a set of broken concrete stairs, where butterflies flirt with fragrant orchids and old men sit on benches sipping coffee from small cups, waits a tiny room with smudged mirrors and checkered floors. It is there I teach a dance class to children and their mothers, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And it is there I encounter the woman I will first refer to as ‘rhythm queen’ and later refer to as best friend.

She’s no more than five feet tall, with curvy hips, thick legs and crimped black hair. She lets out small whoops of joy when a good song comes and a diamond stud under her lip catches the light as she grins. Her shoulders and hips speak to each other in a fast paced, singsong dialogue that I can’t mimic, though I’ve been trying anyway.

I want to say, I feel like we are meant for friendship. Can you teach me how you move your shoulders and your hips like that? But the brashness of a limited vocabulary – it freezes you. You cannot be subtle. You cannot soft shoe around deeper, wider sentiments. Words come out blunt. They come out graceless. And the slippery saunter of portuguese finds no anchor on my english-speaking tongue.

It’s as I’m shutting down the stereo after class. The rhythm queen comes up and taps my shoulder. She’s wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and green, feathered earrings.

“Muito bom aula, professora!” she exclaims and both her thumbs pop up.

I smile and clap my hands in appreciation. This I understood. Very good class, teacher.

You dance good is the equivalent of the clumsy phrase I offer in response.

She curtsies grandly and manages to convey in simple words and pantomime that she heard the music when she was walking by one day and just decided to join in. She doesn’t have a child in this class.

I try her approach and use half mime, half one-syllable words to ask if she’d like to go dancing with me. She nods slowly, like I’m telling her a great secret.

“Sou Val,” she says. I’m Val. “Vamos encontrar aqui, as nove horas à noite.” Let’s meet here at 9 PM.

Val holds up nine fingers and hugs me with a nurturing, giddy grip – half mama half friend. When we pull away she pats my cheek with long red fingernails.

From then on the clamor of old men with their coffee and the fluid chaos of butterflies with their orchids will signify, for me, the sudden start of friendship.


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