After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tanguera Tales: The Beauty Part 6

Si la belleza fuera delito, yo te hubiera dado cadena perpetua.
If beauty were a crime, you would deserve life in prison.—Buenos Aires piropo

Before Sarah's next trip to Argentina, she invited Santiago by email to stay with her in a hotel in Congreso. She had bought a travel package for a fast five days in Buenos Aires with last fall’s living arrangement in mind. She thought Santiago would enjoy getting out of his flophouse and into a decent hotel, and the packaged five nights and airfare was less than her plane ticket usually cost. Heaven knew she would enjoy being—and dancing—with him for five days.

And so she had reserved for two when he answered Si in his email. Last fall it had been his idea to move together to the Casa de Tango; as he had put it, why should they each pay for a room when they can stay in one together? An extra person was only $5 a day at the hotel and included breakfast. Naturally it was Sarah who would pay for him, but it added up to only $25, so who cared? It was what she paid at the pension where she usually stayed just for herself and without breakfast.

He had offered to come to the airport to meet her, but it was no surprise when he wasn't there. She took a taxi and soon after she checked into the hotel on the Avenida de Mayo, he showed up and registered. He had an excuse about his sick father or his car or something.

They immediately went to La Ideal, Sarah only excavated her tango shoes from her luggage and left everything else in a tangle. It was Sunday afternoon and she couldn’t wait to see Maria Esther, Cristine, Graciela, Helene, and all of the milongueros. Sarah also had agreed to meet with an author from San Francisco gathering information for his new novel set in Buenos Aires.

But as the women and Bill the author sat together near the bar at La Ideal, Maria Esther observed that Santiago was acting like an histeric, completely unlike his usual behavior. He ran around the room from woman to woman, barely dancing with Sarah. The only way she knew he was with her was his cell phone staking a claim on their red tablecloth. Maria Esther knew what the situation was between them and that Sarah was crazy about him, but she was also a porteña who understood beautiful milongueros like Santiago. Maria Esther just sighed and shrugged her shoulders.

The next two days were the same, but worse. Monday after the milonga at Canning, he didn’t return to the hotel or leave a message. Tuesday at Viejo Correo with Maria Esther, Sarah had enough rejection and disappointment. She went up to where he was sitting at a table full of young pretty girls and inquired very loudly, Cuando vuelvas al hotel a buscar tus cosas? (She had asked Maria Esther how to say it in Castellano.)

He said, QUE? while wearing a shirt Sarah had brought him from Tucson.

And she repeated more loudly, Cuando vuelvas al hotel a buscar tus cosas?

Hablamos manana! he almost shouted at her, and turned to the stunning girl next to him, dismissing Sarah.

The following day he came to the hotel and they did talk--she had made a list of words and phrases the night before from the Spanish dictionary to describe why she was unhappy: grosero, tonto, imbecile, solamente un rato agradable. He asked, astounded, where she had learned them.

She left for an appointment with Graciela, agreeing he could take a shower in the room before clearing out. She wanted to remain friendly. So it hadn’t worked out to stay together for whatever reason of his, but they could be pleasant about it.

But when she returned later to the room, there were even more of his clothes there, like a tomcat marking his territory. She threw them in a plastic bag, even the gifts she had brought him from the States, and gave them to the maid.

That night Sarah was sitting alone in El Beso when he flounced in with an older French woman who, coincidentally or not, sat next to Sarah on the banquette near the bar. After parking her at Sarah's side and giving her a kiss on the cheek, Santiago went off to work the crowded room and Sarah started a conversation with Simone in French.

“Oh you take lessons from Santiago? Yes? And you take him to dinner as well? That’s nice. Oh, I have to leave now, would you be so kind as to give him a message for me? Please tell him that I threw all of his clothes and personal things at the hotel into the trash.” Simone stared at her.
And Sarah went to Lo de Celia to dance with the viejos.

When she returned to the hotel at 3 a.m., she had his name removed from the registration so he could no longer come up. Senor Perez se fue.

The next day, her fifth and last in Buenos Aires this trip, he showed up late at El Arranque where Sarah was sitting at a table of friends. Maria Esther said he was looking at her, but Sarah never looked at him in the tango Code of invitation.

Finally when her friends were leaving for dinner, he walked over and greeted everyone stiffly. And then to Sarah, Quieres bailar? A milonguero never approaches a woman’s table to invite her to dance.

“No,” she said coldly, grabbing her street shoes and coat, and stalking out to the lobby to wait for Maria Esther and the others. Sarah was worn out, emotional, hurt and hungry. She couldn’t breathe anymore, or watch Santiago dance with another. They had made love once and danced together only two or three times in the whole five days.

What a fiasco! She knew what kind of man he was, but still she hadn’t expected this, even though of course she should have. Six months ago when they stayed together for two weeks, it had worked out. She thought it would work this time for only five days. She couldn't now understand why he had even agreed to stay in the hotel with her in the first place.

Sarah hadn't put up with his inexcusable rejection for more than two days before ending it. The woman in Atlanta took two months! But still it hurt. Maybe it was all her fault for feeling comfortable with the idea of being his temporary "girlfriend." Men like Santiago generally do whatever it takes to maintain their liberty. Sarah vowed, no more milongueros, especially if they were beautiful!

Que lastima! Sarah had wanted to help him as it was true he was a gifted teacher and dancer; of course she wanted to have fun with him. Most importantly, she wanted to dance with him. Maybe she made a mistake not to dance with Santiago at the end? Could they have forgotten all of this rubbish and had a momentary peek at Tango Heaven?


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