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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tanguera Tales: The Beauty Part 1

(Names are changed, but they are Legion--for there are many.)

Santiago was like a cat, a beautiful proud tom who lived off his wits and body. Women were drawn to him, well, like cats in heat. The first time she saw him was in a tango salon in Buenos Aires. He was sitting among the men, and Sarah at a little table with the women on the other side of the room, as is the custom. When she caught his eye, he nodded his head in the way of the Argentine tango code, and they met on the dance floor.

Sarah had thought from a distance that he was no more than 29 or 30, but up close she could see the crinkles at his eyes and the vertical lines on his handsome face. He was exotically dark, having Indian blood in a land which had all but obliterated its indigenous people, and had thick curly black hair that he wore long, down his back, tied at the nape of his neck.

Unlike the older milongueros who haunt the salons in three-piece woolen suits, Santiago wore tight black jeans and a thin open shirt, the better to show his muscled body. Sarah pointed him out to her Argentine friend Maria Ester, who called him The Beauty and shook her head with a knowing smile.

On the dance floor, they just nodded wordlessly, and he enclosed her in the tango’s intimate embrace. Sarah wrapped her left arm around his neck, and he held her tightly with his right, as if he were hugging her affectionately to his heart. Her face was in his long fragrant hair. He smelled like incense, and she could hardly breathe. She closed her eyes. He led her and she followed and they created something new together with the music.

Between songs they discovered that neither of them spoke the other’s language, but nevertheless they were communicating. He was one of those people who seem to have sparks flying off them, who draws everyone’s attention when they walk in a room or move on the dance floor. And the sparks from his eyes shot into her soul.

After the tanda Sarah was thankful for the custom of the man escorting the woman back to her table because she was dizzy and faint and disoriented. She sat down clumsily, and he left her to go back to his table among the men. Usually it’s best to simply leave the milonga after a dance in Tango Heaven, to go with the glow. But Sarah was yearning for another glimpse; she couldn’t abandon hope until the last note of the evening was played, but they didn’t dance together again that night.

When she saw him next at Club Gricel, he was surrounded by a throng of tourists, probably American from the look of them in their bright colors and poufy blond hair. The women smiled and laughed with open mouths and gave their attention only to him, the sole man -- unmistakably the cock of the chicken yard. When he asked Sarah to dance, he performed for his flock. She didn’t mind. She was glad he had left his henhouse and picked her.

Later he approached the table where she was sitting with Maria Ester and spoke quietly to her in Castellano.

“He wants you to go home with him,” she said, turning to Sarah.

“OK.” Sarah looked at him.

“Oh for Pete’s sake, be a little hard to get! These guys enjoy working for it. Seduction is part of the fun.”

“Too late.” Sarah smiled.

He nodded seriously, grabbed his backpack, and waited by the door while she said goodnight to Maria Esther. It was four in the morning, and there was no one on the streets. A balmy breeze puffed at the fallen leaves and through her hair and they walked on the cobblestones with shadows of trees from the full moon, Sarah in her spike heeled tango shoes.

He paused and looked at her. El amor? He pointed to her, then to him.

Si, she said, and he kissed her. They walked some more in the quiet street.

Hotel? he said.

She said, Si.

Then after another block, No dinero. He patted his pockets.

She stopped. Mi no dinero, she said, reluctantly showing him her wallet with ten pesos in it, wishing one of them had whatever it took for a hotel room.

Then he asked, Tarjeta de credito? be continued.

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