The nature of tango forces us to protect ourselves in subtle ways from the vulnerability it involves. We press ourselves against a stranger and move as one with their body. We can feel under the skin of the other; we can smell them; our perspiration mingles – on our hands, our brows, our backs. In any other situation this might be too close for comfort. How does it become ‘comfortable’ on the dance floor? We adopt an internal protective attitude. We close our eyes. We try to surrender.
But, for her, with him, it was different. They had agreed to be unprotected in their humanness with each other. Virtual strangers, they had chosen to be lovers. To dance a delicious forbidden tango.
They agree to meet in the afternoon. Enough words had been exchanged; it was time to feel. Nowhere but Bueno Aires can you dance tango in the middle of the day. That it is why it is called Ideal: the ideal confitería for a lovers’ tryst. A venerable restaurant and dance hall built in 1912, it has dark wood paneling, large columns, a stained glass domed skylight, huge mirrors and a formally attired nonchalant waiter.
She arrives first wearing a vintage linen dress in a style of the 1940s. A pale golden color with ivory trim on the fitted v-neck empire-waist bodice and an A-line cut skirt – it allow her legs freedom for dancing. Had she accessorized with an an appropriate hat and gloves it would have completed the fantasy. She chooses a table, changes her shoes, and orders a drink. Against the dark wooden panels of the confitería she is glowing.
A few minutes later, she watches him stride in and over to a table on the other side of the room. He doesn’t want to sit with her. He wants to play. She pretends to not be interested; to not want to look; to not want to dance. She can’t. He is too beautiful and he wants her. She is drawn to his eyes like a magnet and they coquettishly go through the motions of eye contact, nod, rise, meet on the floor.
He invites her into his embrace. For a moment they stand together, close, motionless, breathing in each other’s scent. She feels him move and she goes. He goes with her. She only wants to go where he wants her to go. His hold assures her he will not let go – at least not for this song, not in this moment – and this moment is all they have, all that matters to them. He turns her and his hand edges close to where her flesh leaves her ribs and rises. Her breath catches, becomes shallow and quickens. Her breasts are pressed against his chest. She hopes that the thumping of her heart doesn’t distract him from the beat of the music. Her temple against his – she hopes that her thoughts don’t distract him from the lyrics of the song. He is so close now. So close she can feel his past, present and future. She can smell his desire. Her thigh brushes against the front of his trousers. His breath is on her neck, in her ear, surrounding her disconnected thoughts.
Between songs they separate, maintaining a publicly approved intimate distance and gaze into each others eyes. Searching for understanding.
“You look stunning”, he says, and she knows her recent purchase has been worth that one compliment – even if it is chamuyo.
During the cortinas they sit together, no longer willing to waste precious little time playing games across the floor. Still, they speak very little. They dance a couple more tandas and it is time for him to slip away.
She bends down to change her shoes and you cannot see the tears welling up in her eyes. This is the last she will see of him and so much is left undone.