She whispered in the DJ’s ear. He gave her an odd look, the same look the guitar player had given her the first time; “This European girl, she she does not know, she does not feel the rhythms and the ebb and flow, the sharp assertive staccato and the slow melodies.”
“But then,” they both had considered, “she did have a beautiful form for dance, and she knew to ask for el tango de Argentina, in the old style.” The guitar player remembered seeing Eva and el Presidente dance the tango to new songs in the 50’s. The DJ remembered his mother in their tenement in Los Angeles, teaching him the steps of the tango to remind him of his father’s Buenos Aires blood in his veins. His guess was this gringa had no such thing, but he qued a traditional tango.
She smiled at him, the same smile she’d given the guitar player. She knew what they thought. Her hair, dark as bricks, and her white skin were almost disingenuous. Her father was Irish, a pilot stationed in Buenos Aires. He was quiet, well-read. His fellow soldiers took him to un burdel for his birthday, and he fell in love with one of the girls – hair as dark as night, skin so much darker than his own, and a quick, intelligent and determined mind. She taught him the tango and he married her.
She smiled with her mother’s deep brown eyes, and she approached the man waiting for her. As his arms slipped around her, she remembered the first chords of the guitar player, and younger arms. It had been hot that night in Buenos Aires. She had not anticipated that. Or perhaps she had not expected how warm a woman’s first tango would make her. It was not her first, per se. She had been taught the steps as she was taught to walk. But it was her first tango in Buenos Aires, with this man. He was not a man unsure of his steps. This was not an Irish soldier on the brink of love. He was a classic Argentine beauty, dark and somehow challenging. She was almost annoyed at the cliche. She was not an aging housewife dreaming of a latin lover to carry her off into the sunset. She did not need him, and he knew it. And he knew to place the lightest of touches on her face, to slide down to her throat as the guitar player faded his strings.
Now he lead her across the dance floor, sharp but flowing steps, a juxtaposition, but wasn’t that the point? He appeared to lead, yet everyone knew it was she who chose the direction. He seemed to pull her towards him, but even after all this time, it was because she allowed him.
The quick steps mirrored the way he’d been swift to find her again, after their first tango. He got the telephone number of her hotel, Hotel del Mar Bailando, and showed up with roses and an offer of lunch. She accepted, on the condition that she chose the restaurant. He grimaced, but had no defence in the sights of her decisive brown eyes. Following her lead, he dreaded the sort of place this gringa would choose. He was shocked; she had lead him to a local place, La Rosa de Argentina, buried deep in the heart of old Buenos Aires. She only smiled when he asked her how she knew the place. They sat a small booth in the corner, with a good view of a wall of pictures, the center of which sat a black and white shot of an engagement proposal. They both ordered in perfect Spanish. He paid, of course, and took her to see his Buenos Aires, the people, the music, the street games and art. She She insisted that he take her to a specific house in the red light district. When they arrived, he found an old burdel and that she wanted to go inside alone. She came back in minutes, and she was smiling.
They turned in the dance, whirling her around and catching each other. For one moment they were face to face, their breath in tune, barely aware of their own forward movement. Then their heads snapped forward, pressed close to each other. She remembered whisking away from him, heatedly declaring she did not need him, she did not want him, he did not understand her at all. Their movement that night had flowed with anger and heat. Her brown eyes sparked with rage and frustration. She whirled away from him, and he caught her by the waist, caressing her cheek.. “Mi Amor,” he begged, and she turned her face from him. He told her did not understand her and deserved her even less. He did not want her because she needed him, but because she did not. But, he thought, she did indeed want him.
He spun her out away from him now, her hair swirling, fingers only just staying connected. It almost seemed impossible that she could come back into his arms.
And yet, how that had changed. He had been right, she had wanted him since she had felt the heat of their first tango. There was no denying that night had entered her soul. But she had no wish to fall as her father had fallen. She wanted her life, just as it was. She disappeared from him that night of anger. She left no forwarding address. She returned to her home in Ireland, to the comfort of her flat, to the chill of too much left behind. For a year, she would not allow herself to think of him, but she would wake in the dead of night drenched in sweat and crying out. Finally, a year to the day, she did not even sleep but still felt a sting of salt and heard a whimper. That moment, she grabbed a bag and she hailed a cab. She left a forwarding address, Hotel del Mar Bailando, Buenos Aires. As she stepped into the familiar heat, she considered that he would have forgotten her, surely. If he did remember, it was of a fool, a little girl, and a bitch. If he even cared, he would only laugh.
He twitched his fingers under hers, and she seemed to glide back to him under protest. Yet once connected, they moved with one mind. It was the mind that had lead her to approach La Rosa de Argentina, confident that he was here. He appeared, walking from the opposite direction. He seemed more broken – sadness permeated his gait, he looked as though he were holding back an ocean in his soul. He saw her. She raised one hand. He stuttered to a stop, his eyes fill of pained hope. He held out a hand, and she slowly came to him, as though resisting a weight behind her, as though wading into his ocean. When she finally touched his hand, he gasped. He pulled her to him, whispering, “Mi amor, mi rosa, mi amor.” She pulled him down to her, meeting his lips seamlessly. She murmured her apology against his lips/ He broke away to gaze at her, as a drunkard gazes at his glass. A smile, his first in a year, bloomed over his face. He whispered, “Mi amor, you have missed many tangos.” She told him no, for they had tangoed every night for a year in her dreams, and she had returned for a tonight’s.
Now, as he dipped her to the last notes, a hand on her cheek to slide to her throat, her brown eyes just as determined, he still held his his rose in his arms and silently thanked the guitar player and the DJ for believing.
And she thanked her mother, and the first tango in Buenos Aires.