Late afternoon, I was far from home, marking time in a Halcyon Suites a mile from the Convention Center. A picture window over the whispering AC offered fine binocular views of Disney’s fairy tale castles and sky-high rides. Snacking on baguette and Malbec, I scanned the next day’s lung pathology sessions on my laptop, and then surfed the Internet for Argentine tango. I keyed the iDanze Studio into my phone and took off. A sudden torrential thunderstorm hurled sheets of rain across boulevards streaming with traffic. GPS soon delivered me to a tidy little strip mall. The storm moved on, the dying sun transfigured grey clouds on the horizon and flecks of azure sky came to transient lfe.
The lights were off at the iDanze. As I pondered what next, a car pulled up beside me. In the glow of her dash, I saw a woman whose profile was that of Nefertiti. She cut the ignition, and stepped out as if invited to dance. Poised on silver stilettos, she peered into the studio, one hand shading her eyes while the other smoothed her pink satin dress. I considered, yet again, the perfection of the female form. I came closer, shading my eyes just like her.
“What do you think?” I said.
She cast an appraising glance over me. In my mind’s eye, I’m in my prime, a consummate professional, a man who has endured many loves, and whose shoes are always well polished. My fantasy life, fed by the ebb and flow of reality, is robust. But I couldn’t tell if she saw me or my alter ego.
“You’re like me,” she said, “we Googled tango and here we are.”
I told her my name and said I was in town for a heart, lung and blood conference. I felt the familiar shiver of excitement and potential that heralds a tango embrace.
“My name is Fairouz,” she said. “Is this normal?”
I wondered if she meant the shiver or the dark locked studio. I gestured across the strip mall to the Bull and Eagle Grill. “Let’s have a glass of wine and find out.”
Fairouz fetched a crimson pashmina stole from her car and we hurried across the parking lot as dense raindrops began dancing on the asphalt. Distant lightning strikes lit the sky amid renewed rumbles of thunder. In the grill, by the window, Fairouz kept an eye on the studio while I marveled at her composure in this unscripted encounter. I called the iDanze and a man with a marbled Argentine accent told me class was at seven, then dancing till midnight.
As the last colors drained from the sky, I proposed a stroll to kill time. We came to a sliver of salt marsh the developers had missed. A wood stork flew in from the south, in profile no different from a pterodactyl in a child’s encyclopedia, leisurely wing beats giving way to a precise glide onto a tidal creek bordered by cattails. She preened her feathers, and began foraging for bullfrogs and fiddler crabs. When we came back to the iDanze, raindrops had moistened Fairouz’s satin dress, and my shoes were flecked with mud. The lights were on, and the silken notes of “El Cielo en Tus Ojos” accompanied us onto the dance floor. Mirrors on one side reflected Art Deco posters and bistro tables on the other. Further back was a bar with a sparkling backdrop of bottles, and beyond that a candlelit patio where an azure-blue amphora spilled water into a pond swimming with koi. Bewitching in satin and silver, Fairouz took my hand. The music wove a rhythmic spell as we danced past the mirrors, at one with our reflection. The pupils of her eyes were enormous, and two crimson droplets glistened on her café au lait throat.
I thought nothing of this, because I’d slapped at mosquitoes down by the marsh. But what came to mind was the infamous shot of El Cachafas dancing with Carmencita Calderon, when she falls back in his embrace and bares her bosom to his teeth. My lips brushed her pearl earring, and then caressed the droplets on her throat. I thrilled to her salty taste and my imminent corruption.
The song was ending. We came to rest in a close embrace, caught in the music’s web, the last notes still vibrant between us. Fairouz laid her head on my shoulder. She nibbled the soft flesh under my ear, while my hand on her back traced a caress that spoke of lives emboldened by tango. She bit me gently. I was startled, and then my knees gave way as she suckled at the pulsing perforation in my throat. I tried to pull away, but was overcome by lassitude. She slipped an arm around my waist and brought me to a wicker loveseat on the patio, out by the pond. I drifted easily, like the Technicolor koi, into euphoric dreams of heart, lung and blood.
Writer from Charleston in USA