I came into the West Wing from the Rose Garden. The pink satin dress and gilded stilettos in my purse tripped no alarms. I thought of another President whose intimate encounters had led to impeachment. Given the times, though, I was studiously correct teaching Tango on the polished parquet of the Oval Office. My badge said Cultural Affairs Attaché, and I had 30 minute access every Tuesday at 7. This was our last class before his Buenos Aires trip, where he would dance with Mademoiselle Quiroga, President of Argentina, at her Inaugural State Ball.
I was shown into the Oval Office by Amancio, whose discreet glances spoke of devoted puppy love. The President was on the phone, tie askew, feet propped on the desk. He stood, kissed my cheek, and said, “Good to see you, Dolores.” I changed in the powder room off the Oval Office and dabbed Provocatif on my earlobes. As I emerged, he glanced at my golden heels. “I love your…,” he said, and paused, seeking the next best word. “Mr. President, did you just say you love me?” He grinned and reached into a briefcase leaning against his desk. He drew out an iPhone and a JamBox. “Di Sarli, right?” he said.
I loved this man who sidelined affairs of state for the insidious lure of Tango. He changed his wing tips for felt-soled dance shoes. Music filled the Oval Office, and he led me, my eyes closed, into the gathering seduction of “El Amanecer”. We came to a precise halt on the final beat, and his palm on my bare back traced a wistful caress that spoke of lives we’d never live, lives best left to Tango. He smiled, I re-cued the music, and we danced again to each nuance of the song. A tap on the door interrupted us. He grazed his lips across mine. “Later,” he said.
Amancio was waiting outside. He tapped his Blackberry twice and strode off, calling over his shoulder, “TuTu Tango, right?” A gleaming obsidian limo took me to TuTu’s, where I nursed a glass of Malbec and listened to the elderly bandoneonista and his meditative violinist. Around ten a flurry of suits appeared at the bar, and the President sat down beside me. He caught the bartender’s eye, pointed to my glass, and took my hand. “Dolores,” he said, “I love Tango. But tell me: how do I distill the message of Tango from the beautiful messenger?” I touched my glass to his. “You tell me, Mr. President. You’re the leader of the free world. Lead me.” We stepped onto the dance floor and surrendered to the music’s hypnotic allure.
I pined for him when he was gone. That first night I sat at a secluded table in TuTu’s, my phone close at hand. No-one broached the surveillance embodied by Bruce, the Secret Service guy sitting at the bar and methodically scanning the room, a tell-tale wire stuck in his ear. The tiny orchestra played sets of rhythmic tangos. Fabio’s bandoneon channeled nostalgic songs of heartbreak. Maurice, the violinist, was thoughtful, flying high on fine Sensimilla. I’d turned him down when he’d offered to turn me on. I googled Mademoiselle Quiroga, this re-incarnation of Evita, whose beauty was the toast of Argentina. While I sat in TuTu’s, she was dancing with my President. She moved as one with him, her silken body taut but compliant. He leaned intently into her embrace, leading her like the free world that she was. All eyes were upon her, and her eyes were closed against his cheek. I touched the emerald brooch on my breast, a gift from my President, and moved to the sinuous invitation of Maurice’s violin.
A familiar voice murmured in my ear. “Dolores?” Amancio, his Blackberry gone, offered his hand. His eyes caught mine momentarily, then rested on the crimson arc of my lips. He’d read me perfectly, of course, and led me into an unhurried circuit of the dance floor. I closed my eyes, attuned to his take on the music and how my body aligned with his. As we passed my table, my phone emitted a presidential ping, and then another. The third ping, vibrating on high alert, was piqued and insistent.
Amancio retreated to the bar, and I picked up. “Yes, Mr. President,” I said. “Dolores, ask Amancio to take you to Reagan National; a jet is waiting to bring you here.” I tucked away my phone, smoothed my satin dress, and leaned back in the banquette. The cock had crowed. I twirled my glass, smiled at Fabio and Maurice, and considered my options. Tantalizing moments passed as I listened to a song that spoke of passionate life and fruitless love. At last I eased onto a barstool next to Amancio and whispered, “How about a red-eye to Buenos Aires?”
He turned to me, his eyes scrolling headlong through reams of logistics. “Of course,” he said, “we’ll lift the rugs in the cabin and stream Di Sarli to the speakers.” I gripped his arm and breathed, “Amancio, you’re ridiculous!”, took his hand and made for the door. I called out to Bruce, “The President’s wish is my command, to hear is to obey.” I laughed, and caught my reflection in a plate glass window as we left. My blonde hair was like an angel’s halo.
Amancio made some calls as another silent limo sped us to the airport. In the dead of night, the federal bureaucracy stirred, schedules were rearranged, and authorizations were signed. Our sleek Gulfstream accelerated, lifted off and climbed, tilting gracefully toward southern constellations. I sipped ice-cold champagne and swayed in Amancio’s arms to dramatic tangos. Later, dozing through the stratospheric moonlit night, I dreamed of long-limbed cranes flying south in elegant V-formation. In my mind’s eye, hummingbirds, yellow wagtails, and sparrows nestled in the warm down of the cranes’ backs and relieved the tedium of migration with exuberant birdsong.
Writer from Charleston in USA