Chatting with Ignatio at the Hotel Fakir, Max passed the time by dissecting the physical and psychic attributes of Tango. His sketchy qualifications for such analysis included his birth under the sign of Libra, training as a physiologist, and occasional classes at the local Tango Society. His fieldwork was limited to hanging out at the Hotel Fakir, where he nursed a glass of Malbec and listened to classical tangos while musing on parallels between Jalaladin Rumi, chess, and Tango.
The bar separated a parqueted tango salon with a mirrored wall, bistro tables and framed prints of Cunard liners, from an al fresco patio paved in black and white flagstones. Out there, wicker chairs were ranged around an ornamental pool with a central blue-glazed amphora. Further back was a Tiki-shaded dining room with candlelit tables and linen-wrapped silverware. Tall wrought-iron railings draped in wisteria and bougainvillea, overhung by fig trees, screened the Hotel Fakir from its immediate neighbor, an imposing triple-porch mansion overlooking Charleston harbor.
Sitting at the bar, Max preferred to face the patio, so that his view of wisteria was enhanced by beautiful women gazing past him into the tango salon. Reflective on arrival, he warmed quickly to debate as time went by. Max argued that Tango music triggered physiological responses that found expression in physical attraction, languid contentment, and an urge to dance some more. For his part, Ignatio contended that Tango songs encoded an existential message that transcended simple sentiment. A fine distinction, Max said, on a par with doctrinal separation of Catholics from Episcopelians. Their debates were interrupted whenever Max ventured onto the dance floor. Such excursions induced minute but significant re-calibrations of his argument. Thus an hour or two would pass quite pleasantly.
One night, Max noticed a dancer of understated but apparent expertise whose shaven head, red shirt, black pants and bare feet spoke of Argentine Tango authority. After a while, this afcionado ordered a Manhattan at the bar. Max asked him how long he had studied Tango.
The man looked him in the eye and said, “Would you like to dance?” Max thought for a moment, and knowledgeable in the ways of Tango, he said, “Of course. Will you lead or shall I?”
They progressed around the dance floor, not in an everyday tango embrace, but simply facing one another, resting their hands on each others’ arms, or walking side-by-side with intermittent quick-step syncopations in time with the music. Later, Max told Ignatio that in those few moments he learned essentials of Tango that had eluded him for months. The insight nibbled steadily into his confidence as he realized that so far he’d only scratched the surface.
As Max reached meditatively for his glass, Julieta appeared from nowhere, an orchid in her hair, and the fulcrum of their little world shifted toward perfect balance.
Writer from Charleston in USA