As his entanglement grew, Max experienced nuances of life in the enticing shadows of Tango. Late one night, Max was pacing the sidewalk in a remote San Diego suburb, waiting for Haile, the Ethiopian cabby who’d brought him that evening to a milonga. Behind him, discreet landscape lights illuminated a mini-mall parking lot, a Bull and Eagle GastroPub, and the TuTu Tango studio. Tango songs diffused agreeably into the sultry night air, and silhouetted couples traversed the lightly curtained plate-glass windows. A lone tanguero sat smoking by the front door, enveloped in the aromatic embrace of Gauloises and ganja.
Max walked to and fro, scanning the highway; there were few cars out this late, and certainly no cabs. To go back to the milonga, so recently abandoned, was out of the question. His confidence had been sapped by one-too-many failed cabeceos, and the realization that couples were not switching partners after each tanda, but returning to their own little tables and glasses of wine. One or two women, who had previously flown across the dance floor with elegant abandon, underwent mysterious lead-footed transformations when dancing with Max. A crowning indignity was conferred by an older kindly fellow who told Max his wife might dance with him, if he liked. Max fled.
A car pulled up beside him and the window slid down. The driver flashed a salesman’s grin and said, “Hi, I’m Willy. You a dancer?”
Max nodded tentatively, and thus emboldened, Willy produced a flat faux-leather case the size of a pizza delivery box. With a flourish, he snapped open the brass catches, revealing rows of dainty brushes with black lacquer handles, each resting in a purple felt niche.
“These are for your dance shoes. The finest sable, from Buenos Aires, will last a lifetime, $300 online. But for you, let’s say $75”. He looked at Max hopefully.
“Nice brushes,” said Max, looking around for Haile. “I’m flying back to Charleston tomorrow. They won’t fit in my carry-on.”
Defeat clouded Willy’s face, and Max felt for him. He gestured towards TuTu Tango.
“Have you tried over there? They all fret about wear and tear on their dance shoes.”
Time passed, the night grew cooler, some heart-wrenching tango songs drifted out to the highway along with the Sativa, and still no Haile. After a while, Willy pulled up again.
“Need a ride?”
“Thanks, I’m waiting for a cab.”
“I’ll get you home,” Willy said. “Pay me half what you’d pay a cab.”
Max settled in, fixed the seat belt, and asked, “How did the brushes work out?”
“An older guy, a kindly fellow you wouldn’t look at twice, asked was there a problem? Next thing I knew, I was out the door, my brushes scattered all over. Some stoner by the door helped pick them up and gave me $50 for the lot. Cost me ten bucks on eBay.”
Max gave Willy a high-five and was dropped off on 2nd Street by the Convention Center. He headed for a nearby hole-in-the-wall where he nursed a beer, listened to a raunchy blues band, and thought about Tango. He remembered what Ignatio Quiroga, the Hotel Fakir bartender, had said: “Turn your head, and then your chest; show her the way like a matador leads a bull, and she’ll soar like an eagle.”
Writer from Charleston in USA