En route to work in rush-hour traffic, I was gridlocked behind the red and white-striped barriers of a draw-bridge. The steel lattice of the roadway rose before me in slow motion, and a tall-masted schooner slid by, a snowbird departing, southbound on the Intracoastal Waterway. I zoned out on classical tangos on Pandora, seeing myself and a svelte tanguera gliding in close embrace across polished parquet. I sighed, checked my phone, and saw a text from Terminal Tango.
“Have Heels, Will Travel. My flight doesn’t leave until seven. Go Tigers at Gate A1”
Fantasy was about to be usurped by reality. A brief encounter, five senses on high alert, perfectly isolated from the everyday. I couldn’t conceive a more pristine metaphor of Tango’s allure. As if galvanized by the thought, the bridge sank into place as bells rang and lights flashed. I stepped on the gas all the way to the airport, parked in a distant lot, and made a beeline for the terminal. Under the watchful eyes of security, I placed my laptop and phone, jacket and shoes, and watch and wallet on a conveyer belt. I strolled through a full body scanner, pausing only to feign surrender, hands over my head. On a monitor I saw my things yield their colorful metallic secrets to the X-rays. Cleared for departure, I collected myself and marched at the double to Gate A1.
At a Starbucks across from the gate, I sipped a Peppermint Mocha and savored the caffeinated chocolate on my tongue. Raul Beron’s song “El Vals Soñador” flowed from a tiny Jambox propped against a pillar. A stylish couple danced in easy synchrony across the gleaming terracotta floor. She wore an apricot silk blouse and a cerulean pencil skirt and turquoise suede stilettos. She was in full flight, eyes closed, her body swaying with his, and I caught the intimate fragrance of her perfume as they swept by. Her steps were economical and precise, and now and then, when her partner paused, her heels traced crisp arcs that closed in time for the next musical phrase. He waited patiently for those instants, poised and erect, his hand tracing delicate patterns of touch-and-go across her back, and then he would dip into a long step forward, moving into her space with intent. Tango!
The waltz ended. They chatted for a minute, he tapped a thing or two into his phone, and then he was gone. She settled into a chair, tucked a russet curl behind her ear, and looked around. I was uncertain about Terminal Tango etiquette, this being my first time, but within seconds our eyes met and held, as if a milonga were calling. She smiled and nodded, and touched the obsidian surface of her phone. Di Sarli’s graceful “El Amanecer” filled the concourse around Gate A1 and I came to my feet. She awaited my imminent arrival and her next full flight.
Bells rang, lights flashed, and the irate, insistent blare of a car-horn startled me into the here-and-now. My svelte tanguera, even as she drew me into a close embrace, evaporated into wisps that dissipated in an instant. Cars were passing me, left and right, and the blue pennant fluttering on the tall-masted schooner vanished around a distant bend of the river. Clouds moved in from the west, and raindrops spotted the windshield. Static from flickers of lightning broke up the music stream. But I caught a snippet of song as I accelerated back into traffic : “Give your soul to the rhythm of the tango.“
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