Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Tango

"Dance lessons in there?" I squinted out the car window as Mama stopped before an old Alma warehouse. She nodded.

I eased into the brilliant afternoon sunlight, ambled up well-worn steps and yanked the door open. The huge dark room looked empty. Slowly I saw other high-school girls, a big brown box of a record player, and the instructor, Mr. Romero. He'd come from the South to teach us. Once a week, for a month. That was the deal. 

I knew how to bop the polka at barn dances with skinny stone-faced mustached men, but dapper Mr. Romero specialized in ballroom dancing.

He put on Big Band music. "We'll start with the fox trot. It's a closed position." He grabbed me and held me close. I heard my girl friends giggling, then he let me go. 

We girls coupled and held each other tight."Now slow, quick, quick, slow, quick, quick, that's right." His foot tapped in time. 

The fox trot proved great fun. Who wouldn't like to scamper to the fast tempo? I'd sweat out my blouse's arm pits by the time we left.

Next week we learned the quick step, danced with wild swinging arms and side kicks. Mr. Romero taught us walks, runs, turns, and when we'd learned those, he showed us locks, hops and skips.

The third week, he taught us to waltz. "It was the scandal of English society in the 1800s," he said. 

We danced with each other. "1-2-3-, 1-2-3-" He barked out the time.

"Smooth," he cried. "Long flowing movements."  

We glided around the floor, trying not to bump into each other.

"One last lesson," he said as we streamed out of the warehouse. "Next week, the tango."

No one showed up for that last lesson but the teacher and me. Mr. Romero carried on as though everyone had come. He put on the music. He described the dance: a passionate, sensual form. 

"You pick up your feet when you tango, like the stalking action of a cat." He showed me. "You turn to the left, then to the right." 

We began, his fingers delicate on my back, my hand clasped his. He led with the slightest touch. 

Our bodies swept across the floor, turning and leaning, our feet in an odd backward walk that felt just right. 

We merged with the music, with each other. Time stood still.

Then the lesson finished. Mr. Romero packed up his big brown record player and shook my hand. 

I never saw him again, and I never again danced the Tango, but they remain a sensuous part of my life.

Oh the Tango, the Tango, the Tango, its bliss, its elation, its exuberant euphoric feeling, his fingertips on my back, our bodies moving so delicately together, touching but but not intersecting.

Years passed before I perceived that such ecstasy is not the norm but the exception.

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