Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Storm

About storms [metaphorical and literal]: they happen all the time.

The last time you walked to a milonga during a rain storm you got lost; whoever danced with you later didn’t appreciate your soaked pants legs brushing up against theirs, or your sweaty and rain-drenched shirt they would press their face against during each song.  To avoid that, this time, you’ll find yourself speed walking just to avoid the rain; the day-long shower will clear up for 30 minutes to let you make the 20 minute walk to the milonga.

“Estabas en la Viruta de la noche?” She'll ask, and you’ll realize that it’s not the music in your headphones; it comes from the girl standing next to the ticket collector.  Mistaking being caught off guard and confused, She'll translate: “Weren’t you at la Viruta last night?”

You’ll make small talk – what were you doing at la viruta last night? oh you’re from montreal?  oh you're traveling the world? – and you’re glad to find out she also took the beginner’s class.  While students are waiting for the teacher, She'll actually ask you to dance.  To review what you had learned last night, of course.

Surprisingly, being the only ones on the floor at that moment, it’s not that hard to dance with her.  In fact, her constant reassurance and lighthearted smiles make making mistakes with her so not terrible.

You might be inside, but the storm hasn’t even begun to clear.

You know you have to practice with people who have more experience.  You work with the best, and that’s how you get better.

About more experienced people: good ones also want to get better, so they won’t want to work with you.  As a matter of fact, working with you frustrates them.

They’ll force a smile as they purse their lips, blink frequently with wide eyes and tilted head as you step on their feet, and rub the area over one eyebrow as you continue to apologize for not understanding everything the teacher said and how to do it.  When the teacher says to cambia parejas || change partners, you catch the sigh of relief and rolling of their eyes as they turn to grab onto the next Rico Suave.  After all, this is only your eighth day of classes.  Shouldn’t you be a tango master by now? 

This doesn’t help the fact that the teacher is the kind who thinks you'll understand the material faster if he yells louder.  Understanding every fifth word he says while he jabs the air with his finger and stomps on the wooden floor boards confuses you only more, while your pareja waits with arms crossed, eyes flicking back and forth between you and the teacher as if to catch the information flying from his mouth and into your ears.

The clouds get thicker, darkening the floor around you.  The lightning strikes brighter, blinding you to keep you from seeing where you’re going.  The thunder rolls louder, making it impossible to hear the music.  The rain keeps you frozen from making the next move, dampening your confidence and keeping you from speaking with your body.

"Necesitas más esfuerza del cuerpo. ||  You need more force from the body." One partner will say, and she'll press her head against yours to look for it.

"Necesitas más presencia.  ||  You need more presence." Another will say, and she'll grip the hell out of your hands.

The storm – literal and metaphorical – keeps getting worse.  From within the confines of La Catedral, you can see flashes of lightning, a cold blue, light up the sky and corners of the warm and dark milonga.  Is that rain you hear outside, or the broken fan hovering above your dinner table?

When the class ends – thank god that it finally ended – you turn to pack your frayed Ugandan Converse shoes into your bag and trek back home.  All you want is a pack of crackers and dulce de leche.  Comfort food for such an uncomfortably soggy night.

But She won’t let you.

“Do you want to dance?  I know I’m not supposed to be asking because I’m the girl, but…  I just don’t want to be boring and sit around and just watch people practice.”

You decide not to mention that that’s what you’ve done for a considerable amount of time since you arrived.  As a way of not saying ‘no,’ you quickly warn her that every woman you danced with in class left frustrated with you, and that tonight just isn’t your night.

“That’s alright.  I totally understand; whenever I feel like I danced pretty shittily, I leave in a really crappy mood.  But don’t let it get to you, you’ll be fine.  How about we just teach you how to walk around?”

You can’t deny her that.

She’ll be the one who clears the clouds that night, if not only for a moment.  She’ll calm the lightning and quiet the thunder, and She'll even hold out a flowery red umbrella for you stand under the rain.  She’ll go slow, telling you what your body is or isn’t telling her, something that most dance partners won’t do.  She’ll let you walk her around in circles around the floor, not feeling any shame from the onlookers; who cares if you’re just leading her in a simple walk?  She’s the only one who’ll talk to you instead of smile the mistakes away.

You’ll find yourself there until closing, 2 am Tuesday morning.  You give her your email [because She'll be able to find you on Facebook, because cell phone time costs a shit ton here], and walk her outside, complimenting on how patient She is.

“That’s the only way I learned,” She'll say, “I just kept dancing with people who were patient enough to tell me what did and didn’t work.  I have a friend I met at a club who just wanted to learn to tango, and we’d get together all the time to just play around.  Nothing sexual, just tango.  It’s great.”

Here’s the thing about more experienced people:  the best ones will want to teach you, helping them get better.

You tell her that you need to find one of those, and She smiles.  Worried about how late it is, you offer to walk her to at least the bus stop, but She won’t have any of it.  She can manage on her own.  Upon walking out of the milonga, you notice the rain has cleared up, mostly.  You’ll smile at each other, kiss each other on the cheek [only once, because that’s how it works in Argentina], and go your separate ways.

There’ll be a moment when you look back, and realize that She's already around the corner.  You’ll realize that you hope this ray of sunlight in the middle of the night will find you online, and maybe you’ll even go dancing again.  For a moment, She cleared the storm to let you breathe.

On the walk home, the rain will suddenly start again.  There’ll even be a crash of lightning, and an incredibly loud clap of thunder that actually makes you almost fall into the late-night flower shop’s bucket of roses.  But you’re not in a hurry, not this time.  You’ll let the rain fall, soak your shirt and your pants.

Getting wet won’t be so bad.  Not when you've been warmed by the sun.

[Sun-Kissed & Rain-Soaked]

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