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Five Tandas

He had the bright eyes of a brilliant man.

And a dance I needed to taste.

The first night I inspected him as he danced by with one status female after another. Hm, I thought. Look at that.

Look at that.

Look at that.

You never know what form it's going to come in. You never know when it's going to strike.

He saw me too, sitting on my perch, taking stock, refusing to hurry into anything and refusing to say yes to any man whose company I wouldn't enjoy.

The first time we saw each other seeing each other, I wrote it off, two accidental glances meeting.

But the second time, I felt caught. You caught me seeing you.

And you see me too.

The crowd, the music, the swirl of floofy dresses...all gone.

When I looked at him I felt my gaze piercing through his irrelevant corporeal self. I felt like I accidentally saw through his eyes his soul there in front of me. I could not unsee it. And when his eyes met mine, once that night, once the next night, there was something accidentally and electrically naked about them. Like, underneath all these clothes and all this flesh and bone, there was a completely naked human spirit that I, the lepidopterist, had accidentally caught in my net.


On the third night we danced.

Santiago used to say, “the first tanda is always crap. If you ever have an amazing first tanda with anybody, take them somewhere and have sex with them.” I had assumed this was an urban legend—a first tanda where your spirits instinctively merge into one couple and you harmonize to the same music like one thing? Isn't that like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?

Except, Gentle Reader, it really happened, to this total skeptic.

So believe in magic.

From the first moment our bodies was like an enormous suction, slurking two things into one thing. It was not even like magnets coming together, because the magnets stay just two magnets, just very close together. We came together like...two halves of a heart that had been ripped apart and had never known it until finally reunited.

I would not have suspected such a thing from the outside. To look at, he was just a guy, nice enough and everything, but it's not like I would look at him twice in a crowd. And to me his dance looked good; I agreed with his amusing, thoughtful, and inspired musical choices; and I wanted to dance with it, but nothing could have prepared either of us for our dance.

We stepped innocently onto the dance floor. “Nice to see you,” I said, stopping myself before saying “again.” He just seemed so familiar, more so than would be merited by a flurry of glances over a couple days. “Er, I mean, nice to meet you.” A bit of chamuyo.

We embraced.

My brain...shut down.

My body...took over.

I can't even say “I couldn't fight it,” because it was more like my body just threw my brain out the window altogether and established itself at the wheel of the ship and said, “I am the captain now, and whatever I say goes.” I couldn't believe what my own body did, nor could I stop it from behaving as it would. I was powerless to rein my shocking self in, even though a tiny mental voice tried to remind me that I was in public and people could see me. Public? People? Huh?

From the first moment our hands touched something happened, it was like being half of a Tesla coil, half of an octopus, half of an imploding planet made of molten lava. We were one thing with one mind.

We are all animals.

I realized why we spend so much time and money working on technique. It's so we don't fall the fuck over when this happens. It's so when our brain vacates the premises entirely, our muscle memory can take over and do what needs to be done. For this was no dance. This was no tango. This was....

I don't even know how to describe it, I, who have words for everything. And the words that are probably best suited are all so contrite and so hackneyed and so cliché. This was passion, this was desire, this was hunger? —I don't write like that. But I don't know how else to say it. My head knew I was supposed to be my own person in the dance and care about myself, not about the other person, but my head was no longer running the show.

Our skins fused into one thing, through our clothes.

Our mind was one mind and we felt the music like the yang and the yin of one thing.

I understood afresh why people have sex. It is because the thought of having the other split-apart half of the One Thing so far away as to be actually outside one's own body feels unbearably distant and wrong, when clearly their only possible place in this universe is inside one's own being.

Here was someone who heard as I did, thought as I did, felt as I did, reacted as I did, only in a brighter, stronger, more masculine way. My sense of humour, my raving sensuality, my boldness, my softness, my love of cleverness and my greater love of authenticity. This had nothing to do with dance technique, or country of origin, or outside appearance. This was about, baby, you were born this way. This was about personality.

I remembered one night long ago in Argentina, scratching my head, wondering, “come again, how in the world can anyone teach tango, I mean, that's not something you can teach.”

We surreptitiously caressed each other's bodies, covering each other with invisible shining rose-coloured silk with our hands, our arms, our legs, our feet, and every single thing inbetween. Each caress was a surprise and a delight and a thrill. Each caress was specific. Each caress was recognition of the self in the glorious other. Each caress was Odysseus finally home from the wars, the end of two lifetimes of unconscious journeys home to what had always been uniquely true for both. It's you. Not just, caresses are nice, and bodies are nice. We revelled in each other in an agony of famished joy, tidily hidden behind a nice suit and a black dress.

I had never allowed myself to dream that such a man could be real. I had never allowed myself to dream that someone could exist who would have been born the male Me and that when we danced we would be one thing, without technique, without years of lessons, but just because we fit perfectly together as yang and yin of whom we had always been. I had never allowed myself to dream that anyone could exist such that upon our first touch we would be involuntarily sucked together.

His arm unconsciously constricted around me, crushing me to him as if we were naked in bed together. It could not stop itself. Public or no public, his reptile brain took over, jitters of electricity shooting through his arm and hand. An involuntary micromovement I had previously only felt in men about to orgasm.

He caressed the insides of my thighs with sacadas. My reptile brain was mesmerized by his apparently ideally sized and shaped penis (pants are no shield against the assessing brain of an aroused female) and was keenly interested in getting to know it much, much better. It was apparently keenly interested in me too....

We breathed like one thing. We played in the music, our one mind delighting in the surprise of inevitability. We feasted on kisses with every part of ourselves except our mouths. I wondered if I could call in the tango police and ask special dispensation to actually kiss, perhaps writing it off as an adorno. Because not touching his lips with mine, not tasting his mouth, was becoming unbearable. In such a good way.

He was tender. He barely touched me with whispered secret rose petals perceptible only by me. So gentle, so powerful, I fought not to whimper aloud.

“I'm usually much wittier than this,” I said when we had to speak. “So pretend you're someone else, and you'll get the general idea.”

Our next tanda. The last tango of that milonga. He embraced me. I did not embrace him at first. My body waited. I had no idea what it was going to do. And then I felt my whole arm and hand suctioned through the air by some mysterious force, so strongly that my hand landed on his back with such a loud whap!, everyone around must have heard it. Come here, my body said. My brain chastised me for being unfeminine, too masculine, too aggressive.

But my brain was not running the show.

My breasts mashed themselves high up against him with minds of their own, like, “in this position it might be hard to notice if I'm making a pass at you, so let me make it really clear.” They clearly considered this urgent news. I have no idea how it happened, but I also noticed I could not undo myself. My back had arched itself and electricity was shooting through my spine. My rump was presenting itself like a mandril in heat. “Pull yourself together,”I reprimanded myself. “Where's your pride.” I fought for technique. By screaming at myself like a drill sergeant, I rearranged myself from the ribs down, but my pass was like a force field; it was in charge, not I, and those breasts had something important to say.

We challenged each other, gently, not so gently. We vibrated with music. We chuckled at our charmingly artistic whimsies. We tasted, tasted, and tasted one another's delicious bodies.

He breathed out, a long, slow, deep exhale, as if we had been in bed together. My body, caring nothing about what my mind deemed socially or dance-technically acceptable, breathed in, my nose hovering delicately near his neck, my subconscious rapturously registering that his DNA was robust and different from mine and our offspring would almost certainly survive. I nearly swooned.

I felt for sure I would remember every single moment of that delicious embrace for the entire rest of my life. But I am already forgetting. This breaks my heart.

La Cumparsita. Moments slipping relentlessly by, each note of music branding us with fire and disappearing remorselessly into the past, never to come again. We devoured each other, the urgency of time lost never to be regained, the sweet taste of one another's honeyed bodies all the sweeter at Armageddon.

The Cumparsita ocho cortadoed and so did we and he ended us up violently crossed, down, canyengue, frozen in long silence. Our free-side hands were down, hard, a white-knuckled fist, trembling with need, the savage elegance of two panthers who had caught each other for dinner. He held me immobilized with the force of his will. And like all strong-willed women, there's nothing like a will that's even stronger than mine to make me wet my pants. I used up my entire .005% brain capacity (what was currently available) forcing myself to keep my hand off his neck, but at the very last note of the song, I couldn't fight myself any longer. I slid my hand up his back and just had a tiny soupçon of neck to tide me over, just a delicious little nibble with a finger or two before returning to the land of social propriety.

For here was a real treasure. Here was a man who could reasonably be expected to throw a woman against the nearest wall and relentlessly fuck the living daylights out of her.

But there was no proposal of un café. There was not even any demonstration of a desire to sit together and talk.

“Thank you for a very lovely tanda,” he said instead, in a rather shaken voice. Trust a German to pull out the most dryly precise tool for any moment and actually use it. “I will see you tomorrow night.” I realized situations like these are why social niceties were invented. Otherwise Chaos would reign supreme and we Neanderthals would take over the world, making music and dancing and having sex all over the place. (Doesn't sound so bad.)

I wandered home, tormented with thirst, my knickers in a state of torpor that would grow orchids in February. Sleep would not come.

The next day

This place. These lights. These people. This music. Oy.

When would he come. Why was he not here yet. How long would I have to wait.

And then I was dancing with a friend. Something told me to open my eyes. And lo, out of that whole stadium-sized ballroom stuffed with people where it was impossible to intentionally find anyone, there he was, dancing behind the couple behind me. I saw him. He looked up into my eyes and bright electricity ran through us and everything and everyone else disappeared. When I looked into his eyes his clothes fell away and he could not hide his nakedness from me. Huh? What partners? “Jaja,” an evil part of my brain thought. “Gotcha.” Some evil genius Lorelei who was not I took over control of my eyelids. The Lorelei's eyelids grew slow and languid and heavy and they drooped louchely down and she looked up at him through the world's slowest half-blink, it could have been measured in archaeologic eras. Then these slow, heavy eyelids said, “yeah, I see you, yeah, I know you can't look away. You think you're going to dance with another woman? Well check this out, this guy I'm dancing with here, he's like, so fascinating, I'm so into this dance, I just can't spare another second to look at you.” And my head, quite by itself, lazily nestled down to roost in my friend's embrace. (“Sorry, Friend,” I mentally apologized for my rudeness. Nobody likes to be used as a prop in someone else's torrid tale of lust.)

I sat down wishing my rational brain could take seduction classes from my reptile brain, and wondering who the hell that was back there, bodysnatching me. Unfortunately you can't fake this shit.

I watched dancers go by in disconnected inharmony and felt sorry for them. I listened to the local orchestra and all the songs were lovely but they were not quite right for us. And then I heard the first notes of the Exactly Right Tanda, and just as I was thinking, “ah, that's the one”...he was there.

Pugliese. Perfect. And not just any Pugliese. Para Dos, Chiqué, La Yumba. God was working overtime.

“An excellent choice,” I said.

We took each other's hand. But I could not embrace him, I...hesitated, I was shy, it was so great a confession, to embrace this man, he would feel my all-consuming longing, how could I admit it.

His hand wrapped around the top of the side of my ribs, soft, warm, terribly gentle. The lingering, sweet, tender caress, all the infinite way down my side and to the small of my back, as if we were alone in the bedroom and I were wearing a silk negligée instead of a black dress. His hand kissed every inch of my naked body through my clothes. He drew me quietly and surely to him and my timidity floated away and I gave in to his will.

Pugliese would have been proud. We were just the additional orchestration his music needed. I wish I could have seen what our tanda looked like. For there had never been before, and never will be again, that particular, perfect, beautiful tanda.

Somewhere in there I noticed my mouth was open. I noticed I had breathing through it, the fast, deep, rhythmic breathing of somebody having sex. I realized I had been dancing the whole tanda panting. My bosom was literally heaving. And there was not one damned thing I could do about it.

My fingernail grazed the back of his neck. I did not do it on purpose.

I stepped over his parada. At least that is what my conscious brain planned. And in the course of human history, women have occasionally used this moment to slide a little ankle or a little side-of-calf up a little pant leg if they want to go home with someone. But I have no idea how I ended up with my thigh all the way up against his chest. (“God damn, those endless hours of balance practice seem to have paid off,” a tiny surprised voice said in my head. “And...chances of nobody seeing my underwear in the middle of this moment are slim to none, shit, which ones am I wearing,” another tiny voice said. But they drifted away exactly as meditation practitioners are always telling you well-behaved thoughts should.)

My bare leg felt like it was made out of tongues that could taste through shirt. “Now that right there, that is a nice pec,” the leg thought, trying not to wonder how in the world it had ended up there. The leg slid lazily down his body, tasting his chest, his sternum, his abdomen, his belt, the wool of his pants, his penis, his thigh, his knee, his tibia, his ankle, and his shoe before travelling on its way forward, and there was not one single thing I could do to hurry it up. The tango police would probably arrest me for public indecency and, worse, for bad technique, but a quick internal check told me my hips were level, my standing ankle wasn't rolling out, my back was straight, and I wasn't leaning on him, so...technically legal!

At one moment when I was actually behaving myself quite modestly and decently, we must have passed by some tables. “That's Jordana,” I dimly heard an awed voice say in italics. My ears were too full of pheromones, though, and I heard it as one would hear something said on Neptune.

The tanda ended. We exchanged a sentence or two. I looked at him. Or rather, the alien Lorelei who had hijacked my body looked at him. Gentle Reader, I cannot figure out any other way of phrasing this, so I am afraid I must say I gazed up at him sidelong, fixed, out of the corner of my eyes. Somehow things were feeling extremely full of long black eyelashes and slanting green eyes. Thank God my eyeliner was talking for me. For my words had run dry.

“What are you thinking about,” he said.

“I was wondering if you're busy tonight,” I said.

He said nothing. His whole body and aura got invisibly larger and he put himself right in front of me. A war I hoped to lose. Physically he was just an ordinary-sized guy but in that moment he grew and took up the whole huge ballroom. I trembled. He was enormous, deathly serious. I was deliciously afraid. He stared, hard, down into my eyes, his blue eyes taken over by huge black dilated pupils.

A thousand years went by.

“We should definitely dance another tanda later,” he said.

You are one of the twelve dancing princes I've been writing my story about, I knew it, I thought. Your hearts pierced with a shard of ice, keeping you in permanent limbo, dancing your nights away, woman after woman after woman, frozen in an eternal state of detachment.

Somehow I made it back to my seat and collapsed into it I know not how, woozy with pheromones. I was disappointed, I was a little confused, but more than that, I was Starting to Notice a Trend. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical rapist, how did I keep running into guys whose bodies said yes but whose words said no? And why were they so protective of their maidenly virtue? I remembered what I had automatically noted as soon as I had first seen him dance. Excellent dancer, ergo, epic emotional baggage. It cannot be helped. The better a dancer is, the more shit they have in their broken-hearts cupboard, it's a default, it's a given, there is no way around it (except for Liz and Yannick, I have no idea how they escaped that one). And now his emotional baggage was biting me in the ass.

Time passed. I realized I was sitting because I could not stand, knees like sex-crazed jello. I was under the influence of a weapons-grade cocktail of mind-altering human chemicals. My connection with the physical world was tenuous at best.

I felt a man standing next to my chair with Intent. I didn't feel like turning my head.

So he got down on his knees in front of me. Right there on the edge of the dance floor, in full view of everyone.

He begged with his eyes.

I let him stay down there.

I looked down at him with a just-messin'-wi'cha Hmm-maybe-face and let us both enjoy the joke until he wasn't sure I would say yes, then let the moment linger a little longer.

Then I accepted him.

We brought beauty to that ballroom with our magical tanda, so sweet, so pure, so harmonic.

He asked me for another tanda.

Three tandas,” I said in italics. “I've never danced three tandas with anyone.”

And we walked right back onto the floor for the very next tanda, in full view of the whole world.

My Cosmic Scriptwriter shared my sense of humour. The last song of our last tanda. “Perfect! I love this one!” I said. “La vida es corta, y hay que vivirla!” “What does that mean?” he asked, on cue. Clearly someone Up There really was writing this moment. I looked him square in the eye. “Life is short, and you gotta live it,” I said. He met my eye in silence.

I suppose it is just as well that we ended with a jovial milonga. It let us both laugh and admire our one-minded clever musical jokes. It let me leave his embrace like a proper grown-up elegant lady, without making a spectacle of myself...although inside, I was throwing myself on the floor and kicking and screaming and clinging to his ankles like kudzu and wailing, “don't leeeeave meeeee!” He said thank you in the world's softest and most appreciative and apologetic voice. I wish I were a stranger to that tone, but I had all too recently heard it in the context of someone I was in love with telling me I was Really Wonderful while at the same time passing me over for a young, bland, nice-pretty, wholesome, sexless blonde Barbie Next Door (although I wouldn't have my suspicions confirmed for months). I know “gee you're great but I'm terrified, sorry, please don't kill me,” when I hear it.

I sat. That's what women do. An insultingly short time later he came dancing by with some ordinary blonde dumpling probably named Brittany, no chic, not a real dancer, and I could tell there was no chemistry. His hand on her back was not feeling her. He looked at me, many times, searching for my eyes. But I would not give him the satisfaction.

I was much too busy looking somewhere else.

Just one of those things. Cole Porter. Billie Holiday.