They say Russia is a rough crowd.
I'm a bit of a rough crowd too.
So between the two of us, I wasn't expecting much. But you never know....
Little Alexey was right. The women *do* dress up for milongas here. But while I reserve the right to bedazzle myself to Kingdom Come if I choose, lately my eyes are weary of fuss and bling and I want to wear plain old black jersey nothing (following in the infamous footsteps of Lillie Langtry and Coco Chanel) that doesn't matter. Because the clothes don't matter. Forget them. Except for allowing one's self a smug moment of looking around and feeling like every other woman looks like a frowzy overblown mess and *you* look like an understated breath of fresh air.
Ok the eyeliner kind of matters. I finally perfected the art of looking like I didn't do anything except be born the love child of a black cat and the Sunday morning that follows a Saturday night of impassioned lovemaking. It takes a lot of practice to make your makeup look like a genetic gift.
This was the very Prischepov Milonga I had been watching on YouTube videos for years by now, and *I* was at it. Tonight it was in a quilted restaurant, a small space. I was expecting a hundred women for every guy but the actually the balance was no more off than at a US milonga. And the guys could actually...wait for it...*dance*. They understood their job. They understood it was their responsibility to throw thousands of dollars and years of time into working on technique so that then at milongas they could enjoy themselves, share the music with someone they wanted to embrace, joke, play, express, nuzzle, caress, and...best of all...Man The Fuck Up And Lead.
I was liking this "Russia" concept of which you speak.
Right away I saw The One. I arrived early for the practica and he came and started working with someone whom I can only assume was a student of his. *That one*. That was a body that felt good to be inside, that was a body that understood how to whisper the music and make it explode inside a woman's body, that was a body that was aware of and feeling the woman he danced with, and most of all, that was a body that felt the music intuitively, perceptively, and wisely.
That right there was a real man and I *knew* that together we would understand the music in a charmingly harmonious, human, and real way...and we would take no prisoners. When you know you know.
I saw a whole one and a half other men with whom I could realistically consider dancing a tanda and enjoying myself, although they of course were not The One. But considering there were only like ten men on the floor at a given time and maybe twenty in the whole room, two and a half men with whom I could actually see myself dancing was incredibly high odds. Way to go, Russia.
When the practica ended he stopped dancing with the beginner (but snaps for all his patience until that point). He danced a tanda with a woman who was a better dancer, but kind of a drab sparrow, but they talked, it looked like they were friendly the way one becomes friendly from spending a long time in a tango community. Time went by.
"Hi there," I said with my eyes to the other guy with whom I could realistically consider enjoying a tanda as he danced by. "Whoa! Um, hi, that was a surprise, uh, privyet," said the other guy's eyes. We checked in a few more times, eye conversations that went like this: "I was just checking to see if that's you, I don't see many new faces here, especially not yours," "yes, this is me, hi, I'm an American but I understand your body language," "uh, hi." But it became clear that Other Guy was only there to dance with his girlfriend and that's it. That's fine; nothing personal. Our dance would only have been athletic, anyway. (The other half-guy also only danced with one woman; again, nothing personal.)
Meanwhile The One had established himself with an emaciated platinum blonde Status Female who had arrived later and, like the other one and a half guys, committed himself to dancing only with her. Man, I was bummed. Especially because I felt that he was *wasting* all that delicious tender mature manly intelligent music-feeling on her. I mean, yeah, I was probably just jealous of her because she was a Stick Insect and he was dancing with her and not me and that probably clouded my judgement, but I felt like he and I could have a real *conversation*, we could *share* the music and have some kind of wonderful evolving journey of discovery and mutual exploration, and she was just like, "yes dear, whatever you say, my job is to make you happy." Meh. And yes...I thought less of him that he would choose that when he could have been dancing with *me* (although I knew this was an unfair thing to think, since I had been sitting on my ass all night, occasionally turning down lesser mortals, and nobody had seen me dance, so how could he know).
I watched his hand on her back. I've become quite the bitch about the Back Hand for guys. I want to see that hand *holding a woman* and *knowing* that it's holding a woman. And if I don't see that, forget it, you are not for me. It's amazing how many men that instantly rules out, even lots of professional dancers on YouTube. I want to see that hand *feeling*...and usually I don't. But his hand...that was a hand that had at least once in its life felt the exposed satin skin of a woman's naked back as they made love late into the night. That was a hand worth my time.
I didn't have eye conversations with The One. He seemed to be one of those guys who actually pays attention to the dance he's dancing, and the woman he's dancing with, and I respected that. I just watched and loved his musical choices, and *knew* that if we danced, it would be a magical fit.
Eventually the Platinum Stick Insect and he disappeared; I assumed they were off talking or whatever it is people do at milongas. I enjoyed the live band, who were for real (way to go, Los Milonguitas), and it was nice to see some Argies since they and I were so far from home, so I chatted with them a bit and the Spanish was a relief on our tongues in this strange foreign land. But it became clear that I was not going to dance tonight, and I knew if I got home early enough, I could still walk instead of having to take a cab, and...one knows when it's time to leave.
I arrived on the coat room landing just as the Stick Insect and The One were putting on their overcoats. He saw me and caught my eye, hard, and made a large, "Oh my goodness, it's such a tragedy that we didn't dance, I'm so disappointed, how in the world did that incredible oversight ever happen," face. Which I considered quite surprising since he had never met me and had never seen me dance and we hadn't even had the eye conversation and the whole drama had, as far as I knew, only taken place in my head. Whatever, dude, you had your chance. I went to the (surprisingly nice) loo. Where I glanced at myself in the mirror, and thought, Score one for the eloquent eyeliner. Fuck you, Platinum Stick Insect.
When I came out, she must have been on her way out the door or something, and he had just finished overcoating. He caught me by the arm and looked down into my eyes, urgently. "Jbjdvjgbhjsftwxjoxmnhh," he said, his root chakra searing each word into my conscience. I felt The Thing flow through his hand into my arm and flood my whole body...ah...The Thing...when it's there it's there and you can't fight it and nothing else matters, and when it's not there...you can't fight it, and nothing else matters.
"I'm sorry, I don't speak Russian," I said, fervently hoping God had given me one of those helpful Russians who spoke English, but no, not even in an emergency like this one.
We looked into each other's eyes, I think he said something, like, "vvxugmvaoqudfyzc," and his body was speaking Spanish to me so I unconsciously switched into speaking Spanish and couldn't unswitch, but since the content of our speech clearly didn't matter, I figure it was all good.
He pulled me to him and held me in a man's embrace, the embrace of a real man, holding a woman, and everything around me vanished and in that split second I dissolved into the simple truth of desire.
He kissed me.
The real kiss of a real man. Ok, for form's sake he made sure about 10% was not on the mouth, for, you know, propriety (or maybe for the benefit of the coat check girl and the ticket woman both sitting right there). But his real kiss said he must have had a drama unfolding in his head that matched mine! And here I was thinking not only that he hadn't seen me, but that it would not have been right for me to call attention to myself.
Agony, to have to part, our dance undanced, and now...a hell of a lot of other things undone too! That real embrace, that was a real embrace worth coming to a milonga for, one moment of perfect tanda, I needed nothing else...and that real kiss....
Who knew where it came from. Who knew what he said (I don't speak Russian, but I speak decent Guy, and my Guy-to-English subtitles running along the bottom of the screen ran, "dude I so wanted to dance with you but I regretfully had some interfering reason that made perfect sense in my strange Guy Brain but, like, I'm seriously not happy about it"). I think he said one more thing, or maybe he didn't, I think I said a thing or two more myself, folderol, I knew he couldn't understand me (especially because I couldn't switch out of Spanish, dammit) but I knew his body would understand the underlying meaning of the talking, that tender last micromoment of him holding me, with all the importance in the world packed into one white instant.
And then he left, because that is what one does when the Woman On Record is waiting, and one was not supposed to suddenly have a Split-Second Story with a visiting gringa.
And I'll never see him again. And we never danced. But we shared our real embrace, for one perfect moment, and we shared our real kiss, for one perfect moment.
And that's worth a thousand dances.