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The Unsaid

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We both know I am here for you and for no other reason. We both know all these people are invisible to me. We both know what you said. Every microsecond I spend sitting here is humiliating for someone as proud as I am. Every microsecond is a public confession of my inside self on display. I resent you for forcing me to admit that you have power over me. I want to make your life difficult to get even for your making my life difficult. I want revenge.

I was afraid of that. That's why I've been nervously glancing around looking for you every five seconds. I want to make sure that I don't fuck up. The last time was an accident but I know how women are. I know the onus is on me to make sure we don't fall into a pothole of barbed feelings. I want to avoid pain for you and pain for me. I value you and can't afford to lose you.

Damned straight you can't afford to lose me. But I am still feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. I have enjoyed watching you nervously glancing around. Considering where you sit, you must have a double-jointed neck in order to see anything. I know you're shy and feel safer surrounded by a thick insulating layer of harmless nice people. That makes sense. The marketplace is a scary place. But if you're going to hide yourself behind a barricade of buddies, then it's on you to do the work of finding me. I am not going to go join the barricade and sit there being nice to people I don't care about, pretending I am not a woman, pretending you are not a man. I resent you for making me feel. So you're going to have to work ten times as hard as any other man.

Ok how's this for a start. Look at me. I am breaking my tanda to show the world that you have power over me.

Not enough.

Ok, I am not going to move from this spot until you acknowledge me. My partner is starting to wonder. I am trying really hard to catch your eye. Look at me.

Not enough.

God damn it, what does a man have to do to get a hello around here? You want to play hard ball? Fine. Check out this enormous wave. And you had better check it out, because I'm not going to stop until you do.

Oh my goodness, what a delightful surprise to see you here! Fancy seeing you! At a milonga, of all places. Well strike me pink, I would have never suspected such a possibility. How great to accidentally be in the same place at the same time! It sure looks like you're having an unimportant time with that other woman.

What other woman? What dance floor? There is only you. Nothing else here matters. I know you wanted to be rsure I knew you came here, for me. Look: I walk away from all of them and come to you, heart (or whatever) in hand. The world can wait. Let me kiss you to reassure you that I am clear on the concept and glad you came.

Let you kiss me to show the world that I'm yours, you mean. Let you mark me like a dog marks his territory. If I were younger that would work, and it does kind of work, but unfortunately I've been hurt too many times. I know what you're trying to say is that our moment will come some time tonight, but unfortunately too many men have told me that and then been swept away in a vague maelstrom of wasting time and frittering away opportunities. I am only half mollified. I will not trust that you are for me until you are actually inside me. Metaphorically speaking of course.

Of course. I want to make sure everything is good between us. I want to make sure everything is good between you and this woman I'm dancing with. Or at least, as good as it can be. I realize the mere fact that there are two women in that prior sentence is a recipe for trouble. Please, everybody smile and wave at each other. Milongas are for enjoying and for behaving well. Look happy. What starts on the outside can trickle to the inside. And life would be a lot easier without jealousy and fear.

True, but then it wouldn't be real life. But I can play your game. Nobody is better at the charming otherwomanmeetandgreet than I. I can put Miss America to shame in the superficial socialite Oh Hello There Contest. Look. I did it. She did it too. We have both invisibly bared our teeth at each other and given you permission to continue, to prove that we are at least marginally evolved. So go finish your tanda and don't come back until you're ready to man up and tell me what you really have to say to me.

Thank you. I feel better. Nervous, but better. It may take me a while to work up the huevos to stand up with you but I hope you will wait for me.

I'm not telling.

[A hefty amount of time goes by.]

I know you're there but I'm paying attention to this young girl right now. And I have to make sure the world is peopled with strong, healthy, viable carriers of my DNA.

Whatever. I can tell you're having a nice time, but that actually makes me feel better. “Nice” is no threat to me. Reproduction is boring. That child looks like an extra from The Sound of Music. I can tell from how you're moving that you're excited the way a Golden Retriever would be excited by a ball. Have a good time. Take the edge off your nerves. We both know she means nothing.

It's hard work being a gentle visitor from Planet Art. I like being around people but showing feelings that matter in public is scary.

I might wait. I might leave at any second. It's your gamble.

[A hefty amount of time goes by.]

Yikes! Last tanda! How in the world did that happen? I tell you, you sit around chatting with friends and somehow suddenly it's one o'clock, that blows my mind every time. I guess if I wait until I'm ready nothing will happen. And then you'll be mad at me.

That's right, Mister. You'd better get off your arse right now, otherwise you know I will never forgive you. I've been sitting here. In this room. With these people. For you. Do. Not. Fuck. This. Up.

Ok, ahem, I'm kind of rusty with the cabeceo thing since I don't usually have to use it. It's so much easier just to be friendly and easy with the people sitting right next to me, and that way the Hunt never has to exist. The whole Men and Women Thing, it's so...real. How's this: WOULD YOU LIKE TO DANCE?

Good job. Yes. I would. Thank you.

[He gets up and does the Hunt Walk, just like any other man would have to do.]

I can't believe you're making me do the Hunt Walk.

O ho, look who's being uppity now. I don't care who you think you are or how Alpha you are. You are a man. Your rightful place in the cosmos is on your knees in front of a woman, bringing her whatever pleasure you possibly can. It sure is a mighty big ballroom, isn't it. A looong walk.

This is hard for me. It's so public. And, feelings. This walk shows the whole world, and you, uncomfortable squishy unsayable things inside me. I would prefer if they were not common knowledge. I would prefer if even you did not know them. But you do know them.


For God's sake take pity on me. Please. This is hard for me. Give me four steps. Please? So much tension, so much pressure. This feels like a fight. I don't want to fight.

Oh...ok. I will have mercy on you. Because above that whole rat's nest of Man Woman Stuff, I do value and respect our friendship. You can have two steps.

[They meet. Sighs of relief.

But it is different from the first time they danced together, and they both feel it. The lightness and ease of that first milonga, a million years ago, is gone. The affable fun is gone and in its place is the silence of words run dry. Trying to pretend would be futile. Everybody has a mouth full of rocks. They dutifully speak a few pleasantries to each other but the air around the words is different.]

I can feel you.

I can feel you too.

This is embarrassing. I don't seem to be able to take the jitter out of my embrace. Please pretend you can't feel it.

Let me point out that I am jittering just as much. Let's agree not to say anything about the matter.

I wish we could be friends. We have a profound artistic bond and I feel a simple camaraderie with you. I have respect for you as an artist. I am happy I have found you in this universe of people, you challenge me, you listen, you support me, you open up new doors into new worlds for me, you see as I do and yet differently in a sameish way, you make my creative expression sing, and you catalyze my personal growth in a peaceful way, and that is what I want out of other human beings more than anything else in the world. Because of you I understand the world with a new heart. But we cannot actually be friends. Because.

I feel exactly the same way, mujer. It makes me happy and sad at the same time.

How do we do this? In front of everyone? We can play in the top layer easily enough, when it's daytime and we're dressed like children. But this is night. And we're not children. Look at you in your black shirt with buttons. You're beautiful. You are an exquisite efflorescence of fully ripened male life force and pretending you were not put on this earth specifically for sex is pointless. And look at me, all dressed up too. Dressing up takes away my armor. I can't pretend I'm a kid when I'm dressed up. That's the point of dressing up. When I wear my black dress and mess around in the bathroom doing Mysterious Woman Things and come out looking hopefully different, I think of that statue at the head of the stairs of the Met, of the naked warrior who has just ripped off his clothes to go into battle and cut off someone's head. Dressing up forces me to wear my sexual vulnerability as my armor. Dressing up takes away the safety net. Real stakes for real grownups. Can you hack it?

I have an edge on you. In my country sex actually exists. I have been unconsciously groomed since birth to see standing up in my male sexuality as the essence of life. I have had more practice getting used to owning up to sex. In my country men and women are not friends. Which is almost too much realism. Because no, they can't be friends, but at the same time, they do have to be friends, otherwise nothing else is real. Neither of our countries truly understand the human heart.

Life is lonely, and relations that have to deal with sex one way or another are hard work and full of tension and the chance for drama and the potential for hurt feelings. But that's the hand God dealt human beings. So we have to play it.

You are a man, and I am a woman, and I love that, but it makes me sad too. I love the chase, and I love the fight for power, but at the same time, friends are so precious and so rare, and I wish we could just exist in a pure world of creative genius and artistic growth. But we cannot. I....

You're done talking for now.

[If this dance were being translated for television into a bedroom scene, at this point the script would say something like, and then he grabbed her and pinned her to the nearest flat surface and held her there, barely breathing.

The rest of the tanda will be left as an exercise to the reader.]