It is Saturday, about 10:00 pm. I am meeting Carina at Maipu 444. I take the bus and walk to Plaza Bohemia from Diagonal Norte. I ignore the obnoxious comments from men. You can tell spring is in the air and summer is around the corner. When the women wear less clothing,the comments increase. "Hermosa", "Linda" "Que ojo tenes" I walk faster. I have gotten used to this. But it doesn't mean that I like it.
I run up the stairs and bump into Andrea who ends up bumping into Carina who is in front of her, who bumps into Norma. So much for elegant entrances. Everyone turns to give me a hostile look until they realize it is me. Andrea laughs, Norma grabs me and hugs me, and Carina kisses my check. Norma leads us to a table.
There is actually no space. Norma asks a woman a foreigner to move over. She shoves another chair in between. The foreign woman looks ready to complain until Carina shoots her a hostile glare. She turns away. We sit down. Carina is wedged between me and the foreign girl. I am wedged between Carina and an amorous overweight Argentine couple. I think I have the worst of our seats.
Carina is not happy. "Do you like this table?" she asks me. Before I can answer she does "Of course you don't like it, it's terrible." I am tired of explaining to Carina that without a reservation and coming late and the 2,000 other women there, you don't get a choice table. This always seems like news to her. At least she is not like you-know-who that throws a temper tantrum and threatens to leave. She sits there frowning. "This table is terrible." she continues to complain.
Hector, the organizer comes by to greet us. "Hector, mi amor" Carina starts, "Tienes otra mesa, divino?" He quickly looks around, leans over to kiss me. He asks how I am feeling. I actually do not feel that well, but I don't like to complain. My knee hurts and so does my waist. Must be going to rain tomorrow. I smile "Bien, bien, por suerte." I tell him as I kiss him back. Carina is still complaining about the table. Hector tells her he is sorry but there is no other space.
The amorous woman is digging her fat elbow into my ribs. I stare at her. My frosty look. She removes her elbow fast. Carina and I look at the dance floor. We watch to see who is here, who they are dancing with. A man invites me to dance and the foreign girl gets up and runs across the room to him. Oh well. Carina turns to me "La milonga tiene mucha histeria." I laugh.
How do I translate histeria? Well it is not exactly like hysteria the English word. It is different. I think I would define it as B.S. or maybe too many games. It is usually used to describe women who think they are very special (or as we say in California hot shit) but are being difficult. (pains in the ass, high maintenance)
I look at the crowd on the floor. Most of these women do not dance well. But they are being asked by the better dancers. Once I could not understand this. These men used to ask me to dance but now they do not. Well they do,but not like this. My friends told me that is because these women do not have their posture or balance and when they dance they rub against the men or lean on them. IE; an easy way to cop a feel. Sleaze bags. The women however have no idea. They just know they are being asked to dance...a lot. Which is why they came here. Even the Argentine women who do not dance well, fall prey to this. I guess, having the attention, is what it is all about.
Carina goes to dance with a man who knew her father. I look across the floor. One of my friends nods at me. I nod and smile back. He walks towards me. He is not yet at my chair when the foreign girl gets up and goes to him. He smiles at me and shrugs, he takes her to dance. One thing women are not taught with the cabaceo is that they need to wait until the man comes to them. They are not supposed to get up and run across the room to them.
A man who is a gentleman will take the uninvited woman to dance so as not to embarrass her. Unless she is an abysmal dancer. Then he will smile and point at the woman he is actually inviting to dance. This used to happen to me a lot until a friend told me to stay seated and stop running across the room. So now instead of me doing it to other women...it happens to me.
I don't even know if I want to dance. My knee hurts, my waist hurts. When this happens I lose my confidence. I would rather sit and listen to the music. I watch the dancers. Our table is in such a poor location it is hard to see anyone. The amorous couple is on the floor. They continue their amorous poses in a bump and grind type of tango.
The tanda ends. Carina comes back. The amorous couple wedge themselves back in. I wonder if they are married...to each other. Carina babbles about how this man knew her father. She misses her father terribly. He died 4 months ago.
We sit in silence. Carina is shaking her head. "Look at them." She tells me. I do not have to ask her what she is thinking. I know. I tell her that sometimes I wonder if it has been worth perfecting my dance. "I danced more when I did not live here and could not dance that well." I tell her. "Like them." she gestures to the floor. I agree, "Yes, like them."
I know, I am supposed to be patient. I am supposed to not want to dance every tanda. I am supposed to only dance to the music I love with someone I know who can dance to it. There are two problems here. One, I love most of the music. Two, there are not that many men to dance with.
I tell her "I would rather dance a couple hours a week in my living room with someone who knows how to dance, than to come to a milonga. This is when I miss dancing..." I do not even get the words out of my mouth when she hisses at me "Have you seen HIM?" "No," I tell her. "Don't worry. I am not planning on it." My friends do not even use his name now. His still hold out hope, for what I do not know.
"What is going on with los chicos?" she asks me. I tell her that I think Daniel is pissed at me. He confused the days of our practice, but in true Argentine man form, it was my fault. I don't really care. I don't like dancing with him. He is very good looking, a perfect height for me, good personality, but he dances way too fast. He has absolutely no sense of the music. None. It drives me crazy. I might as well not listen to music and just follow him. We could even dance with no music and it would be the same. I would rather not.
"Fernando is wonderful" I tell her. I love dancing with him. He is a little tall for me, but he is so good. Very sweet. She raises her eyebrow at me. "I don't know. He just seems so young." She names several women dancers who are dancing with men that are much younger than them. I nod my head in agreement, "but they are Argentine. The standards for me are different. Even when I dance better"
I look over to the side of the room. A man I have not danced with in awhile nods at me. I smile and nod back. He comes to get me. We go out to dance. "When did you return?" he asks me. I laugh. "I never left. I live here now, for 2 years." "But you don't go out to dance, I never see you. I tell him about the accident. He drives a taxi. In a small moment he hugs me. "You poor thing. You poor thing." he says over and over. "You are dancing very well. Should I not turn you?" He asks. I laugh, and tell him not to worry. He takes me back to my seat after the tanda.
Foreign girl is still jumping up at every guy. She is like a dolphin snapping fish. Through the crowd I see a man on the other side. I think he is looking at me, but Foreign Girl thinks he is looking at her. I wait to see what he wants to do. Carina looks at me. "What is she doing?" I tell her what has been going on. She rolls her eyes.
Finally the crowd on the floor is too dense to see through. I really want to dance. The man across from me nods. I get up to accept the dance. Carina accepts a dance with another man. It is Firpo. I am happy. The guy is nice. I have danced with him before. We dance by all the men. They look at my feet.
After a few dances I decide I just want to sit. Carina is tired. It is 2:00 am. We decide to leave. I walk 5 blocks to Diagonal Norte to catch the bus home. The sidewalks are full of people. I think to myself how amazing it is I can do this. I look at the buildings, the Obelisk, the people, the city. The sidewalks are filthy, full of trash. It doesn't matter. I don't care. Because this is Argentina, and I am happy to be here.