It is Tuesday and I go to dance. I greet Atilio. "Gracias para ayer" I tell him. The milonga yesterday was wonderful. The orchestra and singer were spectacular. I like Chino La Borde. It drives Pablo crazy everytime I tell him what singers I like besides him. It is a good thing that Roberto Florio is not alive. I would die for this man. But he died in 1993. He is my favorite cantante.
When I enter the milonga there is someone sitting in my seat. Atilio notices right away and says something to Graciela. The tables, and the seats, are priorities with the locals. He goes to the table and explains to the woman she must move back one. She reufses. He tells her again and moves her coffee. She is not happy. She will be even less happy if Ana comes. Because this is where my friends will sit.
There are three woman at this table. They are all extranjeras. They are all visiting. It is OK. They eye me suspiciously. They do not understand why this happened. Maybe I will explain if the vibes get less hostile. I remember many years ago when this happened to me at La Viruta. I could not understand why I was asked to leave a table. Now I know. Tables are earned.
There are few people here today. That is OK. I always dance in this milonga if I want. I love the music. For me I am happy to just sit and listen to the music. I dance a couple of tandas and do just that. The woman behind me who had to move keeps kicking my chair. I never fail to be amazed at how juvenile people can be in the milongas. This woman has to be my age or older. Everytime she gets up to dance she shoots me a "See how good I am look." Like I care.
Finally I talk to one of the women at the table. She is the only one not dancing much. It turns out she is from England. Although she has been coming here for years, she didn't really understand the table thing. I tell her "This is my table, and this is my seat. If you come here in 6 months, this will still be my table, and this will still be my seat." I point to the table next to us, "That table is Anibal's. He always sits there. Several of us have regular tables. That is why that woman had to move." Now she understands.
I go to dance with a friend of mine I have known for years. Each year it becomes harder to dance with him as his stomach expands. He teases me that I have lost weight and he has found it. I laugh as I pull up my skirt. I am afraid of it falling. It won't, it just feels that way. "Che," he says to me. "Yesterday we talked about the milongas changing, what do you think?" I tell him, "I think it is sad. Look over there. Those people come not to dance but to watch. What do you think?" I ask him. "I think they are cheap and that they should pay their Yanqui dollars for a show." he says to me. They are a group who are busy snapping fotos of the dancers. My friend walks me back to my seat.
I listen to the music. There are many French and Spanish tourists that come to this milonga. For whatever reason they blend in. I explain this to the woman at my table. I have no problem with Foreign tourists. They just have to respect the local customs and codes. I think most of the locals feel the same. She doesn't understand. She tells me how a foreign man danced better than the Argentines at El Beso. Could be. Not a point worth debating.
I go to dance with another friend. It is a lovely tanda of vals. While we are dancing a large group of tourists are at the door. My friend looks at them. They are a group of 8. He doesn't look any happier than I feel. This is a small place. With the other two groups this now makes 18 people who do not dance sitting and gawking. In this milonga that is a lot of people.
I see this cute guy that was at another milonga. He really does not dance that well but he is so cute. Well you know, girls like to look too. There are not that many people here today. The weather has been terrible, hot, humid. The thought of going out is not all that inviting. Yet we do. I go to talk to my friends, listen to the music.
The cute guy asks me to dance. I ask him where he is from. He is a Spaniard living in Italy. He loves that I am American living here. He speaks some English. Actually he speaks well. One of those people that speaks several languages well. He asks me my name. I ask him his. "Roberto" he tells me. I laugh "I will never forget your name." I say to him. He smiles. "How nice." Then he realizes there must be a story. "I tell him, "I know too many Robertos." Poor guy. He really is sweet.
When I get back to my table I say to my friend Don, "I will never forget the name of the guy I just danced with, it is Roberto." Don laughs out loud. Roberto looks at us. "It is a very common name." he says. "Yes," I agree with him. "It is." Unfortuanately. My life seems to be full of Robertos.
By now the gallery of tourists are out of their seats snapping pictures. Taking videos. It is amazing. Yes, I understand. They are thrilled to be seeing "the real thing." Too bad they don't understand how rude they are being. In a small place like this it is a little unbearable. I sit and watch them. They are completely unaware of their behavior. Something like this would have never happened 5 years ago.
I am invited to dance by one of my favorite dancers. A charming man always well dressed. We dance the first song of the tanda. "Que elegante" he says to me. "Siempre linda." I smile at him. "You probably say that to all the women you dance with." He pretends not to understand. So I say it in another way. He hesistates. "Lamentable no," he says to me, "pero siempre con vos." Chamusero.
As we dance by the foto snapping tourists my friend makes a face. In between songs I ask him what is wrong. He gestures towards the tourists "I feel like a monkey in the zoo. Why don't they just go to a show." "They don't go to a show for two reasons." I tell him "One because the shows are costing 400 - 800 pesos and this costs 15. Two because this is the real thing." My friend thinks about it. "Well it won't be the real thing much longer. Soon there will be more of them than us." I say nothing.
I hope that this does not become a regular part of this milonga. I love this milonga. It is small and there is not enough room to accomodate all of us who want to dance and large groups of tourists who just want to gawk and take pictures. The milongas are who ever comes first, so it would be a shame to turn away the dancers.
I am invited to dance by a man from Spain. We just walk around the floor because he really is not dancing. It is OK. We have a nice conversation. He thought I was Argentine and wanted to ask me about real estate. I still talk to him about real estate although I am not Argentine. It also turns out we have a friend in common. He tells me Miguel will be here in April. Small world.
My International day. I dance next with a man from France. He loves to do lots of turns. That would be OK if he would pivot. He doesn't talk. That is OK too. He is very intense, concentrating on his dancing. I want to tell him "It's OK, just have fun." I think he doesn't speak Spanish and my French is limited. I could tell him "The metro is over there." But I don't think it would be the same.
I am happy to see my friend El Tucumano. We love to give each other a bad time. I wonder how many women he asks to go home with him. He is non-stop. He gets away with it because he can dance and he is fun. He invites me to dance immediately checking out my neckline. "Don't start." I tell him. He laughs.
Usually I stay at this milonga until just before the subte stops. Tonight I find myself there later. Maybe because it is so hot outside. I would rather be here dancing and talking to friends. Don sits down next to me. "Give me helpful hints." he says. So we talk about the dancing. I tell him I want to go, I am tired. He is staying near me and we can catch the same bus. He will be leaving in a week. My tango life.