It is Wednesday. I hurry to get to Leonesa. There are several options for milongas on Wednesday, I like this one. I could walk to Canning, but I won't have that many good dances. Canning is like going to a high school reunion. Lots of old familiar faces, but you wonder what you are doing there. I go because it is close and I like to see my old guys, but still. I refuse to go to Fish Face's milonga. It could be the only milonga on Wednesday and I would stay home. I won't support someone who is unpleasant and at times rude. Ever since the time she kicked me in Gricel because I was talking (yes, just talking) to some man she wanted, that was the end of her. This kind of jealousy and histerica is not on my menu.
I walk up the stairs to enter the milonga. Franca throws her arms around me. She is happy to see me. I normally don't come on Wednesday, but now my schedule is cleared. I pay and enter through the curtains. The curtains are so dramatic. Kind of like Loretta Young making a grand entrance.
On the other side is Lucy. "Divina" she gives me a big hug. Really I don't care where she seats me. I know in this milonga I will dance. She wants me to sit in front. She takes me to a table and sits me down. The woman just stares at me. I stare back. I don't care if she want me there or not. Those days are over. "Buenas Tardes" I say to her. She mumbles "Buenas tardes" back to me.
I sit down and listen to the music. I look to see who is here. It is getting close to the end of the month. There are fewer people. I go to dance with a friend of mine. It is a nice tanda of vals. When I come back to the table I order a bottle of water. I am not sure how much I am going to be dancing in this milonga today. I am glad that I like the music.
I see my friend come in. He smiles at me. I smile back. He invites me to dance. "Que linda que sos" he says to me. I thank him for the compliment. He is a lawyer. An activist type of lawyer. If he lived in California he would probably live in Berkeley in rent control housing, drive a VW, and be green.
"Y tu novio, como esta?" he asks me. He is fishing. "No tengo novio." I tell him. "Are you looking?" He asks me. I tell him "Yes, of course." "Well, give me your data." I laugh, "Why, are you going to find a boyfriend for me?" He blushes, "Well maybe." I tease him "Oh you want to be a candidate for the job?" I am not sure that this is a good idea. I see him dancing with the same woman in the milongas for 7 or 8 tandas and I also see the evil glances she gives me now. She is not a candidate for my fan club.
We finish the tanda and I manage to continue to sidestep the question of giving my phone number or where I live. I do not want any more milonga relationships. I thank him and go back to my table. For some reason my bottle of water does not seem as full as it was. Not important, maybe I am more thirsty than I think.
I dance several more tandas and then go to the bathroom. I meet up with someone I have not talked to in awhile. "Estas siempre en el pais." she says to me. How weird she knows I live here. "Amor, vivo aca, estoy en mi año quinto." She gives me a look "Yes but you go back don't you?" "No, I haven't been back since January 2006." I tell her. "I am here permanently." I don't understand her attitude, she has always been so friendly to me. "What are you doing now?" she asks.
I tell her how I rent my rooms and I am begining to work with a software company. "Good for you" she snaps at me." You work with your American company earning American dollars and live here." Now I get it. "No," I tell her, "This is an Argentine company. I earn pesos, just like you. I have a cuil, just like you. I live in pesos just like you. You are mistaken." She looks at me "Bueno, suerte."
There is a backlash growing against the foreigners. I usually do not get this type of attitiude. Most people know I live and work here the same as they do. However the majority of the foreigners who live here who come to the milongas do not. Things are not easy here with all the inflation. Everytime the dollar increases against the peso our prices go up. I have noticed a frequency of some services and places wanting to quote me in dollars and not pesos. Their excuse is to make it "easier" for me. Easier for me to run.
Argentines know that many foreigners are here working remotely earning dollars and euros. When things were better here, no one really cared. Now that things are getting tough again, people are starting to resent it. I hear it come out in little ways. I don't let it get to me.
I spend the rest of the afternoon dancing with my friends. Some of my dances are good, some are very good, and some are not good at all. I always manage to dance with one Argentine who blames his inability to dance on my being American. It doesn't ruin my afternoon. I feel good being here.
I look at my bottle of water. It is less than half full. I know that I have not been drinking that much water. I realize that my table mate has been helping herself to my water. Amazing. I give her the mini-Brown connection stare. Not the full tilt boogie. Just the one to let her know that I know what she has been doing. She looks away. She calls the mozo to pay for "her" water, and then leaves.
I enjoy the music. There are not many people here but I feel good. I have this feeling inside. Then I realize what it is. It is the same feeling I had when I used to go to the milongas before I lived here. I would go alone. Sit alone. I came only to dance. I spoke Spanish then, but not Porteño. I was an outsider. People were friendly to me, but I was still an outsider. I always felt welcome. I always felt like I belonged there.
Now it is different. My Spanish is fluent. I speak "Porteño". I have lots of friends. Now I come to the milongas to socialize, to see my friends, and yes to dance. As much as I try to fight it, I belong here. The feeling is the same. Contentment? I don't know how to explain it.
I pay for my water and leave. I go to say good bye to Lucy and Luis. Lucy reminds me about Los Reyes next Wednesday. I tell her I will be bringing 6 people. Luis gets up and gives me a big hug. He says to Lucy "She always comes to my milongas. Do you know that?" Lucy nods and smiles. "How long have I known you?" he asks, before I can answer he says "She came to Celias, to Saraza, to Maracaibo, to all of them. She always comes to my milongas." He kisses me again. "Chau nena, gracias para venir."