Friday night. Amy and I go to a social event for an embassy. As soon as we walk in I see "Chinese Delivery." I say to Amy "There he is Chinese Delivery." "Where?" she asks. Before I can point him out he comes up to greet me. I smile and we walk away. I don't want to encourage him. He can work his routine on someone else.
It is crowded and the room is really not all that great. It is impossible to socialize. We walk around the best we can but decide to stand in one place and just check things out. We get a glass of champagne. I win the raffle for a free "Modulation corporeal." Body molding. Only in Buenos AIres. I can only imagine. I kiss everyone thank you. The woman who owns the salon is thrilled I speak Spanish. She is very sweet.
I can't wait to make an appointment to find out what this is. Amy and I make jokes about it. They have so many different kinds of beauty treatments here it is impossible to keep up.
We spend our time people watching. Chinese Delivery is working the room. He finally settles on a new victim. Amy asks me "Do you think he using Chinese?" I say "Nah, maybe pizza, the best pizza in San Telmo or where ever else he has an apartment he is watching he can stick the pictures of the dogs." She laughs, "Do you think it works?" "Of course." I say to her, "If it didn't he would not keep doing it. "Hey, the guy has a job, a new car, an apartment (sic), and is good looking. What else could a girl want?" "That is all so superficial." she comments.
At about midnight we are both bored and decide to leave. Amy decides to go home. I have too much energy and I decide to go dance. Too late for Leonesa. Should I go to Celia's or Gricel? I decide to go to Gricel. I have not been on a Friday for awhile.
When I walk in I am greeted by people standing by the door. "Tanto tiempo Deby." Fabi asks me why I did not call ahead to resever my table. I apologize and tell her I didn't know that I was going to come. I tell her not to worry, where ever she can put me will be fine. I follow her to the back.
Like usual I stop at the table of men I have stopped at every Friday night I have gone to Gricel for years. But tonight is different. Painfully different. In the seat where Cachito usually sits is another man. I stop and say nothing. The men look at me. It is awkward. Finally I lean over the stranger to kiss my other friend. "Hola Linda." he says to me. I smile. I smile at the other men and mumble buenos noches. I follow Fabi to my seat.
I would always stop to kiss Cachito. He would always try to get me on the lips. "Hermosa." he would say to me. I would always give him a hug. He would always tell the others we were going to get married. Everyone would laugh. I would greet all the men. It was the same, every week. Except this week.
Cachito as I always knew him died on April 5 in la milonga del Lujos. Cacho Masci died with friends. He died in the place he loved the best, the milonga, with his precious tango. He had been sick for years. He had heart problems. He didn't dance as much as he used to. He still came to listen to the music, to be with friends.
I remember the first time I met him was in Gricel in 2002. I was told he was a good dancer. He would not even look at me. I always watched him like I did all the good dancers. Then one day in 2003 I was here waiting for the subte and someone came up behind me and whispered "Hermosa." I was from the US I turned around ready to clobber whoever it was. It was Cachito laughing at me.
After that he would greet me. I had started to run with a different crowd. In 2003 he asked me to dance. I won't forget it. It was at Gricel. He criticised me throughout the entire tanda. "Keep your feet down. Keep them on the floor. Lean forward." When the tanda was over he said to me "Hermosa mujer, don't dance like the show. Dance like a milonguera. You are in Buenos AIres. "
After that I ran into him on the subte, the colectivo. He was always on the way to a milonga, an asado. I would see him in the milongas. He was a friend in the milonga. I have many friends in the milonga. We all do. People we never see outside of the milonga, but inside we are part of family.
One day maybe a couple years ago or so in El beso he asked me to sit down and talk to him. "Hermosa." he said to me "Why are you not sharing your life with someone?" I don't like to talk about my private life in the milonga. He called me Mireya. Until then I never really knew much about Mireya other than she was blond.
Me being me I went and searched Mireya on Google. There are many adaptations about the story of Mireya. I only read a couple. "How dare you tell me I am going to die alone." I said to him. He said nothing. He took my hand, "La rubia Mireya was the most beautiful woman in the milonga and the best dancer. But she was always alone. Every man wanted her, but she was always alone." I remember not saying anything. He told me to open my heart and trust and then I got a lecture. Pretty much the same one I get from Amanda from time to time.
After that I always made sure Cachito was the first person I would greet if we were in the same milonga. I never saw him outside the milonga unless we bumped into each other. Two months ago we danced in Gricel. I had not danced with him for a long time. "You don't want to marry me?" he asked. "No." I told him. "Don't take it personally. I don't want to marry anyone." "Don't be alone." he said to me. The I got another variation of the same lecture. When the tanda ended he gave me a big hug. That was the last time we talked. A month ago at Gricel was the last time I saw him.
I look around the room. There are many people missing from here. Gricel on Friday nights used to be a happening milonga. Some people are still here, some have scattered to other milongas, and some are too old or too ill to dance. I don't care. I still like to come here. People come to the table to greet me. I cannot take my eyes off the seat across the floor where Cachito sat for years at his table. Across the floor on the other side is where my friend Reuben used to sit. He passed away 1.5 years ago. There are others.
I have been dancing here since 2000. Gricel was the first milonga I came to. 9 years is not a long time compared to people who have been dancing 40 years. It is not a short time either. When my friends die it feels like forever.