Every bone in my body aches. I come out of Gricel to look for a taxi. If I didn't have my dresses I would take the bus. A taxi stops, I open the door, I throw in my large duffle bag and get in after it. I tell the driver where I want to go and settle in. The taxi is air conditioned and the driver doesn't smoke. Sometimes there is a God.
The driver looks in his mirror at me. "I see you are still dancing." he says. I know lots of taxi drivers. After 10 years in the milongas it is no surprise that many of them know me by name and can drop me at my apartment without directions. He continues, "Did you do an exhibition, or did he throw you out?" He is referencing the duffle bag. There was a time when a comment like that would have made me angry. Now I take it in stride.
I look again to see who this driver is. The first time I sat in his taxi I insulted him. How could he be a profesional dancer if he was driving a taxi? The words of an arrogant foreigner who thought she knew better. I laugh and respond to him "I am designing clothes now. There was a sorteo for one of my dresses." "We all have to eat." he says to me.
"Are you still dancing with him?" he asks me. "NO!". I respond. "I am done. I am designing clothes." He laughs. "What happened, you get tired of supporting him?" I know he is trying to bait me. "I never lived with him, he was never my boyfriend. We danced together, we taught together, that was it. He is an attorante and I got sick of it. I don't mind working hard, I just don't want to do all the work."
He laughs. "Not to mention he can't dance." I don't say anything at first. "He can dance." "Ah come on. You can dance. He can only dance if someone tells him what to do, and even then he is not that great." I shrug my shoulders. "Whatever." "Yo soy bailarin profesional" he mimicks him. "He never asked you for money?"
I try to change the subject. "So what are you up to these days?" I know he isn't dancing. He put on weight since I last saw him. "Same old." he says to me. "Are you dancing much?" He shakes head no. "So you are designing clothes?" He asks me. "Yes, I love it. I design the dresses and buy the material. I have a taller to make the clothes for me. It is amazing. I see my designs come to life." "What made you want to do that, design clothes?"
"I am not sure. I had to do something different. It just sort of happened. One night I was dancing and I looked out on the floor. It was a disaster. Everyone always talks about the foreigners, but it was the Argentines too. The only thing missing was the flip flops. I decided to do something about it." I pause. "The milongas have changed so much. It used to be people dressed up. Men wore suits, a nice pair of slacks. Elegant sport didn't mean jeans without holes in them." He laughs. "Now people wear whatever they want. I remember when I first started dancing here if you were not dressed properly they would not let you in. A man could not enter if he did not have at the least a sport coat and women could not wear slacks." "That was before the organizers got greedy." he answers me. "Now it is a business. They let anyone in."
"The other night two women were dancing at the milonga I was dancing at, dancing badly, but dancing together. The Argentines were not happy about it, but the organizer did nothing. I remember when that happened at Gricel 5 years ago the organizer asked them to sit down." He responds, "They used to do the same thing for bad dancers. If you were banging into people or disrupted the dance floor you were asked to sit down." I had forgotten about that. It was true. Now a days you see beginners with one lesson out there crashing into everyone."
"There is a loss of respect." he says to me. "We are losing or have lost the codigos. Why? For money. There are a few milongas that still observe them, though. He tells me of a milonga where a woman who likes to dance milonga alone (yes alone) was asked to leave the dance floor. She argued with the organizer and he politely told her that she could not dance alone. He has also told same sex couples they cannot dance in his milonga."
We both agree that the dancing of same sex couple is nothing against gays. I think it is great that there are gay milongas and I support them. It is just that I am very traditional in my own tango and I like to observe the codigos. I continue to rant about women who change their shoes in the salon, men who come to the table for a dance. Suddenly I stop "Me parece como una vieja loca." I say to him. (I sound like a crazy old lady.) "Why?" he says to me. "Listen to me. I am complaining non-stop about something that I cannot change and will never go back the way it was.
He hesitates before he answers. "I think one day the people will respect the tango again. You will see, now they have lost respect. But one day they will respect it again." We are at my apartment. I pay him. "Nice to see you again." I say to him. "Suerte con la ropa." he says to me. Then as I shut the door, he adds " Felices Fiestas Mireya, don't stop dancing."