Shut up and dance....

Heaven Sent Guest

Lee2_2 I throw my arms around Lee..."You are leaving me!"  I wail, "How can you do this to me?"  We both laugh. "I am not leaving you," Lee says to me, "I am just going back for a little while.  Don't worry, I'll be back."  "Sure," I tell her, "They all say that."  We both laugh.

"Just think," I comment to her, "Your boyfriend was so afraid of you and the men."  She giggles, "Instead I fell in love with a dog and became her owner's best friend."  We both are trying not to cry.  It has been a great two weeks.

Lee is from Singapore.  She moved to San Francisco 5 years ago to go to school.  She is working full time and attending San Francisco State.  I know how hard that is.  Trying to tuck a social life in the corners and have a relationship with a man she refers to as being wonderful.  I admire her.  I know that it is not easy to do this.  I did it years ago.  San Francisco was not as expensive then as it is now.  The life was slower. 

When she decided to come to Buenos Aires on her school break she needed a place to stay.  She was nervous.  She speaks no Spanish and had heard all the stories about the men here.  Her friends Jerry and Ada told her to stay with me.   They are my friends too, although I have not seen them since I was last in the Bay Area.  Jerry is like a big brother to Lee.  He told her I would take good care of her.

We had several emails back and forth.  It was hard for her to decide.  When she told  me she was from Singapore I asked her if she knew Benjamin.  He danced tango when he was a student at Stanford.  The world suddenly grew smaller.  She could not believe that I knew someone from Singapore that she knew. She decided to stay with me.

On the day she was to come, American canceled the flight in Miami to Buenos Aires.  Mechanical problems.  She called to let me know that she would be arriving the next day at 8 at night not in the morning.  I told her I could not be there, but I would leave the key with the front desk, and that I would be home by 9 at the latest.

The portero and the others who work in my building were excited to help.  I think I am the strangest person that lives here.  Definitely among the most interesting.  A Chinese family and I are the only foreigners.  The poor Chinese family barely speaks Spanish.  I think I am the only one who can understand them. 

When I open the door to my apartment I am greeted by a beautiful Asian woman.  We look at each other. She says to me "You are so beautiful, much more than your picture.  WoW"  I laugh and tell her everyone says that.  I don't photograph well.  But she is very beautiful and very sweet.  We connect right away.  There is not that "new guest awkwardness" with her at all.  It is like we have been friends for years.

The next two weeks we have a blast.  She learns that Buenos Aires is A) a shopping heaven B)how to buy tango shoes C) you can always find a restaurant open at any time of day D)The tango has many rules. She soaked everything up with an open mind no matter how strange it seemed.  I never had to justify or explain that it was a different culture.  She just knew.

The first milonga we went to was an educational experience.  When we walked in the door, the men noticed her right away.  As she was seated with me, they knew they had to behave.  When I went to the tables to greet them, they would ask me "La {take your pick - Japonesa-China-Coreana} baila? (Does she dance?) I tell them yes.  Then they ask me "Does she dance like you?"  Now how am I to answer that?  So I would just shrug my shoulders and smile.

After they danced with her they would bring her back to the table and inform me A) She dances nicely ,B)She dances, but not like you. Which at times I wanted to say how the hell do you know you idiot, you have never danced with me, but I don't say this.  C)Is she in lessons with you?  She dances, but she needs help, and then I would get their laundry list of what they thought she needed. 

I explained to her not to worry.  That many of these men would never ask her to dance if she was not so young and beautiful.  They are very good dancers and she is new, so they want to see.  They figure because she is with me, she dances. OR, they want to see if there is an opportunity.  As the night progresses I explain the different codes to her. 

I tell her to never dance 3 times with the same man.  It sends the wrong message.  I tell her I know it is stupid but that is just the way it is. "But if you really enjoy dancing with this person?"  She asks.  I tell her it does not matter.  If you dance twice with them it needs to be spread apart by at least an hour.  She cannot believe it.

Then she dances with a man a third time.  I tell her no, don't dance with him.  She has already said yes.  I tell her it does not matter.  She is out of her chair and goes to him.  Another no no.  After the dance she comes back.  He spoke almost no English and she speaks no Spanish.  He asked her where she was staying - in what hotel.  I told her that is because he assumed since she danced 3 times in a row with him, she was sending a message.  She is horrified.  She told me she pointed at me and said "Deby".  Of course he knew she was with me, the idiot.  I told her not to worry.  He will not bother her again.  "He is a very good dancer." I tell her.  "Don't be offended, he wanted to see if there was an opportunity." 

After that, she is eager for the codes.  "Don't run to the man."  I tell her. "Let him come to you.  You need to make sure it was you he invited or you might be left standing on the floor as he takes another to dance."  This almost happens.  A man invites the woman behind us.  Lee bolts out of her chair. "Sit down" I hiss at her, he is not asking you.  "Yes, he is."  she insists.  As she walks across the floor he looks at me.  I shrug my shoulders.  He is a gentleman, he takes her to dance.

We have fun.  We go to Chinatown.  She talks to the people in the store I usually go to.  I know I am the rare duck there.  I keep bringing Chinese people to their market.  Lee asks them how they like living in Argentina, what is their life like.  She is fascinated.  She buys wonderful things and cooks me great dinners.

I take her to the garment district.  She can buy clothes and jewelery at very low prices.  We go for shoes. I explain what makes a tango shoe a good shoe to dance in, while others are just pretty to look at.  I recommend classes for her.  She loves Carina.  She takes a couple of classes from Jorge and I.  Her days are full.  When I teach, it is fun to come home and her about all her adventures.

I introduce her to my friends.  Some of them speak no English, and simply because she is Lee, they adore her.  Last Friday she wanted to go to Villa Malcom and La Viruta..places you could not even pay me to go to.  "Why do you want to go THERE?"  I ask her.  "You are working so hard on your dancing.  Why do you want to go somewhere where the dancing is not good?  You might as well stay in San Francisco." She says she has heard they are great places from people who have been here.  I say nothing.  Probably I do not need to, my face says it all.

Sondra calls.  She asks what time I will be going to dance.  I tell her.  She asks about Lee.  I tell her she wants to go to Villa Malcom and La Viruta.  Sondra laughs.  "Tell her she will have a better time with us. That she has to come tonight."  I relay the message to Lee.  She decides to come with me.

Later, Sondra and I decide to go to Gricel, Lee decides to go to La Viruta and Villa Malcom.  I tell Jose to take her there.  The whole way he tries to talk to her in Spanish.  Exasperated she talks back to him in Chinese.  It doesn't faze him a bit.  "Lee, Lee," he yells at her, "COLECTIVO" as a bus roars by. "Lee, Lee, en Lunfardo BONDI".  Lee talks back to him in Chinese.  That is how it goes the whole way.  Sondra and I are laughing hysterically.

And now here we are.  The buzzer sounds.  It is the remise, come to take her to the airport.  I help her get her things into the elevator.  We go to the street.  I tell the driver she speaks no Spanish, and to please take care of her.  He asks what airline she is on.  I tell him.Lee1

I look at Lee.  I don't want to cry.  She hugs me.  "Thank you so much."  She says to me. I hug her back. "I hope your man likes his shoes."  I tell her.  She says she will send me a picture.  We hug again.  She gets into the car.  I wave and walk down the street.  I cannot look anymore.  Tomorrow comes another guest.


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