Almost every day he drives by the site and every time she casts a glance to the corner where the place where she used to dance the tango once stood up. Sometimes he’ll pull over to the curb and she will get out of the car and walk up to the corner. There, she’ll stare at the brand new store. Buried under the masonry and plaster of the colorful new structure rests in peace the place where she used to dance the tango.
It doesn’t seem to be a long time ago that people from the city and other neighborhoods gathered once a week to act out the ritual of the embrace.
Standing on that corner brings her memories of a time when she would share the laughter and the joy with her friends. One of them would always be in the mood to pour herself into a sexy dress and motivate the others to drive the distance to the nearest milonga. Like everyone else, they wanted to be where everybody was. And almost every day there was a place for the fledging tango community to meet again, to thrive for firnedship, to build camaraderie, to partake a snack, a drink, a pleasant look.
The loud roar of a four wheeler whizzing by the main road startled her. The early winter breeze played havoc with her long shiny black hair. How unfair, she whispered. We never quite appreciated the handful of dedicated men and women who gave so much of their time and money to make it possible for all of us to dance the tango.
Week after week, they would all eagerly go down the stairs to that old beat up lounge, to greet those who had already arrived, to find a chair to sit down and change their shoes, to stop by the DJ table and drop a fiver and get a hug.
Surely, she remembered, at times some would complain about the music. Even then, people who could not get the feel of the tango and those who could not keep time to the beat of Di Sarli, would roll up their eyes and snobbishly blame it in the music. It all seemed cute then. They were all rookies at this tango business. There were no curious stares even for newcomers. To the contrary, it was the norm to greet and treat everybody as another member of a proud community. There were but a few recognized teachers, a handful of dedicated volunteers and lots of eager dancers supporting everybody’s efforts.
When and how it all changed? A persistent tear in her eyes reflected the last efforts of the sun trying not to fall down behind the mountains. She fought the sense of bitterness stalking at her thoughts.
Maybe it started when the solicitation for memberships interrupted the flow of a milonga. Or when the hosts became more important than their guests. Or when they began greeting some people like frogs from another pond. Dancing became a trial run. The dye of envy began to tint the glare on some evil eyes. She couldn’t figure out when she lost her sense of belonging to become just another ten dollar bill.
Perhaps it was the sudden change in attitude in those who become allured by the prospect of fortune, power and control. They put on suits for the first time. They smiled a lot and even danced with the less skilled. In an ironic twist it seemed as if the whorehouse had returned to the tango. Then, one night nobody danced. All the teachers stood up, looking perplexed at each other in a sort of proverbial circular firing squad. The dancers had stopped coming to this place.
The buzzing neon lights were beginning to overcome the last vestiges of daylight when she began to walk away ever so slowly from the site where the place where she used to dance the tango is buried. From the fast passing cars people would stare incredulous at the sight of the beautiful brunette walking backwards in high heels, crossing her left foot in front of her right foot every so often and seemingly embracing some invisible remembrance.