Max was far from home, comfortable in the Halcyion Suites just off the main drag about a mile north of the Convention Center. A picture window over a whispering AC unit offered excellent binocular views of sky-high rides and fairy-tale castles. The suite suited him well, but there were no plates or utensils, even though a small fridge invited self-sufficiency, if only in adult beverages. Cruising into a flamboyant sunset, Max drove to the nearest grocery in his rented Mazda, following the sketchy directions of the blonde at the desk, who, though harried by late-arriving East Asian pharma reps, smiled engagingly as she told him to go left, then straight, through two stop-lights, and left again. Sure enough, after seven or eight miles of perfectly-landscaped highway, bordered to the north by cookie-cutter condos and to the south by trackless unspoiled wetlands, he finally turned onto the black expanse of an almost empty Publix parking lot.
The sterile fluorescent aisles provided for all his immediate needs: scissors to trim his beard (a convenience denied by airline security), a corkscrew (also denied), a sourdough baguette, one or two cheeses, and a bottle of Malbec, the favorite tipple of would-be tangueros. For he had his eye on a certain milonga, posted on the Internet as happening that evening, a mere thirty miles to the east. Less than an hour later, Max had showered and shaved, checked the next day’s conference schedule, and sampled the Malbec. He got in the Mazda and, used to casual vast distance, keyed the iDanze Studio into his phone. A torrential thunderstorm hurled sheets of rain across highways teeming with hordes of cars bound on missions no less essential than his own. The phone announced his destination fifty feet ahead on the left, and Max turned into a tidy little strip mall. The storm was moving off to the north, the dying sun transfigured gray clouds on the horizon, and flecks of azure sky came to transient life.
The lights were off in the iDanze Studio, and the glass doors were locked. As he pondered what next, a car pulled in beside him. In the glow of her dash, he glimpsed the distinctive profile of an Ethiopian woman, or perhaps a Sudanese. She doused her lights, and stepped from her car as if invited to dance. Poised on stiletto heels, she peered into the studio, one hand raised to shade her eyes while the other smoothed a crease in her pink silk dress. Max considered, not for the first time, the perfection of the female form. He was reminded of Dolores, who was very desirable and who drove men who were not cold and boring to foolish extremes. Dolores and Max were made for each other, and the outcome was very much unknown. Just to be closer to her, Max had searched the Internet for gastroenterology conventions in Washington, or even better in Manhattan, where he knew there was Tango every Saturday night in Central Park next to the statue of William Shakespeare. Max had even taken note on Facebook of a forthcoming Tango cruise to the Bahamas, and had weighed in the balance reality and love-boat fantasy. Dolores clearly inspired foolish extremes.