I’m immunized now. Both doses of a fancy vaccine, tested first in scurrying rodents, then given experimentally to humans, and finally subjected to robust statistical analysis, are now infiltrating my cells, busily erecting barriers to viral onslaught. I hope. We’ll see. Along the way, invariably masked and gloved, I’ve languished in Tango limbo, interacting only with equally remote grocery check-out clerks. I no longer encounter intriguing women at milongas, who back in the day used to offer intoxicating alternatives to everyday life. I’ve suffered, it goes without saying, as we all have. But I never realized how essential those encounters were to my imaginative life, the life that fuels my Tango stories. Fully immunized, yes, but notwithstanding daily bird-watching, online chess and cryptic crosswords, I’m still deprived of the magical sensual stimulus that is Tango. Understandably, when writing, my mind is often as blank as my laptop screen with its mocking cursor.
And so, I responded eagerly when Maria texted me late one night about an editorial she’d come across in a medical journal addressing the public health issue of gun violence. Guns and Tango have very little in common, but Maria, a surgeon who daily deals with gunshot injuries, intentional and otherwise, and an accomplished tanguera to boot, is my lodestar for local Tango engagement. I replied by asking if she’d been immunized, and when she would host another of her much-anticipated milongas. Long moments passed, during which I buffed my Tango shoes, if only for old time’s sake, listened to Argentine Tango Radio Budapest, and wondered what next. At length, Maria replied: “Wishful thinking, Max. It’ll be another year at least for those of us who’re careful. But here’s something to cheer you up.”
I clicked on her YouTube video. A hooded lout, crouched in full camo gear and armed with an AR-15, was spraying high velocity bullets from twenty yards into a fat scarecrow wearing a suit and sporting a dangling red neck-tie and a flamboyant blonde hair-piece. Bits of straw flew and the manikin jerked as if demented. The soundtrack inevitably played the dulcinate strains of “Assassination Tango”. No vaccine, however fancy or clever, could withstand that particular onslaught. Good to know. The video faded, and segued into Oswaldo Zotti’s seductive first class in the immortal “This is the Way to Dance Tango” series. I recalled in that moment my first faltering steps on the yellow brick road that leads to Tango. I realized that all may be right with the world after all. Just a matter of time, vaccines, masks, and patience. And perhaps, hard to imagine I know, one day we’ll dance again, footloose and fancy-free.