Guilty Tango

Guilt was never far from Max’s mind as his hand alighted on her cool naked skin, his fingers settling into the subtle notches of her backbone. He held her lightly, keenly aware of her close embrace and the easy play of her body against his, both deftly aligned with the musical lilt of “Desde el Alma” flowing from a bandoneon, violin and piano trio by the bar. She, like Max, was in the grip of ideal Tango. Thoughts of the everyday, of the life they lived before and after Tango, remained unthought. And then the tanda ended, and he brought her back to her little table with its scented candle and moist black bottle of Prosecco. He returned to the bar and asked Ignatio for a glass of his finest Malbec.

As he contemplated the women casually deployed along one side of the parquet dance floor, their reflections animating the mirrored wall opposite, he sensed the shadow of guilt flitting across his mind. He always told his wife about the occasional Tango classes on Tuesday nights, and about workshops or even weekend milongas that came up every now and again, when he would inevitably come home late and silently switch off the murmuring radio at her bedside. Once, years ago, off to an afternoon milonga, clutching his effete black baggie with its felt-soled dance shoes, she’d hurled a glass of red wine over him and the white-upholstered sofa next to the fireplace. Nowadays, the sofa stains, never banished, veiled beneath an inoffensive macassar, bore witness to her mercurial antipathy towards his strange Tango obsession.

She, unlike Max, was not entranced by Tango, neither by the music nor by the dance. She said he was completely bereft of musical or rhythmic sensibility, a truth confirmed every time he lost his lead and muddled his steps and smiled apologetically at the angelic, forgiving, closed eyes of the woman cradled in his arms, his ticket to ideal Tango. And so, caught in the grip of music that melds bodies and souls, Max forever sought to square the circle of marriage with the inexorable call of the wild side. Meanwhile, the DJ sent out rhythmic D’Arienzo songs, inflaming probing cabeceos and graceful consents over by the little candlelit tables. Max drained his Malbec, shrugged off for now the flitting shadow, and gave in once again to Tango’s seductive allure.

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