How cruel is this pandemic? My Tango go-to is now argentinetangoradio.com on my iPhone. Good, but a poor substitute for an easy salida across polished parquet, embraced by a kindred spirit whose intuition reflects my own, all to the sultry insinuation of Di Sarli’s “El Pollito”. The Coronavirus has put paid to such delights. A creeping dopamine deficit confers varying degrees of tedium on everyday life. I energize my grey cells with online chess, peer-review of manuscripts for medical journals, voracious consumption of New York and London book reviews (all libraries are shuttered), cautious sallies to the grocers, and humdrum household chores.
Friday evenings as the sun sets over the Ashley River I can be found at the yacht club, IPA in hand. Chris, my confederate in this enterprise and partial to IPAs and clever banter, is neither a chess-player nor a Tango aficionado. But Coronavirus accommodates all-comers. Two meters apart, masks at the ready, and upwind of everyone else, we bask in rocking chairs on the club patio and sip ice-cold Sculpin. We are diverted now and again by bikini-clad women minding their kids in the shallows by the boat-ramp, while their mask-free husbands josh and glad-hand at the bar service window.
Rocking gently, shaded from late-afternoon sun by water-oaks, Chris and I reflect on trials suffered by the less fortunate, air scabrous details of office intrigue, and speculate about the upcoming presidential election. Inevitably, fascism makes an appearance. We decide that Germany, having largely missed out on lucrative 19th century colony acquisition, and mesmerized by Hitler, was just playing catch-up by launching an insanely violent takeover of Europe. We pause for Sculpin refills as the metaphorical parallel with the present takes hold.
By-and-by our mood lightens. We observe through binoculars a Maersk freighter passing under the Ravenel Bridge, threading the channel buoys past Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter, heading for the North Atlantic. Its Plimsoll line is high and dry, so the towering multi-colored containers visible above deck are probably empty. Having delivered their cornucopia of consumer dreck to America, they now return to China for more.
As dusk advances, a flock of purple martins intent on their southerly migration fly in from Charleston Harbor over the club jetties and are gone. At least their American sojourn, immune to Coronavirus, has neither sullied the landscape nor infantilized us. Perhaps there’s a measure of justice in a pandemic that targets us, tolling the bell we’d rather not hear. And yes, I miss you, Tango; farewell for now.