Unlike Dolores, who was a thousand miles away, this African tanguera was front and center. Max left the car door open and came closer, shading his eyes just as she did.
“What do you think?” he said.
She cast an appraising glance over him. In his mind’s eye, Max was in his prime, a successful professional, a man who had endured many loves, and whose shoes were always highly polished. His fantasy life, fed by the daily ebb and flow of reality, was robust. But he couldn’t tell if she saw him or his alter ego.
“You’re like me,” she said, “we Googled Tango and here we are.”
He told her his name was Max and that he was in town for a gastroenterology conference. As they faced each other on the sidewalk, he felt the familiar shiver of excitement and potential that precedes a tango embrace.
“My name is Fairouz,” she said. “Is this normal?”
He wondered if she meant the shiver or the darkened locked studio. He gestured across the strip mall to the Bull and Eagle Grill.
“Let’s have a glass of wine and find out.”
Fairouz fetched a bright red pashmina stole from her car and draped it over her shoulders. They hurried across the parking lot as dense droplets of rain began dancing on the asphalt. Distant lightning strikes lit the sky amid renewed rumbles of thunder. In the grill, sitting by the window, Fairouz kept an eye on the iDanze studio while Max called a number on the web-site. He listened to a ringtone and marvelled at Fairouz’s composure in this unscripted encounter. A man with a complex Argentine accent, rich, marbled and barely understandable, told him there would be a class in an hour or so, with a milonga to follow.
“With a name like Ovidio,” Fairouz said, “he’s probably a fantastic dancer.”
She saw Max was puzzled, and added, “Ovidio Jose Banquet was the finest Buenos Aires tanguero of his time. He was nicknamed “El Cachafas” or “rascal” for his many casual affairs. Carmencita Calderon used to dance with El Cachafas; years later she said he was pocked-marked and ugly, and many women fell in love with him.”
The thunder shower moved on and the last colors drained from the sky. Max suggested a stroll to kill time. A lone wood stork flew low overhead, in profile no different from a Jurassic reptile in a child’s encyclopedia. Leisurely wing beats were followed by a long precise glide into marsh grass at the edge of an ebbing tidal creek.
“In Mogadishu, tango never crossed my mind,” Fairouz said. “I left Somalia to study in Amsterdam, and one night found myself at a dance class. Tango opened my eyes.”
Max raised a quizzical brow.
“Oh, I also work, of course,” she said, “I’m here for an Islamic women’s rights convention. But wherever I am, whenever I can, I search out Tango. Nietzsche said we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
They watched the wood stork foraging intently for fiddler crabs and marsh frogs. When they came back to the studio, raindrops had moistened Fairouz’s silk dress, and Max’s shoes were flecked with mud. The lights were on, and their steps quickened when they heard the first inviting bars of Di Sarli’s “El Cielo en Tus Ojos”.