Sootie is a mute observer of my black dog as I leave home and cross the lawn. I duck under an orb spider’s golden web, and step out onto the dock. The sky at dusk is overcast, and bulrushes sway in a stiff breeze out of the north. An incoming tide bears grassy flotsam and iridescent organic swirls. Off to the east, far away across the marsh, a thoughtless suburbanite floods the night with a stabbing security light. My black dog edges closer. I turn my back on the intrusion, sink onto the bench at the pier-head, and study the scudding clouds and the occasional stratospheric flashes of jets heading west. I recall the counter-clock progress of milongueros and the electric recognition of souls sensing connection half-way through the first tanda.
I reach for my phone and fire up Di Sarli’s “El Once”. My black dog backs off. I imagine that even Sootie, still as night at the edge of the marsh, stirs and yearns to be free. As I do. Two years and counting have atrophied neural circuits whose sole function is to transform physical contact into rhythmic synchrony, induce graceful transcendence of the everyday, and carry me off on a musical wave in a protective embrace. No wonder Sootie stirs. Instead, two years and counting have conjured up an unwanted but faithful black dog that trots at my heel, rejects all frivolity, and insists on dire interpretation of life as we know it. But the black dog retreats before the seductive weft and weave of Tango emerging from my phone that casts its spell over the wide horizon before me.
And so, I get to my feet and await Sootie’s arrival. She comes to me and we face each other for a moment or two, close and still, save for the almost imperceptible sway of our bodies as we prepare for the next musical phrase. And then, with a quiet introductory flourish, I make a long slow step into her space, and another, and another, while Sootie enticingly retreats and accommodates me, gathering me into her embrace. We dance as if the pandemic, and not our nestling, is just a dream. At last the song concludes, and I reprise my initial flourish as a coda to Di Sarli’s final note. Sootie and I prolong our embrace for a few seconds more, before an admonitory growl from my black dog intrudes. Sootie disappears, a wisp dissolving into the night. I make my way back along the dock. The wind picks up and the first drops of rain follow me home.