Reassured by statistics indicating that the odds of contracting Covid-19 were about the same as winning $100 in the South Carolina PowerBall lottery, which despite many tries over the years, at not inconsiderable expense, I’d never won, I decided to check out a new milonga, the first to be resurrected after many months in my city. The website emphasized that extreme hygiene would be observed, with all surfaces thoroughly spritzed every 30 minutes. Needless to say, the usual Covid-19 constraints, such as masks, social distancing, and so on, would be relaxed, given that Argentine Tango is impossible without close, intimate connection. I showered carefully, anointed myself with a bacteriocidal deodorant, donned freshly-laundered duds, and presented myself at the appointed time at the Amorous Pole Dance Studio, a bottle of Freixenet Cava in hand.
Di Sarli’s “El Amanecer” was playing to a dimly-lit and apparently empty studio, defined on one side by a mirrored wall lined with bistro-type tables, and on the other by a floor-to-ceiling plate glass window overlooking an ornamental pond illuminated by discreet landscape lights. I settled into one of the tables, put on my dance shoes, poured some Cava into my wine-glass, and looked around. In the far corner of the room, eclipsed by a shadow cast from the DJ’s laptop, a woman in a black cocktail dress, in coral earrings and matching pumps, studied the slick obsidian surface of her phone. No stranger to existential memes and noting that the cortina now playing was “Stairway to Heaven”, I weighed in the balance, Libran that I am, the probability that she was a covert emissary of Death, intent on gaining viral lebensraum in the current standoff between man and life as we know it, or that she had come merely to dance.
As the cortina segued into a new tanda, desire overcame caution. I deployed my well-practiced cabeceo, leaning slightly forward with intent, back straight, ready to rise to the occasion. The woman, sensing my presence, cast a casual glance across the dance floor, caught my eye momentarily and almost imperceptibly inclined her head before settling her gaze on the tiny electric candle that decorated her table. Thus empowered, I drained my glass and shot my cuffs. I walked the length of the dance floor to Miguel Calo’s “El Vals Sonador”, my hand held out. She was adjusting a strap on her coral pumps, and looking up, she affected surprise to see me, collected herself, and offered me a pair of translucent tissue-like plastic gloves, the kind you buy at Dollar Tree for $1 a hundred. She was wearing some herself. And now she draped a coral silk scarf over her face, leaving her eyes, narrowed and smiling, gazing into mine.
I slipped on the gloves, and thinking statistically, I wondered if I should don the triple-layer surgical-grade mask folded into my breast pocket. But before I could, she folded herself, much like my mask, into my embrace, and we waltzed an entire circuit of the empty dance floor before she said, lowering her coral scarf just enough to whisper in my ear, “What are the odds?” I thought about the $100 I’d never won and never would, and I said, “Don’t buy a Lottery ticket. Just dance with me.”