W as it Saturday evening? It must have been, given the buzz in this soft winter night. I had been invited to the birthday party of someone I had actually never met (not so uncommon in Argentina). I hesitated to go because the party was taking place in the suburbs, quite far from central Buenos Aires and I was feeling shattered with my regime of long milonga nights and heavy tango day classes: the usual addicts schedule.
I‘m not really sure why, but I went. When I arrived, I realised that I had stepped into one of the most mesmerising places I had ever been to anywhere, let alone in Buenos Aires. It was an old “almacen”, a general store and bar that had been converted into a gorgeous restaurant. Thanks to a whole lot of TLC from its successive owners, the place had retained the charm of the 19th century – red brick walls, wooden floors, shelves stacked up with food cans, various beans, spices. The tin bar counter had obviously been polished over the years and it was easy to picture the locals sharing their lives – the good and the bad at this very same counter, year after year. If those walls could talk, I feel they would have a great story to tell. Even the smell of this place was singular – warm, welcoming, beyond time. The “almacen” was truly somewhere timeless.
I was taking in the surreal atmosphere and sipping a herbal tea (actually made with water boiled in a fireplace) when someone I should remember the name of but don’t (sorry!), made his way to the piano and started playing a tango tune. Before I knew it, a guitar was added and someone began singing.
Within minutes everyone had kicked off their shoes and grabbed someone to dance with, a milonga had been born. As I stood, still in awe of what was going on around me, someone grabbed me to dance, me the little lady who just happened to be there that night. Whoever he was took me in his arms and we shared a soft, informal embrace, within a soft, informal tango. Nothing mattered anymore, the way we stepped, whether our technique was good enough, the clothes, the pretty shoes, the not always so pretty attitude, nothing. All that seemed important was the joy to share this otherworldly moment, the joy to share this tango.
Then the singer took me in his arms. He had the loveliest embrace – gentle but strong, present but not tight – everything I could have wanted to feel absolutely secure and safe and beautiful and precious. And then he started to sing along in my ear, just for me (swoon), with a voice that was gentle but strong, present but not tight. I guess that’s simply how he was.
That tango seemed to last forever and will forever remain one of my most precious tango memories, a memory I’ll treasure and polish like the tin counter in the almacen.