That had me laughing as I made my reluctant loop around the tables to say farewell to my wonderful and treasured Monday afternoon partners. Every one of them hugged me as if I was their daughter (Anton, I ain’t including you in that matey ‘coz you’re only 21 I know) and made me promise to come back. They sent love to my parents. They spoke my name. Their eyes told me they’d miss me. Mine said, Me too.
My ‘Lunes boys’ only know me as Sali or Sale or something vaguely in the same ballpark as my name: they know that I love vals above all else; they know that on Monday afternoons I am theirs; they know that for eight weeks I will be gone. Today they asked me to return. When it was time for a final kiss blown back towards the marble columns and the smooth stone floor and the notes of D’Arienzo, I had to kick myself out into Suipacha…
It was mid evening dark in the street and the red neon Ideal TANGO light was lit. I crossed the road and looked up at it. Sal, I said, Smile you idiot. How would you be feeling if you were leaving for good, for a year, for months and months? I thought for a second of all the girlfriends who have had to say that goodbye to Buenos Aires. I felt fortunate. Hey, I’ll be back in eight weeks my old friend, I said into the night, to the light.
After that I wandered into Diagonal Norte and zigzagged around crossing wide Avenidas a few times to avoid entering the Subte: didn’t want to say Chau to the beautiful Obelisco either. Sal, it’ll still be here. You’ll be walking towards it all the time… you could keep on going round the world right? Straight on, don’t stop, Obelisk always waiting. I chuckled at myself. I got on the subway.
An hour later I pushed open the door of El Empujòn del Diablo (super place for a spot of locro and folk music), summoned my mental magnifying glass to try and recognise strangers I’ve only seen on their teeny Twitter photos… and within minutes I’d added fresh and fascinating faces to my Monday and to the future. I never get tired of the kind of meet ups or should I say in this case ‘tweet-ups’ that start with words like, Are you thefutureisred? to a sparkly-eyed woman with an angelic child on her knee and a gorgeous husband at her side.
By the time I left them and GoingLocalTravel, CasaSaltshaker and SilverStarCar at midnight, I was walking on cloud nine rather than Avenida Santa Fè. We’d talked over the surely Barbie-inspired generous and trusting world of CouchSurfing: how folk offer their couches to others on the move… think you can’t afford to travel? Think again. Lately I’ve been hearing the words Couch and Surfing in the same breath too many times to ignore them, and I’m starting to wish I actually had a couch that didn’t turn into my own bed every night… Welcoming strangers into your home? Strangers becoming friends? Friends returning the favour? It’s happening all over the planet apparently, and especially in Buenos Aires. Check it out.
Lying next to a warm C. later, as the storm (which is still raging this morning) broke over my home, I thought of the stranger I danced with in Ideal yesterday. How he sat alone at a table in an immaculate beige suit. How he danced only two or three tandas all afternoon. How he cabeceo-ed me for the vals. How he spun me in the magic that only the most Gandalf-like tango wizards can deliver. How I pulled away at the end unable to do anything but laugh with joy and ask, Please tell me how long you have been dancing? His eyes shone. He held up fingers – seven, then two. En serio? Seventy two? Then more fingers – eight, nine. Wow! The oldest person I have ever tango-embraced. And, in the strangest twist, his dance included an exquisite little step that only Carlos ever leads… no-one else ever, ever, ever: just mi gran amor, and now, my eighty-nine year old magician. The universe telling me that everything is exactly as it is meant to be.
I couldn’t sleep last night. Lightening. Thunder. Memories of Monday. Excitement about Viernes. Hugging my dream dancer of Hampshire at Terminal 5. Dancing at Negracha in London this Friday night. Seeing beloved tangueros and tangueras who have indeed each left Buenos Aires behind in their turn. Now it’s my turn to visit them. But when they are ready to come back, I’ll be here waiting. Just like Buenos Aires and my Monday milongueros will be here for me. Old friends. New friends. Always friends.
Yesterday was the ‘Dia del Amigo’ in Argentina, the ‘Day of the Friend’. It sure as hell turned out to be a day when I ended up thinking about mine. Yes, they may shift in and out of my sight, but my soul never, ever forgets. It’s always ready to reconnect.
So, my dear friends in the UK – those I’ve met and those I’ve not yet met, it seems that Me, and Barbie and VOD and C. and the beautiful touch of Buenos Aires in us all, are on our way… and we are smiling about it, mucho. Inglaterra, you gorgeous green garden splashed with endless life giving rain, here we come!
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