An Evening with el Lindo

“What do you think of this one?” I said, presenting a fuschia dress with gold bamboo leaves on it.

He looked skeptical, even pained.

“Black would be better for this occasion,” he said. I heard echoes of the family story of how, when I was asked at age two what my favourite colour was, I had said, “well, basic black is all right for a dinner dress.” He was right. Basic black is all right for a milonga dress.

I tried again with a severe black wrap dress, which met with his approval. He chose gold Frida Kahlo earrings for me.

I couldn’t get over him in what he called his “suit” — his black and white tie, black milonguero shirt, and grey pants. He wore his shirt as if he were to the manor born, a second thoughtless skin. He used to go to Sunday matinée prácticas in a stroller. Now he was going to an [early] evening milonga in a tie, my great big boy.

We took the bus to Milonga la Paz at an amazingly fancy building next to the opera house, Belle Époque, gold doodads on the stairs and chandeliers and marble floors and a stained glass window celebrating an atomic model, which we both loved. Mungai was back from the Dubai and Italy and all over the world, and he was as ever dj’ing only the good songs. He had grown into a wonderful dancer. There were a handful of people there, which was to be expected given that 6 pm is barely lunchtime for milongueros.

B spotted the snacks immediately. Some thoughtful person had put out just what seven-year-old boys like: animal crackers, graham crackers, and oatmeal cookies.

We sat listening to the end of the first tanda. Then B felt like dancing, so we danced the next one, and I was smote by what a good job M had done with him. He had turned B into a tango dancer, and I don’t even know how that happened, even though I was technically watching the whole time. The little nonverbal cat-and-mouse games they played had created a relaxed, assured, attentive, listening little dancer with his own unique flavour who went when and where he was led at the time of the lead, which are all qualities I’m still working on.

I led B in two tandas and he led me in one and he had somehow become this lovely little leader as well. He was relaxed, sure, communicative, within the compás of the music, and he moved with his whole body. And his embrace was the realest of embraces, pure and unquestioning and emotionally present all the way. I kvelled. The women are going line the f — — up.

A thousand-year-old porteño stood up to sing a song. Ivan said his name was Roberto and he used to sing with Pugliese. Incredible that he should be here with us, but possible. And as soon as he opened his mouth, we felt the golden honeyed deeply-rooted song of a real tango singer. It was like being present for a ghost. Here was what was left of one of those great impassioned young men of seventy years ago, and yes, he was old, but the person behind the voice was still the same, and how the voice thought about singing was still the same. There was still something there. It was an unparalleled honour. What if one of those scratchy old classics that we love came alive. This was what it was like to be in the living presence of those guys when they were doing their thing. How easy, and how glorious, it must have been to have been alive at a milonga in Buenos Aires in 1950.

When we left, B said that after all that tango, his walk felt different! Aha, I thought. We ran into Andrea who said we should bring our kids together to the milongas…and again I thought Aha.

He said this was the nicest milonga he had ever been to and he had had an amazing time and he was surprised at how much he danced. He said this had been a Great Day, and he never says that. He was tremendously excited that it happens every week and he wants to go every week. He was actually disappointed that we can only go every other week, when he has Sundays with me.

I was happy. I had created a little Mini-Me Monster. He floated home in the bus on a golden cloud, exactly as anyone does after a pleasant milonga. He was happy. He loved dancing. I was happy. I loved dancing and I loved that he loved it too. I loved that we shared that.

When we got home he briefly lifted his moratorium on kisses and gave me an exceptionally tender kiss. And I loved that best of all.

[Epilogue: At home we ravenously listened to some Pugliese. My little Mini-Me was now totally into it. We had some recordings of Pugliese with a Roberto, and at the time, I thought it might be the same Roberto. Although it turned out not to be the same one, I now had a child who was grabbing up Pugliese with both ears and who felt personally connected to the music. “This time we met the singer. The next time we go, maybe we’ll meet the composer,” he said hopefully. I regretted to tell him that Pugliese is dead. But with el Lindo around, you never know what kind of miracles will come your way.]


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