Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last Tango in Cachirulo: In Memoriam

I'd see him off and on at the milonga in El Beso, a pasty-looking, low-profile kind o' guy in his 70's with snow-white hair parted severely off to one side. We danced once a long time ago, when I had just moved here--or was it when I was still visiting? There were never any tango fireworks, so I marked him off as "just a guy I had a tanda with once upon a time". I don't know if he was a good man or a bad man. A milonguero or a regular guy who liked to dance. During our tanda, he was...nice. In other words: non-descript. At best, he was a fixture that I knew would probably be in the same place at the same time.

Fast forward a few years later. I discovered a weeks ago that he had died. Ricardo, one of my usual partners pointed to the spot where he died at Cachirulo, saying, "He was dancing with that woman there, and then he had a heart attack and died." The paramedics tried to revive him, but didn't have any luck. He died on the floor that night.

I looked at the woman who was to be his last spin around the floor. She was in her late 40's, maybe early 50's, and cute. He must have been thrilled to danced with her because he never really danced a lot, was never in-demand as a dance partner. Then again, maybe she was one of his usual clients. I just didn't pay attention to him enough. Usually, it seemed he kept to himself, watching the other couples dance, sometimes with a little smile on his face.

Ricardo explained that this guy--I never caught his name--had a history of cardiac problems, which explains why he might not have danced so much. Tango is not the most aerobic dance, but the right partner can get your heart pumping, your juices flowing. What was going through his mind when he decided to ask her to dance? How did he react when she accepted? Did he know it would be his last tanda? Did he know he was going to die when he felt that first sharp pain? And did he try to ignore it? What was it like gasping for your last breath in the arms of an attractive woman, after having danced the dance you loved the most, being embraced to the music you grew up listening to?

Cachirulo remains the same. Same music. Same people. Same cattiness and petty competition for the best seats. But knowing that this man--this gentleman whose name I've forgotten or never bothered getting the first time--died doing what he may have loved the best, but never could do as much as he wanted, makes me appreciate what I am lucky enough to do, albeit rather clumsily at times.

Sometimes I wonder how I'll be spending my last moments. I hope my last days on la tierra won't involve a lot of blood, because I can't deal with the mess. Not that I'd have to clean it up after I kick the bucket. You know, I'm just sayin'. I hope I'll just go to sleep and never wake up, just slipping peacefully into the Great Beyond. Then again, that seems so anti-climactic, especially given that I've had a pretty eventful life thus far. Perhaps choosing to say, "Screw my cardiac problems! I'm going to dance with this hottie even if it kills me," is the best affirmation of life, even in the face of death.