Sometimes life is like a tango . . .

Posted on June 2, 2009

This is not a story about true and lasting love. Make no mistake….just because it is played on a large screen and has beautiful scenes staged for the delight of the players and now for you, dear reader…well, that does not make it love. It was lovely all right – take- your-breath-away beautiful, but it was cotton candy, fluff – the stuff daydreams are made of. That does not diminish what it was while it lasted; however, for as they say – “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Let’s set the stage for this….well – let’s just say it was something like what you’re about to watch…cinema…played in different places with different backdrops and roles, with violins to make your heart go all aquiver – but not love. As Alfredo said in Cinema Paradiso, “Life isn’t like in the movies. Life… is much harder.” We just pretended, you see…that it wasn’t.

Oh those romantic scenes… they’ll get to you every time. Did you see his face? That’s how I felt about it when it was over – still do. No regrets, no recriminations, no what if’s. It was what is was and while it was, it was glorious! A beautiful man. If I’ve ever seen one who looked more beautiful, maybe I didn’t notice because my eyes were still smitten with him. A blend of Italian and Spanish – with wonderful coffee au lait skin, dazzling smile and warm, twinkly black eyes. He looked just like Erik Estrada did when he was not playing in that TV sitcom anymore – a little fuller, a little older but better. His uniform was not highway patrol – it was Brooks Brothers suits that looked more like they had been hand tailored for him. Even when he looked ‘casual’ he wasn’t frumpy or messy. I had to work to keep up with him. I don’t come easily to being pristinely turned out like that – I tend to get all messy and disheveled – but it was certainly worth the work. Oh, yes it was.

Let’s see, when did I first notice this beautiful man who came up from the barrio? I can’t really tell you…I know I noticed him before he noticed me. He was that beautiful. No one could compete with him. I thought he was just something to look at – eye candy. I never really even entertained the idea of ‘having’ him. You don’t own beautiful butterflies….you can’t even capture them – you’re just lucky if they land on you or stick around long enough for you to really appreciate them.

I was at a large professional conference – at the Arlington Hotel in Little Rock. I told you it was a beautiful story….great backdrops, eh? I was there with a group of people who worked for me. He worked for the feds. My claim to fame lay in that for some reason, we had achieved a certain degree of recognition for our success and innovation in helping people with serious mental illness find a way to return to life in a community as opposed to an institution. That part is not really important except that you should know I was idealistic and passionate about what I did – I did it a little differently, maybe taking more risks than others who ran similar programs. Hell – I lived it. He was idealistic also. He’d come up as a community organizer for Hispanic people and run for office as a young man – before doing what he did now. He was rightly placed in his position – he was smart, learned in the field, dedicated and intense. I don’t think any of what happened between us would have happened or even been possible had we not each been who we were. It was part of the attraction – not just the physicality of it. That only made it better – larger than life – cinema.

Well at this conference – he was a speaker, I was a speaker. We be speakers. After my lectures, in which he had casually appeared, he asked me to join him in the bar. Here is a beautiful man, I’ve had a long afternoon teaching my little lesson and – well, of course I told him ‘yes’. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the Arlington – it’s an old hotel but it’s beautiful – lots of marble and chandeliers, set on the side of a small mountain. The bar looks like a place that Ernest Hemingway would have frequented – heavy furniture, masculine feeling. Although there are a lot of women in the field, there weren’t a lot who ran programs – so most of my colleagues were men. Perhaps it was the overabundance of men in the bar – perhaps the trappings – I’m not sure, but I felt very much like an intruder in some very masculine space.

We were joined there by some colleagues who worked at the state level and another presenter who was from Pennsylvania. He was much renowned in our field – he had been doing this type of work before any of us. Once, in a workshop that he gave, we were discussing the ramifications of whether to call the people we served, our clients or our patients. You see, in the type of programs we ran, the settings were much more informal than in medical model therapeutic settings. The discussion went back and forth – “Wouldn’t that send mixed messages to them?”….”What about professional ethics?”….it just seemed to me like an exercise in circumlocution. It was going nowhere fast. I have this naughty habit of cutting to the chase when I feel impatient and I did. I stood right up and said “Why call them either…why not just call them your friends?” That sounded fine and noble and then I went and slipped, like I am sometime prone to do and added, “Personally, I think calling them patients or clients would, to them seem something like Lenny Bruce’s philosophy on the use of the word ‘fuck’. It’s only a word. If you keep hearing it enough, it loses it’s intrinsic value to shock – which is why it is so frequently used anyway – and then it just doesn’t have much meaning.” Oh God, why did my tongue run on to say those things before my brain caught up????? You could have heard a pin drop. Those faces – those professional, stodgy, up-tight faces. After that, old Irv – who it turned out appreciated my kind of humor – was always taunting me about that faux pas.

There we sat, me on the side of this beautiful man who had just asked me to join him in this gloriously masculine bar for a drink, some colleagues from my state office and old Irv. I am politely taking small sips of a double scotch, straight up. God knows I had no wish to loosen ‘the tongue’ in front of Irv another time. The two old boys from the state – later I would refer to them as the Bobsy twins of the psychosocial set – start praising me to the beautiful one – Santo. I blush. (Yes, back them I could still do that). This must have prompted Irv to join in….why couldn’t he have just confined himself to business – but nooo – he has to recollect that story. I am mortified and without a second’s hesitation, throw down the double scotch. Warmth in my throat…hurry up, diminished capacity…I don’t know if I can stand this humiliation. Oddly enough – Santo loved the story and laughed and looked at me in a new way that I wasn’t sure about. There was a cocktail party to be held in a few hours after which everyone was to pair off in groups for dinner. I figured I was to spend some time with my employees – having spent the better part of the day with my colleagues. We had another drink and everyone started to get up to go to our rooms – in order to change for the evening’s activity. He turned and asked me if I would be there…I answered, “yes”. Out of the blue, he asked if I had plans for dinner. I told him tentative ones to dine with my employees and he looked at me and asked if I had to do that – would I not dine with him instead? Now, usually I can feel it coming when a man is getting interested in me…or going to ask me out. I had not seen this coming. How do play this game, eh? Letting him think I would cancel something on the drop of a hat for him wasn’t wise. Even though he was beautiful, I never in my life have much wanted to be someone’s sex object d’jour. It’s just not enough for me. So, I told him that I could not cancel with my employees without knowing if they had other plans. If they did – I would be free, if not – I felt obliged to dine with them. He just told me to check with them early enough so he could make reservations. The nerve!

I was standing near a wall…yes, just like a wallflower – at the cocktail party when he entered the room. Everyone had dressed and things were a little more beautiful. I saw him stop in the doorway and look around the room. I wondered who he was looking for until his eyes landed on me and he began to cross the room in my direction. He picked up two drinks on the way and arrived next to me with his and a scotch for me. He remembered…hmmm. We stood there talking next to a large plant of some type . I kept feeling something on the back of my leg and it would startle me, so I’d move very quickly. A few minutes later – I guess because of the crowding – there it was again. Again I move. This time he just looks down at me and says “You’re very sensitive, aren’t you?” Aw, Jesus. I am not a stupid woman – I know just what is going on now. I manage to attempt a save and say something about the plant. He goes back to sensitive…and says he likes that. Now, I don’t have a verbal move. Check. Right against the wall – I’m in check. So I just look back at him because I always had a good poker face…that’ll get me by, I figured. About half hour later – we’re still standing there – on our second drink when he asks me if I am dining with him. Now, it turns out that most of my employees are going to some burger joint and then going swimming. Feeling that maybe fate has wrought this, I say yes. Good, he says, he already made reservations and it’s time to leave.

So guess where dinner is? In his suite. He’s so clever and smooth. Again, I am determined that I will not be pushed up against the wall. I am not giving in and I am not being desert. Several hours later, while sipping brandy – I mutter something about checking on my employees down at the pool. Anything to leave that room before the inevitable happens. He seems to like the idea and says – great – let’s go soak in the hot tub…I’ll change, he tells me and you do, too and we’ll meet at the pool. Okay, point for me.

After all that drinking and now soaking in a hot tub for an hour – oh God I could hardly walk. I had jello for legs and had to put my hand against the wall for support. Saved by intoxication – that’s an interesting twist. He helps me to my room – which I might add is a room adjoining that of two of my employees – so there is no way anything is happening in that room. That is too risky. I told him as much as he tries to come in with me….but that didn’t seem to deter him. He laid back on one side of the bed while I sat on the other and we talked. Just as easy and naturally as you can figure. He told me about his background, his running for political office – his activism. He asked about mine and we shared confidences. When he got up to leave, I really was sorry. Nonetheless, I figured any man this good looking, with this much machismo – was used to easily having women. A girl has to have some pride – I was not interested in being just another conquest.

Morning – breakfast, then workshops – no time to rest or think. At lunch – which was not a group thing – I again see him in the doorway of the bar looking around. Once again, his eyes find me. We smile. He heads straight for me. “Let’s play hooky and go exploring the town this afternoon”, he whispers in my ear – his lips deliberately touching me, “We’ll have lunch at a restaurant away from the hotel”. I am sitting with employees. What am I to do? He doesn’t wait for me to answer – he just tells them that we have been called by the hosts into a quick meeting – please excuse us and we’ll catch up with them later. Who am I to make a liar of the man? I stood up and left.

We walked the streets – had lunch – had our fortunes told. We browsed some interesting antique shops. In one, I see some lovely antique jewelry and am attracted to it. He picks up the necklace and earrings one at a time and puts them on me. Then, he tells the owner he wants to pay for them and is it okay if ‘his lady’ wears them out? I can’t say a thing, except thank you. In my mind, I am thinking how I am about to become a whore – bought for antiqued jewelry. I’ve known I want this man since I laid eyes on him. I may have welched last night, but I knew that I was not going to do it again – I knew that before the jewelry. I wondered if that was going to salve any feelings of being reduced to his concubine. I surely did not have long to wait.

Returning to the hotel, the strap on my sandals broke – so we had to return to my room so I could change shoes. There was no walking around in those broken sandals. We walked into my room and I went to the closet, kicked off the shoes I had on and pulled out another pair. I went to sit on the bed and change shoes. No sooner was I seated than this beautiful man took one shoe from my hand, knelt down in front of me and took my foot in his hand. Then, instead of putting the shoe on – he was kissing my ankle, my calf, my thigh. By now, I have dropped the other shoe. Clunk as it hits the floor. That momentarily brings me back to reality….Oh my God…. I think the door to the other room is ajar. Oh mercy – I need to get up and lock that door, but I surely don’t want him to stop. I forget all about it as he slowly takes off my clothes and begins to make love to me. He’s the one who heard the noise. Thank God there are two doors between adjoining rooms – and only one of them was unlocked. It was too close of a call. Someone was knocking on the door on the other side – I guess they were looking for me. We snickered like bad children caught with our hands in the cookie jar of delight. We didn’t know for sure if the door on my side was locked, but if either of us jumped up just as they were opening the door – everyone on that side was going to partake of some full frontal nudity – and so we just hunkered down under the covers and giggled quietly and waited. Finally, the knocking stopped – and we quit sniggering and went right back to what we were doing. Somehow, the risk of exposure – the suspense and the laughing made it even better and so we decided to do it again and again and again for the remainder of the afternoon and the evening. Once night had fallen and we started to get hungry – I realized that we could not call room service, nor could we just walk out into the hall together without risking being exposed. Okay. We showered and got dressed – once again all pristine and well turned out. I put on a black dress and pearls and he put on his clothes. We’d have to stop by his room for him to change. As surreptiously as children cutting class – we made down the hall for the stairs – no elevators, too risky. We made it safely to his room to get his clothes. More suspense – more giggling. When he starts to get undressed again, my eyes were hot on him – every inch of him. I felt the groan coming out of my lips and I was embarrassed but he was delighted. When he smiled, I put out my hand to invite him. There went his clothes. That was it. I ate dinner in his room again this night. Room service came and went while I stayed in his bed, wearing nothing but pearls.

After that, whenever we could find a way to meet we did – although never in the same place twice. Never ordinary – always very nice, against great backdrops. In New Mexico, it was the Albequerqe Marriot – top floor. The Hot Air Balloon Festival was in progress. We went up to Sandia Peak on the tram and drank Mexican flags – too many for the altitude. Later, we came back down and went to dinner in the hotel – in his room – me in my pearls. The rooms outside walls are glass…to give you a view of the mountains in the distance. In the morning, we awoke to enjoy each other and then have coffee while watching the hot air balloons rise up past our level. We had to be careful – there were always conferences or business meetings of some kind and we could hardly afford to be blatant lovers. Neither of us much cared what people might imagine – we just needed to be sure they couldn’t prove anything.

In Washington DC, it was the Washington Hilton. A national conference there – we were plenty busy, but found time to visit Georgetown and try out one of the famous bed and breakfast establishments – if just for an afternoon. We dined at La Brassiere’ – a hot French restaurant in the city where the politicos often met. It had ‘private’ dining rooms. You have not lived until you enjoy being desert in a French restaurant knowing that the wait staff is only a knock on the door away. Crème brulee’ was never so good before!

In the windy city, it was Oprah’s favorite – the Omni hotel. We headed to Second City for laughs in the evening and Chicago style pizza. After a visit to the Hershey factory one afternoon, we spent the evening smearing each other with dark chocolate which was then slowly licked off.

In Atlanta, it was the Marriott again. We visited Buckhead. We dined at Dante’s Down the Hatch – a strange place. They serve fondue – and there is a ship right in the middle of the restaurant – while a jazz trio is playing from the middle of the ship. Memorable and different. This time it was peach pie we had in bed for desert – didn’t want any lights going out in Georgia because we held back. We’d grown accustomed to one another; it was even better than in the beginning. We were more bold, more sure of ourselves and I never spent moment that I would change anything that happened between us. I just don’t think it could have been any better.

I was on a planning committee for an international conference we held in New Orleans. This was over a year in the planning – thousands of people were to attend. I’d volunteered to chair the committee in charge of social events and entertainment. Consequently, the hotel ‘comped’ me a room, since I’d be spending a bundle of the conference’s money with them. We were at the Monteleone in New Orleans – right up in the middle of the French Quarter, facing Canal Street. Again, an older hotel marked with elegance and style the likes of which might be cost prohibitive to more modern day establishments being built.

I had an Administrative Assistant who was a man. He was married, but I could swear he was gay. I really liked him – he had a spirit that lifted you up and was motivating and he took such good care of me and any job I gave him to do. I’m sure he suspected that Santo and I were lovers. Before I left, he told me that he had called some friends (old co-workers) at the hotel and swapped my room for a ‘better’ one, because he had stroke there. I thought it was sooo nice of him and thanked him. Little did I know what was waiting. When I walked into the door behind the bellman, there was a huge, four poster bed. I said nothing, but tipped the man and let him leave. Then I just walked around it and looked. I started giggling right way. It wasn’t until I lay down across the bed to see how it felt that I noticed the piece de resistance. The ceiling, of the canopy part of the bed, was mirrored! I just knew then that Keith knew something he shouldn’t – although I for the life of me couldn’t figure how. I had to wait until the next day for him to arrive. He also was pleasantly surprised and we spent much of our free time at this conference and one night afterwards gazing at our happy reflections.

I don’t want you to think that this was all a frivolous dalliance. It wasn’t. In the time I spent with him, I was probably more productive than any other time in my life. I quadrupled the budget of my business and added on new facets to the program. Some of it was with his help, both in strategic planning and also in helping me become aware of more federal grants available. Had I not been confident in my own abilities and in his integrity, I might have entertained the idea that I got ‘unfair advantage’ from him. Au contrare’ – I know he made me better professionally than I was when we first met. In that sense, he was a mentor to me – he’d probably prefer I said Svengali. In fact, he’d love that description, it would appeal to his machismo – that he-man thing that Latin men always have. I’d just look at him and laugh. I cannot remember how we just stopped seeing one another. It just sort of waned away. There was no big scene – no break-up, no heartache. I think that we just got too busy.

When I entertained the idea of writing this, I wondered what he was doing – if he was still working for the feds? I ‘Google’d’ his name. Nope, he’s not there anymore – maybe he retired. He is however, still active in his profession in a large state and aside from owning his own business – is on many committees and boards involving this field – as well as equality for not only Hispanics, but all Indigineous peoples. I would have never expected less from him. I’m also glad he is still alive. Some folks I know have been killed or died untimely deaths and I did not want to find that out about him.

Chris taught me that you can make love with someone in your heart before giving your body…When you finally do give your body – all that you have to the other – it transcends anything I’d ever known.

Santo was different – but almost as wonderful. I still had Chris in my heart when he came along and so we made love for the joy, the pleasure, the release of doing it. I had missed that. Maybe it was not the nine-course meal – but the desert was so memorable!

I know just how that man feels watching those images on the silver screen – each poignant romantic interlude. We go our way in life, touching others in ways we don’t realize at the time. Neither Santo nor I ‘needed’ the other. We were equally yoked to each other and equally bound to our careers and other obligations. There was nothing but joy and happiness between us – but not love. The memory of that brings warm tears into my eyes, but they stay there – they are contained – and on my face, a smile of contentment with everything there was between us. It was enough.

Sometimes, life is like the tango. Phrasing is everything. The music for the tango is like a story – constructed of paragraphs, sentences and with an ending point. It’s only beautiful if you have a passionate, unbridled connection with the music, the dance and your partner. No hesitation – no holding back – you must give all that you have to each other and the dance until it ends. Mistakes? Oh no – no mistakes in the tango -as they say in the movies “if you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just tango on.”

Last edited by katie on June 6, 2009, 7:46 pm

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One response to “Sometimes life is like a tango . . .”

  1. You are a born story teller. Productive, too. How long did that take you? Twenty four hours? Pretty respectable cruise speed.

    I like the style, the humor, the insight, and the practicality.

    "I’d just look at him and laugh. I cannot remember how we just stopped seeing one another. It just sort of waned away. There was no big scene – no break-up, no heartache. I think that we just got too busy."

    The closing paragraph is perfect:

    Sometimes, life is like the tango. Phrasing is everything. The music for the tango is like a story – constructed of paragraphs, sentences and with an ending point. It’s only beautiful if you have a passionate, unbridled connection with the music, the dance and your partner. No hesitation – no holding back – you must give all that you have to each other and the dance until it ends. Mistakes? Oh no – no mistakes in the tango -as they say in the movies "if you make a mistake and get tangled up, you just tango on."

    Excellent write.

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