ZARAGOZA, Spain – If you listen carefully enough, other people will tell you everything you need to know. I’m an artist with a need to express and I have my Sunday soapbox… but I’d much rather listen to someone else telling a good story or saying something that’s a little awkward for them to get out than to hear my own voice. That’s a good thing because people will tell you some pretty incredible things.
If you’re listening.
Last night after the show in Zaragoza, we were saying our long goodbyes. (Have you noticed that the better the fiesta, the longer it takes to say goodbye?) Well, it was midnight out on the little plaza outside the club, that time of night when Spanish cities emerge from their cocoons. One edge of the plaza was a towering stone wall several stories high, the forgotten backside of some church; another was a wall covered with graffiti portraits: Creedence, Jimi, Janis, Aretha and Amy. As we had been dancing, I said, “Thanks for those embraces” and Nacho piped in, “The embrace is the world.”
Now, that brought me up short. It was an idea that I immediately recognized as my own – except that I had never formulated quite that way. The embrace – the tango embrace with its no-holding-back chest to chest plunge – is not some small pleasure we allow ourselves but the world itself. It is the fusing of bodies and scents and fluids and perspiration and heat and flesh. It is the coming back home.
But Nacho is the one who bequeathed me the way to say it.
This morning, listening, I heard an incredible story: Laura told us how she had once been approached by a junkie asking for change in the Atocha train station. Since she wasn’t sure if she had enough even for her ticket, she told the woman that she would first buy her ticket. Then, if there was anything left over, she would give it to her. It turned out that there were two euros extra and Laura was glad to share them with the woman.
Months later, running for the same train in Madrid, she got to the vending machine and discovered that she did not have enough change. She would miss the train and the elaborate clockwork life of a single mother would all come crashing down around her. A junkie, the same woman who had approached her months before, saw her distress. From her pocket she pulled out a handful of small coins, the sort people give away easily, and held them out for her to take.
Of the tens of thousands of people who pass though Atocha each day, it was impossible that the woman had recognized her. It was just the mysterious circle of life coming round.
The world is the embrace.
I like this parallel. The circle of the tango embrace embodies (literally) the world’s embrace, and further circular imagery: “what goes around comes around”, as it did for Laura.
Y’know, I think it’s highly feasible the woman did recognise Laura. Laura’s kindness may well have etched her face on the woman’s brain.
The tango embrace is a saviour when oxytocin has been in short supply. It’d be even nicer to reflect that the world is holding me, with my floor partner as the conduit.