What I remember most about Yvette is her bed vast like a football field. It filled a room which otherwise lacked furnishings. Dark and always shuttered against the day like the haunt of a vampire, the room was surprisingly sterile. It held nothing but that endless bed that swallowed us when we tumbled into it.
We always got there when the night was dying, the milongas were fading out like exhausted candles and dawn threatened to break the spell that held us all together. For some reason the bed lacked blankets and I was forever cold, so I always huddled deep inside her cunt to stay warm.
I was a neophyte, a small shapeless amoeba in the world of tango. I had arrived less than two years before in Buenos Aires. I still didn’t know why I was there – though I did know that whatever I was seeking resided nearby. I invaded her life with my endless stream of questions, my hunger. Perhaps she saw some spark in me or took pity or simply wanted a lover who could have been her son. Whatever the reason, she allowed me into her life and her bed for several months.
Recognizing my desire which pierced her, stretched beyond her and reached toward the elusive goddess of tango, she said to me, “I will make you a great dancer.”
I should have listened. She was herself a master, an innovator and someone who would revolutionize the teaching of tango around the world. But it was too soon. I was young and stupid and distracted and wide-eyed. Her offer was a sort of wishful thinking.
I did not believe it was even possible.
And then there was the matter of my girlfriend, my official girlfriend. My extended, unexplained disappearances into the night were causing problems between us. Though we did not live together, she knew something was up. Like all women, her sixth sense told her that there was another force in the universe pulling me away from her.
I guess Yvette and I were both right. She could have made me, eventually, a very great dancer. And it was also true that I was nowhere near ready to begin that voyage.
Tango is the dance of those who have failed and suffered. I was still certain I could outrun my failures and my pain; I had not embraced them yet.
Until then, I was not ready to dance tango.
The night I stood Yvette up – because my girlfriend threw a fit in the street when I told her I was going to dance tango later that night after our date ended – was the first night after the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. When I did not go to see her, Yvette went instead to mourn the recent dead in a silent, anxious vigil with the people waiting against hope to see their loved ones pulled alive from the rubble.
The next day when I called, she was cold, wrapped in invisible black veils of mourning. There were 85 dead, hundreds injured and laid out among them was the cold cadaver of our brief romance. My words, my desire, my prick could not reach her. She was lost to me; I had lost her.
Only years later did I understand that she had truly loved me, that I had been more than a trinket to her. Amused at her old self, she confided over coffee, “I was a fool to think you would stay with me. What could I give you? I could not give you children; I could only give you tango.”
And I, young and foolish, hadn’t realized the measure of the gift she was offering.