Feb 18, 2024

From the book When the Embrace Whispers by our friend Dimitri.s Bronowski.

Sarah's mobile vibrated on the coffee table, interrupting her distant gaze out the rain-streaked window. Mark's photo was on the screen with a big green button ready to be clicked. Sarah sipped her latte and looked up again. Raindrops drummed on the windowpane, echoing her restless thoughts.

As a teenager, she used to step out of the house and walk in the rain. Her mother never fussed about rain-soaked clothes or muddy shoes. "That's what stuff is for, to be used," she'd say with a smile. When Sarah returned home, her mother would welcome her and request she leave her shoes at the entrance. "There is no place for wet shoes inside the house. Now off to take a warm shower, princess." 

However, today her thoughts were anchored in a more recent past. It all began five years ago, with fireworks of emotion and happiness a bit after her thirty-third birthday. In the initial months, she and Mark traveled on low-budget trains and buses, had picnics in the park, and took long walks by the beach. They moved in together quickly to save money. Discussions revolved around life, dreams, and having children. They even talked about Sarah leaving her unfulfilling job for a passion yet undiscovered. Yet, she had just received a promotion at the same job she had planned to leave—more money, less freedom, and more people to please.

As months turned into years, the initial excitement began to fade. She couldn't recall the last time they did something unexpected or new together. Financial struggles were no longer pressing, thanks to Mark, and they now had a splendid new house he had designed from scratch. A smile flickered on Sarah's lips as she recalled how Mark had unveiled their new home. Taking her to their new neighborhood, he asked her to close her eyes. Guiding her carefully, they ascended stairs, and upon entering the house, he led her to a room. Placing her hands on a table, she heard the sound of something metallic being set before her. Tracing it with her fingers, she felt the smooth, matte finish and some sharp cuts along its edge. Opening her eyes, she stared at the key. "Welcome to our future," Mark said, his voice tinged with excitement. Sarah looked around, and her mouth dropped.

At the heart of the kitchen, a sleek black marble island doubled as a chic breakfast bar. State-of-the-art appliances adorned the kitchen, and glossy white furnishings surrounded her. In the beginning, they found themselves spending hours cooking and sharing meals there.

Sarah rushed outside. It was a two-story, red-brick townhouse nestled on a tree-lined street. "Seventh tree on the right," Mark said behind her. "You can plant flowers on the left side of the garden, outside the grass line," Mark said. "It’s not a lot of space, but if we put more flowers, the grass won’t align nicely with the wall lines."

"And what is that?" Sarah asked, pointing to a small baby swing in the corner. "That's... for later," Mark replied with a smile. Sarah's eyes welled up, and she hugged him tightly. "Hey, hey, one step at a time," Mark said. 

They returned to the house. The living room was cozy, featuring a large bay window that allowed ample natural light to filter in. Upstairs, the tranquil bedroom featured a king-sized bed with soft, neutral linens, soothing blue walls, and a large window overlooking greenery. Next to it, a pastel-toned room housed a baby's rocking bed, still wrapped in plastic.

Not much had changed since then. Sarah attempted to place flowers in different spots, but Mark always moved them back to the designated area. The rooms remained the same, and the house was kept pristine by Samantha, their cleaning lady. The baby's room and swing remained unused. This thought left a pang of unfulfilled longing in Sarah's heart. One thing was different, though. Mark detested wasting time, and since they could afford it, the kitchen now primarily served as the spot for receiving food deliveries. It was a house of serene comfort, the kind that many of her friends would love to have.

Sarah took another sip of her coffee, ignoring the vibrating mobile. Her eyes drifted to the cafe's walls, adorned with the owner's life adventures. On the wall, she saw pictures of a hot air balloon ride above mountains, dancing in a dimly lit room with a woman in a red dress, finishing a marathon in an ancient stadium, visiting a market filled with colorful spices, and watching a flamenco show. She gazed at the pictures, as she had many times before, immersing herself in the imagined sensations of such a life—the crispness of cold mountain air, the symphony of bustling market noises, the thrill of exploring unknown streets. Yet, it was the photo of the red dress that resonated with her the most. The fluid movement of the dancer, her dress a cascade of crimson, had etched itself into Sarah's heart, evoking feelings she couldn't quite name but always longed to experience.

Turning her attention back to Mark's photo on the vibrating screen, she observed his tall and lean figure. His dark, neatly styled hair, occasionally slightly disheveled, added to his casual charm. It was his brown eyes with long eyelashes that Sarah fell in love with. Most women would kill to have eyelashes like those. Shifting in her seat, Sarah took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and clicked on the insistent green button.

"Is it a good time?" Mark asked. 

"It's always a good time to talk with you," Sarah replied. 

"How was work?" 

"I had another fight with my boss. She doesn't want to accept any of my proposals. I don't understand what's the point of giving me the job and then not letting me decide anything." 

"That's terrible. I'm sorry to hear that. You can tell me more at home. Listen, about the trip. I can't leave now. I have too many things to finish. We'll need to do it another time."

Another time. Sarah's free hand shifted, as if she were about to strike the table in front of her. She opened her eyes, realizing she had made contact with something. Coffee had spilled onto the floor and her shoes. 

"Can I make it up with dinner tomorrow night?" Mark continued, "My favorite restaurant has an invited chef, 3 Michelin stars. You will love it." 

"Who would say no to 3 Michelin stars?" Sarah said, her voice flat, as she futilely dabbed at the coffee spill.

"You'll love it. On your way back, please buy a Château Pontet-Canet, year 2016 if it's available. See you soon." 

Sarah locked the mobile and placed it face down on a dry spot on the table. "Who would say no to 3 Michelin stars?" she repeated in a low voice, trying to remove the coffee stain from her shoes. Mark worked hard to provide a comfortable, calm life, she knew that. A life she couldn't have imagined creating on her salary. With him, she was safe. No man is perfect, but she felt he was as close to it as a woman approaching her forties could hope for. Traveling, children, and dreams could wait one more year. Good enough, she thought, looking at the half-cleaned stain on her shoes, the rest will wash away with the rain.

Sarah popped open her umbrella, stepping out from the warm glow of the café into the evening chill. Walking in the city always made her feel insignificant. Nobody seemed to notice her. People walked briskly, absorbed in their own thoughts, while the urban environment bustled around them. Towering skyscrapers, historic edifices, and sleek glass structures defined the city's skyline, the kind of buildings that made her feel even smaller.

Usually, the city buzzed with a symphony of sounds. Horns honked as taxis weaved through traffic; the chatter of people and the calls of street vendors were an everyday part of it. But that night, the city felt a lot louder. Everybody was in a hurry to avoid the heavier rain predicted by the weather channel.

She looked at the street in front of her, the same street she had walked for years to get from her favorite coffee place back home. She could close her eyes and visualize every turn, every traffic light, every store. She used to take a different path until Mark decided to race her back home, telling her there was a faster way to get there. They laughed, made a bet, and started running. He was correct. Sarah hugged him at the end of the race, whispered "You are always right, aren't you?" in his ear, and then they went straight to the bedroom for an afternoon she would always remember with a smile.

Not today, she thought. She was not in a hurry to get back home, to see Mark, or to talk about her terrible day at work. She turned to the first corner she found. The street was empty. Great. She banged her hand on a wall and quickened her pace. She wanted to scream, but that would draw other people's attention. Left, right, left, right, right, left. The rain transformed from a drizzle to a torrential downpour, each drop splattering against the pavement, and the few people outside ran to get cover. As she turned around another corner, a taxi hit a road bump next to her, splashing her with dirty rainwater. Drenched, she looked down, her soaked clothes clinging to her. She locked eyes with the taxi driver, her gaze heavy with unspoken reproach, but he drove away, oblivious. "Nobody cares anymore," she muttered, and closed her umbrella, surrendering to the rain.

With each step, tears silently streamed down her face. She lifted her hand to remove them but stopped midway. Nobody would notice them either way. "Why? Why can’t you just be happy? What’s wrong with you?" she whispered. Something caught her eye. She looked to her right, noticing the mirror of a small local gym. And there she was. Streaked mascara trails ran from her eyes, painting a poignant picture on her cheeks, the rain and tears indistinguishable. Her shoes were now sullied and soaked through. She stood motionless, looking at her reflection.

The sound of the rain intensified. Water from a nearby building’s guttering fell on a garbage bin, creating a chaotic symphony of beats. Sarah closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself. Her chest rose and fell. And then, she heard it.

A solitary piano note sliced through the air, soon joined by the sorrowful cry of a violin. What crazy musician is still on the street? The music seemed to pause briefly. Sarah took a few steps in the direction from which the sounds emanated. Another note. With every step, the music became clearer and louder, and oddly, older. The piano ceased, but the violin continued, slow and melodic. Sarah’s eyes filled with tears once more. A void formed inside her chest, a longing. The music grew stronger, reached a crescendo, and then stopped.

A lone red light flickered at a building's entrance, like a beacon in her stormy night. Red light? She thought. That can’t be right. She approached and reached the door. It was slightly open. Carefully, she pushed it a tiny bit and looked inside with one eye only. The music was definitely coming from there. She could hear people talking. A few seconds later, someone applauded. She positioned her ear at the slight opening of the door to listen better. And then she felt a hand on her shoulder. Sarah jumped.

"Excuse me, young lady, can I pass? Oh, wait. You are all wet. What are you doing out here? Come, with me, with me now."

A petite, elderly lady, her age etched gracefully in the lines of her face, seized Sarah's elbow with surprising strength, ushering her into the warmth.

"But..." Sarah started.

"I'll never understand your generation. Please, leave the shoes at the door. There is no place for wet shoes on the dance floor. Come on, come on, we have warm tea inside, and you are late."

Late? For what? With hesitant curiosity, Sarah edged closer, peering through the next door where a different world seemed to unfold. OK, that’s definitely a dance floor. She took her shoes off.

"Come, let’s get you out of these clothes." The old lady took her to the changing room. "Here, try this skirt. I don’t have a good top for this. Well, young lady, you’ll stay with your t-shirt, if you don’t mind looking a bit sloppy."

"I don’t even remember the last time someone called me a young lady," Sarah responded with a smile.

"Well, you haven’t given me your name yet, have you, young lady? In my days, we used to give our names straight away."

"I am sorry. It’s Sarah. And you are?"

"My friends call me Maria. This way, Sarah."

Maria took Sarah to the main dance hall. Dim, ambient lighting bathed the studio, a stark contrast to the bright, lively hues of her childhood dance memories. Chairs and a few tables surrounded the dance floor. Four guys were laughing in a corner, all wearing baggy pants. A hip hop class? Can’t be. Those pants are too elegant. A few women were chatting on one side of the floor, and a few more were seated on the other side putting on their dance shoes. The shoes were also different from what Sarah remembered. Instead of the traditional pink color of the heels used in Latin dances, dance shoes of every hue dotted the room. Turquoise ones sparkling like the ocean, another pair adorned with delicate butterflies, and a glossy black pair gleaming under the soft light. 

"You don’t have high heels, do you?" asked Maria. "No worries, you can dance without them."

"Dance? I can't... I've never really learned."

"Isn’t that what a dance class is for?"

A door on the other side of the studio opened. Sarah’s mouth dropped open.

‘A celebration of love, friendship, and the courage to pursue your heart's desires.’ GET YOUR BOOK HERE: When the Embrace Whispers

It doesn’t matter if you are entirely new to dancing… or have been dancing your whole life. We distill everything you need to know to be able to hit the milonga into simple, easy-to-understand steps. Regardless of your level, this course has something for everyone!

At the end of Tango Passport, you’ll be able to improvise and dance the tango…. anywhere in the world. More details HERE.

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