In which Moneypenny finds Bond at Guerrin, Corrientes

Mr Bond

Walking down the stairs from the milonga, I reflected on tango and life. I have taken the mantle of milonguero, entering the milonga deftly without a stir, staying in the shadows, slipping into my jacket before a tanda, a fan on the table, a glass of sparkling water to moisten my mouth. The colours of my life are subtle and subdued.

It is easy to forget the early days of tango, when each milonga is vibrant and exciting, every tanda a new achievement, heart thumping and quick-of-breath. Of course this is the point at which Moneypenny will be, and that is her right of passage to becoming a tanguera. I should be less parental, and more open minded as I age.

I leave as she is taken to the pista by Alvero, his right arm slid around her slim waist. She looks up to his handsome face adoringly, as if seeing it for the first time. She walks quickly with girlish speed not wanting to lose a moment of the tanda. They disappear into the swell of dancers that now congests the floor.

I stroll slowly through the calles of Monserrat and my mind turns to pizza and Quilmes. The night is now close and the prospect of beer overwhelming. I head for Guerrin in Corrientes. The regular doorman greets me and thrusts the door open wide - but not so fast that his hand cannot catch mine as I enter. Inside it is like a station at rush hour. Waiters call, pizzas are rushed to tables, bottles rock as tops fly, and somewhere behind is the sweet smell of Moscato, causing me instantly to forget the Quilmes.

Pizza and Moscato go together like La Boca and football. Not the only pairing - for there is Quilmes - but a surprisingly great one. Moscato is a sweet fortified wine, sold either by the bottle or the carafe, the latter being my choice. Around me, families, men and women on their own, and lovers gather to eat pizza in this pulsating place.

It is at this moment that the door directly ahead of me opens. A young woman slips in alone and looks quickly about her as if searching the room. Her eyes settle on my table, and she walks purposely towards where I sit.

How is it that she is here? What happened to Sabrina and Alvero? Is that a tear in her eye?


Alvero: ‘You’re overthinking things and just like in tango, when you overthink is when everything goes wrong.’

Me: ‘I’ll be back.’

Alvero: ‘I’ll be waiting.’
I started walking away, I thought, was he right?  Was I overthinking all of this?  People have affairs all the time in the world of tango, why was I so hesitant?  As these thoughts were going through my mind I realized that I have no idea where I’m going.  I circumvent the people swirling around me to a ‘vals’, a Troilo I think, I bump into two couples which both give me the look of death, I am in fact commiting a tango capital offense by walking across the pista during a tanda, they might release the hounds on me if I don’t get out of there quickly enough.

Sabrina and Mr Bond are nowhere in sight, I wonder if they left together…. As much as it irritates me when they watch over me like I’m some headstrong teenager, I sort of wish they were here now to take me home for a glass of wine or for a pizza.

I decide to go powder my nose and walk towards the bathroom, as I walk in, there is the usual herd of women fixing their makeup and adjusting their décolleté to either show-off what is already there(or hope is there) or to pick-up what was once there.  It smells of ladies’ perfume and there’s a light haze of foundation powder in the air.  I get the usual up and down looks you get any time you walk into a tango environment, not even the bathroom is free of scrutiny in this world.

I try to escape towards the back of the bathroom and push the stall door open….

Alvaro: ‘No!!!! Que estas haciendo?  No, mi linda, This is not what it looks like!’

Me: ‘Ok, so this is not you kissing Lucia left breast then?  Que estas haciendo entonces? A failed attempt at CPR?’

Alvaro: ‘Como?’

I decide to run out, I don’t need this right now, I’ll pee later, I can hear him tripping and hitting himself against the stall door.  Was this what ‘I’ll be waiting’, means in Castellano? Was it understood that it meant, I’ll be in the bathroom making out with another woman while you decide whether you want to come home with me or not?  God I hate it when Sabrina is right!!! I’m just happy she’s not here to see it and relish in her triumph over my stupidity.

I can’t run very well in these stupid shoes but somehow I manage to get to my table, grab my bag and run out.  I try my best to  at least make it out to the first corner just so he won’t see me if he comes looking for me, that is if he hasn’t tripped over some other woman’s left breast.  I run two blocks up to Congresso park and sit next to Rodin’s thinker to take off my shoes.  My right strap is, like always, refusing to cooperate and as usual I struggle to remove my shoes. When I finally win the battle, I feel a rush of blood go to my feet, as if I had been depriving them of oxygen for the past 4 hours, one day my feet will take revenge on me for everything I’ve put them through.  I wiggle my toes and realize just how badly they hurt, this was my first Milonga in 5 months I guess it’s normal.  I look up and wonder what Rodin is thinking and why he hasn’t figured out by now.

So now what? I don’t really feel like going home but I’m not sure where to go from here, back to Sabrina’s?  She’s obviously not sleeping yet, maybe she’s with Mr Bond, at any rate a night with her will mean sitting through a list of things I did wrong this evening, she’s the Dr Xavier of the tango mutans.  Mr Bond, for some reason, if he’s not with Sabrina, I feel like he didn’t go home either, but where would he have gone?  Another Milonga?  My guess would be a drink, maybe even something to eat, he once took me to that pizza place on Corrientes, maybe he’s there, he goes there a lot from what I remember, should I try to to find him?

I aimlessly start walking down Avenida de Mayo, I love this street, my gaze naturally looks at the top of all the buildings.  All Art Nouveau masterpieces, gilded mouldings, dancing arches, undulating roof tops, colourful stained glass windows, all of them bearing testimony to the Buenos Aires of the turn of the century, a flourishing Buenos Aires, too rich for its own good, a Buenos Aires of opportunity, style, luxury, endless spending, a Buenos Aires that once was.  With few of the spaces rented out and lack of investment, most of these buildings are falling apart, sometimes only the ground floor is rented out, converted into a cheap eatery or convenience store,  I never know whether to feel sad for what was lost or admire the city’s ability to transform itself.

As I reach 9 de Julio, I hesitate for a second, turn right back to my San Telmo querido, and home, or turn left towards the pretty lights of ‘Broadway’?  And then like a firefly, I turn left towards Corrientes still in awe of this city and how it can be so many things at the same time, I understand it though, there are so many great things to be, so many inspirations, Paris, London, New York and when you can’t choose, you want to be all of them.  Before I know it, I’m on Corrientes, I might as well continue walking, I’ve come this far so I turn left and walk passed the theatres and the flashing lights and find myself across from Guerrin…I peek into from the street and I spot him immediately, he’s a foot taller than everyone else and always in black, how could i miss him!  Somehow, I knew he’d be here, I knew or I hoped…... hmm a sad ending to what might have been a night of passion with a hot argentine, or a happy coincidence to have one of the best pizzas in town with one of my favourite people in this town?

They only take cash, as I found out on my last visit when all of the city’s cash machines were ‘fuera de servicio’ So do I have enough? 500 Pesos, Yes I have enough for pizza and maybe even a ‘muscat’.

As the doors open the smell of cooking dough hits me like heat wave on a hot summer day when you walk out of the air-conditioned shopping mall, and all of a sudden I realize I’m starving to death, I have to have a pizza or I’ll die!  I see Mr Bond look up, he’s seen me, there’s no turning back now.

Me: ‘Mr Bond, fancy meeting you here, may I join you?’

Mr Bond: ‘Why Monneypenny, of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, you had to walk into mine.  Have a seat, I’ve just ordered a Quilmes and some Moscato’.

Me: ‘Perfect, I’ll be right back.’ I just realized I still hadn’t peed…

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