Do you ever get claustrophobic at a milonga? I don't mean because of the crowds of people blocking you on the floor, maneuvering as best they can because the place is so packed with tango dancers... Tonight, after about two hours, all I wanted to do was dance, but the last thing on earth I wanted was for someone to look at me, approach me, and ask me to dance. I was almost panicked, and that doesn't make for good dancing. Even the idea of having a pleasant conversation with someone at one of the tables was horrifying. I wanted to dance, but I wanted to disappear even more (but no, not like that scene in Flashdance).
So, knowing nothing good could come out of this emotional state, I put on my street shoes and called a taxi. My whole being put up a sign: don't approach, see? I even put on my street shoes to keep you away from me while I wait for my taxi. A Russian came up to me and said, "That's it?" The milonga was supposed to go to 3am. I tried to convince myself that I wasn't feeling well, that was why I was leaving, and I suppose I really wasn't feeling well. God, if tango brings me a whole new set of neuroses, I won't know what to do...
I left, and when the taxi let me off I stopped into a local café (ha, starbucks) to drown my sorrows. I thought about how I was too poor to buy a bottle of wine (it's the end of the month and my money flew away on tango classes, practicas, and milongas) and I felt worse.
Then, like a sign from heaven, I sit down with my hot chocolate (very self-destructive, I know, I need to stop drinking) and there are two men speaking Arabic on the couch behind me. I know, like it's in my blood, that by the way they are talking, they are Egyptian. Mish maA'oul, yani, ba'oulak eie, mafeesh wa'at; ah, yani, helwa kidda, and all of that. I am suddenly at Pastroudis again. Or Arabica. Or Om Kolthoum. Or Stiletto. Or anywhere in that dusty, insane place that I call home.
I turn to them and say, "low samaHt, inta min misr?" to one of them ("excuse me, are you from Egypt?"). Ah, min misr! yes! inti misreya? ("yes, from egypt! are you egyptian?") -- no, I am not Egyptian, I explain, I just... am Egyptian. They couldn't believe I wasn't born in Egypt, or had Egyptian parents, and I spoke with them for a half hour in Arabic about cairo, boston, molokheya, traffic, alexandria. So I left starbucks feeling happy, a little cold in the winter weather, but still with a smile on my face.
I tend to be continually pulled by two things in life: Egypt and tango. When one "life" disappoints me, the other fulfills me. When I was suffering in Egypt, tango reminded me that there was incredible beauty in the world. Now it's Egypt's turn to pick me up, but I still have to live with the fact that I will be a foreigner in every country I go. I will never be truly Egyptian, I will never be truly American, I will never be French even though I speak like a Parisian, never Russian nor Argentinian or... anything, really. I'm a stateless emigrée.
"We find a country in these words..." I once wrote. But now I'm beginning to think we find a country in these embraces, these sad, lonely little bodies that search for a love that lasts 3 minutes. Sometimes it's beautiful; sometimes it's just awful. Who ever said any of this is easy...? Anyhow, I'm sleeping in my AUC sweatshirt tonight.