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Estancia Aldea Norteña 2: Encuentro Sorpresivo

January 13, 2023 11:30AM
"Surprising Encounter," to come upon or experience especially unexpectedly (Merriam-Webster).

The ride to the regional train station was already an event; Catalina had only gone a few times before, when seeing her oldest brother off to University or welcoming him home for holidays. Sr. Moreno took them, kissed his daughter on the cheek, and gave her a prepaid peso card. "I think that will be plenty, but let me know if something happens, and we can send more to you."

He waved to them all as the train departed, then drove back to little Fortuna in the Aguirre’s car. Catalina clutched her new purse, leaned back in the train seat, and prepared to enjoy every brand new experience a trip to the coast must bring.

Sleeping on the train was less exciting than she originally pictured, especially as Tío Ruy sometimes needed help getting up to go to the bathroom, which was a bit harder to manage in the confines of the sleeping car than back at the Aguirre house. But she was rewarded the next morning with their entrance into Mar del Plata. The tall billboards, the bright buildings, the press and bustle: everything promised to be as magical as it looked on television.

They took a cab to the rental house, a pretty little chalet made of sandy stone with a roof of old-fashioned red clay tiles and a lovely wrought iron fence. From her bedroom on the second floor Catalina could see all the way to the beach; if she tried hard she could imagine hearing the waves at night as she fell asleep to the unfamiliar sounds of car horns and street life. The housekeeper hired for their stay prepped a wonderful full breakfast, and they ate outside in the private courtyard with a central fountain and flowers planted along the brickwork path.

But it soon grew lonely. First they took Tío Ruy to a series of appointments. A small television in the waiting room always played sports whenever they came. The one time Catalina tried to turn it to a different channel, a receptionist glared and quickly turned it away from a novela rerun. She was forced to make do with the few magazines offering gossip about the stars she could not watch.

Tía Lola and Catalina went out nearly every day to shop or sightsee, but they knew practically no one. There were many hours spent sipping café and watching strangers pass them by, while Catalina fidgeted and wished she could discuss more than prices and styles found on the main boulevards.

Then the doctor recommended Tío Ruy begin more physical therapy. "I thought I was finished with all that!" he exclaimed over dinner at a restaurant Tía Lola found. "But I suppose it can do no harm."

"Very true, very true," Tía Lola agreed, eyes fixed on the menu. "Oh, look, they have three different kinds of sirloin! We must come again to try the others soon."

After they ordered, Catalina offered some encouragement. "It is a good idea to always keep in better shape," she parroted back her textbook with faithful repetition. "And I hope it will do you good."

"Well at least I will not have to go out to see anyone. Dr. Reyes says they will send someone to the house. We need only clear a space large enough for me to move about; they'll email us some information about it. You can handle that, right Catalina?"

So on the appointed day both Sra. Aguirre and Catalina stayed home to meet the new therapist and observe his technique, which they learned from the promised email was called "tangolates."

"Oh, we used to tango," Tía Lola admitted in a loud conspiratorial whisper as she waited in the courtyard with her husband, while Catalina and the housekeeper moved furniture around. "But that was such a long time ago, I can not imagine either of us doing it again."

It was a stretch to think of the plump matron ever sashaying to the beat, and Catalina failed to imagine Sr. Aguirre doing so at any point in his life. But she nodded and smiled, merely glad that during the afternoon's appointment she would listen to music instead of sports headlines and home shopping channels.

The young man shown into the courtyard made an interesting rather than striking first impression defined by his tall height, neatly pressed scrubs, and not a hint of the medical seriousness presented by all the other clinicians encountered thus far. "Good afternoon Señor, Señora, Señorita," he said with a wide smile, and actually winked at her as he spread out an exercise mat. "My name is Enrique Tilve, and I'm here to improve your health through dance. But also: I am here to help you enjoy your afternoon." He removed a set of speakers and an iPod from his bag, set them up on the table, and then pulled a tiny remote out of his pocket with a flourish, turning on the music and sidestepping to the beat all at the same time. Catalina could not help reacting to his theatrics, and he acknowledged her gasp with a tilt of his head before fitting a blood pressure cuff around Tío Ruy’s arm.

After checking and recording the patient’s vitals, Sr. Tilve got the other man up on his feet. He proved a very patient teacher, starting with some modest steps and then demonstrating a basic routine with Catalina serving as the patient’s partner. He encouraged them to practice whatever proved easiest to learn between sessions for better mobility and endurance. "Do not worry so much about the music or timing. If you can count, you can dance, and you may move to your own rhythm."

"It has been some time since we thought of that," Tía Lola admitted. "I am not sure we have rhythm any more."

"Oh no ma’am," Sr. Tilve admonished with a gentle smile, "we are Argentinos, rhythm is our birthright. We simply adjust the tempo as we age, and everyone knows the oldest wine is the best."

"Prettily said," Tío Ruy commented as Catalina helped him back into a chair. "But I think some must be said to have more of a share than others."

"To be sure, we are more tranquil," his wife agreed, patting his hand, "and I know I could never fit into my old ballgown again. Why, I could barely find this dress to wear today, and was so worried when I discovered a popped seam. It could have been ruined."

"But it is not," Sr. Tilve assured her. "I am happy to report it is as unspoiled as its owner: no alteration could be attempted, nor should be."

Catalina was not quite sure if he was complimenting Sra. Aguirre or laughing at her, and was hard pressed not to grin into her hand as Sr. Tilve took the lady's hand to kiss it with great exaggeration, graceful as a cat.

"Well, that is all very good, but what have you to say for Señorita Moreno's dress? We only just picked it out this week, and there’s hardly been a chance to wear it, poor thing. I’m afraid we know very few people to visit."

"Ah, Señorita Moreno, that is a different story all told," he said gravely, swiveling his hips to dip into a full bow to her, looking up to take her frame in with a gaze that made Catalina's heart crescendo. "I would say it may not do for ordinary wear. That silk is too fine and will show any little stain, and as for a machine, perish the thought! It will get stretched to pieces in a dryer. Far too much trouble for merely sitting about the house."

"Oh, very correct Señor Tilve, is that not good Ruy? You should pay attention, you could learn even more during these sessions than how to dance."

"I have learned a great deal about clothes since our marriage dear heart. Enough to teach me not to ask questions, only to open my pockets."

"Wisely spoken," Sr. Tilve said sagely, rising and tapping one finger to his lips with a solemn air, but winking again at Catalina with such mischief she almost giggled. Seeing her struggles, he sighed dramatically. "But that is the fate of all men, is it not? Beautiful faces, hearts lost, and then the money gone too: we dance when we are young to remember, and dance as we age to forget." He shook his head in mock disapproval at her, all the while raising his eyebrows in such a way as to suggest he believed no such thing at all, while the Aguirres only nodded and smiled complacently.

"How can you—" Catalina almost asked him how he could say such things but caught herself in time. She was unsure whether he meant her to correct him or not, and felt just a little embarrassed for interrupting and drawing even more attention to herself. It was enough to make her regret taking Tía Lola's advice in wearing such an outfit today.

"You are quite correct. How can I make my point if I only use words? To explain dance, we must speak with our feet." He took out his remote, tapping it a few times to reset the music, then reached out a hand. "If I may beg your indulgence?"

"Oh!" Catalina was startled, amazed, and very very pleased. "But I don’t have the right shoes on for real dancing." She looked down at her sandals with some dismay.

"Then take those silly things off your feet, and we will dance as man and woman were meant to." Shuffling his own shoes off, he held out his hand again. She took it with some trepidation, hoping to remember everything and very grateful she had left off the thin hose Tía Lola also suggested.

They began slowly, the strummed guitar providing a very easy beat to follow, and she matched her feet with his as they stepped up and down the large exercise mat. The Aguirres' friendly enthusiasm put Catalina at ease as it felt so much like home. But it was also very different from her lessons: her brothers' eyes never twinkled when they danced with her.

Then the tempo accelerated and they were twisting and turning, his arms never failing to guide her. The mat was forgotten as they lightly tapped along the courtyard pavement. Birds flew overhead and the scent of flowers passed her by as she swished her silk skirt with abandon. He met and passed her by, their backs sliding against each other. Reaching behind he grasped her fingers in a caress that tightened as he flung her out and back to him. She instinctively reached up to his shoulders to steady herself, and he pulled her down into a dip, so close she could clearly see how flecked his eyes really were, not pure brown at all, but hazel and gold with the sun reflected in them. Then they were back upright, the music resuming its more sedate march, and she promenaded with him arm and arm back into the center position on the mat. As the music swelled, he reached down to her arms, and she naturally pulled tight, accepting the small lift as he twirled her around, then set her back down with a flourish. She nearly stumbled, unused to such a maneuver, but managed to drop into a curtsy, flailing her skirt around, and looked up to see him strike a final pose, grinning wildly.

The track abruptly stopped and Catalina came back into the real world.

"Oh you did so well!" Tía Lola said, waddling up and hugging her. "Why, much better than last year, you must have been practicing."

"Very good," Tío Ruy agreed. "But I hope Señor Tilve does not expect me to do all that."

"Perhaps not at first, but as Señora Aguirre has noted, practice is everything." He packed his things away and rolled up the mat. "Gracias, Señorita Moreno, for assisting me so well."

"It was no trouble sir," she protested breathlessly, and her lungs nearly stopped altogether when he took her hand and made a half bow over it.

"If I had such help at all my sessions, I’m sure my patients must make a vast improvement in their health. I know my own spirits are higher."

"And mine," she agreed with eagerness. He winked again before kissing her hand, as if sensing how much more she might say and agreeing wholeheartedly.

"Well, I do have other appointments to keep," he announced, picking up his bag. "You have all been marvelous hosts. Please let us know when you are ready for your next session and it will be scheduled promptly."

Emboldened and shy at once, Catalina blurted out, "Will you come back, for the next session?"

"There are several of us who take turns, so it may be Carlos or Inez. They're all very skilled."

"Oh." Catalina felt silly; after all, it was not as if he came specifically for her. Likely he did so much with his patients he might prefer not to dance at all when not on duty, even if he did it so very well.

"I trust, though, that we may all see each other again, and that you will feel up to going out more soon Señor Aguirre. There are many wonderful places to practice in our fair city." The grin cast in her direction felt softer and more intimate than his earlier beams, although he addressed her in the same friendly tone. "Certainly I hope you have the opportunity to dance again. I quite agree with Señora Aguirre: you were a wonderful partner."

"Gracias sir," she answered. Then the housekeeper showed Sr. Tilve back into the house, and to the front door.

As the Aguirres discussed the weather and how they would like a quiet evening in after so much excitement, Catalina reset the courtyard furniture to calm her spinning head. Her only previous hope was for a small respite from the daily disappointment of going everywhere and seeing no one. She had not built expectations for the afternoon, and would not do so now. However kind, Sr. Tilve was far too cosmopolitan to think more of her than as a pleasant distraction from his more elderly patients. He was a friendly, fantastic man, and she had no idea of being anything but very simple in comparison.

But he was right that sometimes actions spoke more than words. As she ate supper and listened to the sports scores on television, and then went to sleep that night, Catalina could not help reviewing the conversation of their dance steps in her imagination for a very long time.

Estancia Aldea Norteña 2: Encuentro Sorpresivo

MichelleRWJanuary 13, 2023 11:30AM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 2: Encuentro Sorpresivo

NN SJanuary 14, 2023 03:04AM

Re: Estancia Aldea Norteña 2: Encuentro Sorpresivo

MichelleRWJanuary 15, 2023 03:28AM


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