I closed my eyes and squeezed the juices from the deepest part of my memory... What were my first memories of you Andrea? Why can't I remember? I opened my eyes and stared into the candles that were flickering in front of your picture. Try again... try harder...
Red... deep red lips. Purple... bare-backed purple dress. Where? In a milonga. Sunderland milonga. When? October 2006. "Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Misse Returns Triumphant From Europe Tour!" I have already seen you and Javier hundreds of times on videos before I even met you in person. For the entire night I was craning my neck, on the lookout for Javier and you to arrive in the milonga. When you finally arrived I couldn't believe how petite you were. You appeared so tall in the videos! And those deep carmine lips. I was in a very low point in my tango journey then. That night, the dances you and Javier did pulled me up from the self-pitying depths and gave me renewed strength.
How is it that you have left us then? When just two days ago, at Javier's New Year's Party you were leading Guadalupe, your dear child, in a little dance; two ochos and a jumping sentada? When just two days ago you said goodbye to Isaakita, the nickname you gave my sister? How is it then I would never have the chance to say thank you for wishing me happy birthday? I would never have the chance to dance or talk to you again?
Jose called all of us together, "Guys, let's have a moment of silence for our dear friend, teacher and one of the most beautiful tango dancer. Let us say a prayer in your respective language and culture. Finally let us remember her by sharing stories we remember of her..."
The tears came in waves, for all of us. One minute someone will be speaking calmly and then the next minute breaking down. This place, Javier's house, was the scene of great partying two days ago, of champagne, of tango, cumbia, good food, laughter, hugs... "Happy New Year Isaac!" Andrea's voice still fresh in my ears... No one could really let the news sink in yet. Death might be an instant crossing, yet to the living, death this abrupt made it all the more surreal.
Now the music is solemn, the candles emit a forlorn glow, the faces are the same, instead of wild laughter, came spurts of tears. I didn't know how to feel. I never did. When grandpa died, I remember not feeling anything, only emptiness, even a certain guilt of not feeling anything. Same Andrea, I didn't know what to feel. Only when Isabel embraced me, I asked her, "Que vamos a hacer ahora? (What do we do now?)" My tears started to flow. "Pobre Guada..." Then I couldn't control myself anymore. She's only two years old!!!....
My last talk with you, was during Tango Day, where Javier's dad had a special milonga at Sunderland. 8 of December, Thursday. You and Javier had just finished performing, great dances as usual, you were settled down, with Guada in your lap, Diego by your side holding your hand. You were glowing. A glow only contented mothers and wives would have. I had not seen you for more than a year, and I thought it would be a good time to catch up. You were always the goddess of Tango for most people, me included, but more than that you were an angel that always filled me with a lot of warmth in our interactions.
"So Andrea! Long time no see, I missed you!" I smiled, pulling my chair up to you. "Yes Isaakito! My god you are fatter!" you said with your eyes wide and serious. "Hehe, yeah, but they are from working out!" I smiled sheepishly. I asked about your life so far, about Guada, about Diego, "So Andrea, would you want another child?" "Of course! But not so soon because I have just bought land in Olivos and also going to build a house, so the next two years we'll be working hard to settle the costs. But definitely after that! Maybe we'll try for a dragon baby!" Andrea is always good with bridging different cultures. She had been more than a wonderful dance partner for Javier. She is the one bridging language differences (she studied live translations), bridging different organizers (she is the one that organizes the tours)... even bridging students with Javier (everyone who can't get directly to Javier would go through her). "Ha but next year is the Dragon year, and the year after next is Snake, and then Horse." I smiled. "Oh yeah maybe Snake then. I always get along very well with Snake. The biggest Snake in the world is Gustavo Lin (taiwanese tango dancer), and we get along famously."
"Hey! Stop talking and let my wife eat!" Diego threatened half-jokingly from across. "Haha ok! Please eat Andrea! And Diego I love you too!" I joked. "Yes I love you very much Isaakito." Diego laughed.
Yes Andrea, you were the smart one, you had plans, you had it worked out. You didn't just depend on your beauty, on your physicality. You were planning for the future. Your own, Diego's, Guada's, even Javier's. How much they will miss you... how much we will miss you!
A part of you will continue to live in the people you have touched my dear Andrea. This sounds cliche, but in the tango world it is very true. The techniques, the sensibilities and the ideal of tango you have taught us will forever be with us. How a man should be, how a woman should be... I forever owe my Pugliese musicality to you. It was during our dance to Pugliese in Taipei tango festival that you infused in me the highs and lows, the bitter and the sweet, the violent and the gentle, the rapid and the silence of Pugliese music. Everytime I dance Pugliese, part of you is dancing inside me too.
Stories... I have so much stories of you... How you would take my hand while we walk to your brother's studio, make me feel like a man, while you gave me relationship advice. Goddess, teacher, big sister. The people in this room all have stories of you... and all I want, if it could even be remotely possible, would be for Guada to have her own stories and these stories that we have of you.
"Dear friends, its time for me to go..." I said, signalling to Vivien and my sister. "But before I go I want to share this memory I have of Andrea." I gathered the friends who were mourning and seeking each other's comfort in Javier's place.
"I am sure you guys remember how beautiful and elegant Andrea is; not just her exterior and it also comes from inside." I started. "Those who are from overseas like Taiwan, Korea or Singapore will know what I am talking about." I smiled at them. "Now Javier, being Javier, all flamboyant and flashy will always say in spanish during his classes, 'Chicas, levanta las tetas y no pongan su chichi adelante!' (Girls! Lift those tits and don't stick your pussy out!). Then he will always turn to Andrea and say, 'Andre, traduci exactamente lo que recien dije.' (Andre, translate exactly what I just said.' And Andrea will then nicely say, 'Girls, lift up your ribcage and push your hips back!' and all the while saying with a slight blush."
"Another time during milonga class, Javier had just taught us the fundamental steps of milonga and then explaining to us how to put everything together on the beat. Javier said, 'podes hacer Ta-Ka-Tak' then Andrea translated, 'you can do Ta-Ka-Tak'... Javier said, 'podes hacer Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka-Tak.' Andrea went on saying, 'you can do Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka-Ta-Ka...Ka-Ta...how many Ta-Ka was there??' And all the students had a good laugh at that moment."
I paused, unable to go on, my thoughts drifting to the incredulity of the situation, "this is crazy!" I thought, "Why are we even doing this? Are we accepting that she is dead already? Why does Andrea 'is' have to become Andrea 'was' now???!!!"
I snapped back to reality, "Not only is... was she a great teacher, she... was a very warm person as well. Now I know when we all first see Andrea, she was like an ice queen, beautiful but didn't appear warm. But when we all know her better we all realised how warm she was. One time at a milonga, it was at Salon Canning, she was there with Javier after the performance. I was still a beginner at that time and Andrea was the goddess and always will be. As I danced pass her table she said to me, 'Isaakito! Invite me for a dance later!' I could feel my balls in my mouth, but I finally got the courage to ask her to dance. And she said to me, 'Isaakito, I enjoyed the dance. Never again leave the milonga without asking me to dance ok?' And that was probably the nicest thing any dancer said to me. From then on I would think, 'I had danced with Andrea Misse.' And that would make me much less nervous when dancing with other women."
I made my peace. I remembered you Andrea. I will continue to remember you for the rest of my tango days. Enough for today... as part of me still imagines that I would see you next week at some milonga performing with Javier. And all this is some sick Facebook joke.
As I walked back home with my sis, Buenos Aires began to drizzle... I looked at her and asked in disbelief, "what the fuck are we in a movie????"