One never quite feels loneliness as the visceral force it can be as one does when in the close company of others, when one’s actions dictate another’s; when you cannot lead, no-one can follow.
Recently I began to learn how to tango. It is a dance of detached intimacy, one which invites the closeness of sexual union while simultaneously keeping the partners at one remove – when the man’s leg goes forward, the woman’s retreats. The word Tango comes directly from the latin tangere, to touch – it is the first person singular. I touch. And yet it takes two, both literally and anecdotally. A dance of contradictions. She wore a plate around her neck: noli me tangere, for caesar’s I am. A dance of eternal chase, a Zeno’s paradoxidance.
Noli me tangere. Jesus, too, used these words. Don’t touch me.
And I have some natural flair. But the disease, oh this fucking disease. It disconnects. It disconnects you from yourself, from everyone you love, from everything that you’ve ever chosen as self-definition. It takes it all, and it fucks it. And then some.
One of the many, many irritating little things it does is fuck up your gait. It takes the way you walk and rips the piss. I went to a military academy for six months. There I marched, a habit yet to leave me. Except my left foot is beginning to shuffle. Thud, scuff, thud, scuff.
The tango is fundamentally a poncy walk, done in time to rather groovy music. I can do rhythm. Really.
Tonight, however, is different. From the very first dance, I feel my partner is stiff, unresponsive – and this is me, not her. She cannot feel what I’m trying to do. I start to lose the rhythm. Even dancing with the tutor, with whom I normally glide as if to the tango born, and I’m unsure, staccato, stuttering.
I dance with one partner and simply have to stop.
The male instructor comes up and I say I can’t feel it so I’m stepping out. He tries to tell me how to feel the beat. This never goes down well. I sit out. I slip out.
I cycle home.
As I sit on the doorstep, in the full knowledge that in a fortnight, I’ll be sat in my own house, surrounded by boxes, pizza on my lap and ridiculous bordeaux in my glass, I’m wondering.
I’m wondering why it is that now, more than ever, I need a hug.