our tango addiction

By Kening Zhu

Image by Steven Thull

we talk about our tango addiction and laugh. as if getting in the car at midnight to drive an hour to a milonga was something normal people did. this was summertime. pouring rain. the world in long island was asleep. we left his parent’s house to drive into the city, where we’d dance all night in the arms of other people. he cracked the car windows open for a spritz of rain on our faces, and then we stopped at dunkin’ donuts for coffee. black. this is insanity, he said. look at us. we’re really living the life - to be young, free, and alive in new york city.

that morning - like so many mornings before and after - we would come home at five am with the sun winding up and the birds already chattering. we would take off all our clothes and put on eye masks. we would stop time, halt the day.

how do i even begin to explain it, this tango addiction? we return to the dance several nights a week, every week, in search of that tango high: the buzz in our bodies that blurred time, bent space. did a part of us know, even as beginners, that this was why we endured the months and years of tango growing pains? the first time we got high, could we even grasp the words for it?

when questioned by the curious, we warn them about the discomfort, the addiction, the withdrawals. we don’t need to speak about the pleasure. tango is not for the faint of heart, we say. tango, at least in new york, has an element of masochism to it. a friend said: tango is where you go to be publicly rejected and humiliated, for money. so what kept you coming back, the curious ones ask, their eyes soft and bright. months and years later, maybe their gaze will morph like ours: keen. quietly savage. of carefully controlled hunger.

why do people chase any addiction? drugs. parties. alcohol. video games. sex. to lose ourselves. to forget. for the sake of obliteration, annihilation, disintegration. is there a death wish, perhaps, a longing to be ruined by something greater than ourselves? does that make us feel fully alive? we seek what allows us to transcend our earthly bodies, to ride that asymptote towards infinity, towards union.

union. with another human being, with the music, with time itself. in our own complicated ways, with our own private addictions, all of us, perhaps, the same.

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