Mark and Martina- Beate Sigriddaughter

Bio: Beate Sigriddaughter, , lives in Silver City, New Mexico, where she was poet laureate from 2017 - 2019. Unsolicited Press published her poetry collection Emily in 2020. She posts other women's work on her blog Writing In A Woman's Voice.

    Mark was the breadwinner, an attorney. Martina was the dancer. It suited them well. He had great stage presence in front of the jury, blond, handsome, suave. She twirled in the kitchen, on the living room parquet floor; she danced with their two children, Haley and Tim, and sent them to ballet school. Both children liked it and she was pleased. Martina was lovely but also strict with the children and she kept a wonderful house. From time to time she regretted that she didn't get as much spotlight in life as she would have liked. Mark kept his thick blond hair way into his forties, with a longish lock over his forehead that he had actually practiced tossing in front of the bathroom mirror for alluring effect. Martina kept her slender figure, despite the gourmet meals she cooked. The children were proud of their mom because she was graceful and smart. They were proud of both their parents, really. Mark was the easier parent, cuddly and permissive when he was not annihilating his opponents in front of a riveted jury. At home Martina was the bossy one, though, so it seemed to count more when the children were able to impress her.
       The one thing missing from Martina's life was dancing, real dancing, not just cavorting with the children. Mark claimed he was simply too clumsy and couldn't understand rhythm. From time to time they swayed on the local dance floor to slow music in close embrace. It wasn't very satisfying. In her family there had always been a lot of dancing and they all danced well. Ricardo, Pablo, Fernando. Sometimes they danced with her in a club, but dancing with her own brothers wasn't exactly satisfying either. Besides, more often than not they were dancing with their own wives.
           As defense attorney, Mark occasionally had trouble collecting fees and ended up doing pro bono work. It wasn't that big a deal. He still made a more than comfortable living for all of them. One time, defending a young woman successfully on a spurious assault charge, she tearfully declared she had no money left to pay the remainder of her fee when the victorious verdict came in. Her sister, in attendance for the celebration, had no money either, but she ran a dance studio and offered to give Mark and Martina dance lessons to work off what her sister still owed.
      "No, it's not our thing," Mark said. But then he saw Martina's eyes, filled with longing. "Actually, maybe we could try," he said.
   Martina's face glowed with pleasure.
    They signed up for a sampler series of ballroom dances. In class he was clumsy at first, as he had expected all along. Waltz wasn't for him. Rumba was a little better. Merengue was easy, but it didn't inspire him. And then tango happened. It was his dance. He could be flamboyant. He could be dramatic. He could be masterful. Martina was ecstatic. This was how it should have been all along.
The teacher complimented him. Their fellow students adored him. He was in his element. He was willing to dance this dance for the rest of his life. Maybe go to tango conventions. There seemed to be so many all over the country. Maybe go study in Argentina. Why not? Or Europe. Paris, he learned, had been a hotbed for expatriate tangueros in the early days.
Soon when it came to lady's choice, he was swarmed by eager partners. Soon Martina was sitting out dance after dance while he was being courted and clearly enjoying himself.
   For Valentine's Day he bought the family tickets to Buenos Aires for next summer's vacation. He told the children but asked them to keep it a secret from their mother until the day came. All three of them were excited.
Meanwhile he wanted to take some private lessons. During their first private lesson he noticed that Martina was quiet, irritated, it seemed. Must have had a bad day. He'd ask her about it later. The teacher kept praising him, though, and it warmed his heart. How far he had come, finally granting Martina's wish to have a dancer of her own in her life.
           Martina hedged about scheduling their next lesson. She had too many other appointments the following week, and apparently the week after as well. They finally left it that they would call.
He knew something was wrong but couldn't figure out what it was.
                  "You've been quiet," he said. "What's wrong?"
                   "I just think we are getting a bit too old to dance," she said.

                    He wanted to protest. But suddenly he understood. She was the dancer. He changed the tickets. The family went to Athens that summer, one of the cradles of Western civilization. The children never said a word about the change of venue. 

1 comment :

  1. Sometimes what we think we want we don't want after all. Love the parallels in this, Beate, and the neat clean ending took my breath! Brilliant.


We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।