(“…no te asustes ni me huyas, no he venido pa´ vengarme…”)¹

 Short story by Ramiro Gigliotti, published in the Argentine magazine Tangauta 196, January, 2011


“Come on, kid, I’ve had enough. Does anyone know what you’re looking for?” Carmen shouted as she struggled to get up from her chair, evaded one of the waiters and grabbed poor Jödjhumm by the lapel, who turned pale with terror. “She’ll kill him,” I said to Silvia, observing how Carmen pushed and dragged him out to the sidewalk. “Well, he wanted to learn, and he will, won’t he?”

Indeed, Jödjhumm had come to Buenos Aires to acquire knowledge. He had recently finished his degree course in sociology at the University of Fijstümdin and was working on his ambitious thesis: “The tango as social phenomena”.

When he first began attending milongas Jödjhumm behaved carefully and respectfully. Armed with a camera, a journalists’ tape recorder and a little white book, he was content to sit at one of farthest tables from the dance floor, order a still water and take notes. In those days he would do no more than exchange a few words with some milonguero or bother the DJ with naive questions; most of the time he was silent, circumspect, observing us.

As the weeks passed he loosened up. He began to sit closer to the dance floor and there were even nights when he dared to sit at the bar. Trying to imitate the locals, he first took up the habit of ordering Fernet, then of talking loudly and last of all, presuming it to be funny, of continuously repeating a couple of jokes in Spanish.

But despite his cheerful air Jödjhumm did not abandon his thesis: sooner or later, we all had to suffer his endless questioning and all of a sudden he went from being a colorful character to someone annoying and unbearable who harassed us with issues like male chauvinism in tango, pestered us about the 1940s and caught us on camera red-handed, as if that was a joke. I swear that one night I heard him, at the zenith of his bad behavior, yelling “Change partners!” in the middle of a De Angelis tanda.

That was the state of poor Jödjhumm – convinced he was the life of the party when in reality he was little less than a flower arrangement – the night that Carmen had had enough of him, slapped the table, struggled to get up from her chair and yelling at him pushed him first to the sidewalk and finally to his banishment.

A couple of months later I saw him again; I happened to come across him in a bar in Palermo one rainy afternoon. His Spanish had improved quite a bit and he told me he had decided to stay in Buenos Aires for some time as he was very much at ease in the city. I asked about his thesis and he confessed that after thorough investigation he had come to the conclusion that, at least for him, tango was a mystery impossible to unravel.

Frustrated, he had decided to completely change the subject of his studies. Then he asked me if I could explain to him in a few words what Peronism means to me.

I said that I had to go to the bathroom, that I would come back immediately.


1. From the 1927 tango La gayola (lunfardo for jail), music by Rafael Tuegols, lyrics by Armando Tagini, about a man who has been in jail.