There is a tango entitled "Tengo Miedo", written in 1929.
Tu cariño me enloquece.
Tu pasión me da la vida.
Sinembargo tengo miedo,
tengo miedo de quererte.
(Your affection drives me crazy.
Your passion gives me life.
But just the same I'm afraid,
I'm afraid to love you.)
In New York some years ago, I danced occasionally with Julietta, a woman who had had three husbands, two of whom she had left. The third was named William, a retired American investment banker who was a tall and quiet New England Protestant who'd attended Choate and Harvard. He was quite well-spoken despite his shyness, gray-haired and usually clothed in New England tweed, a blue dress shirt and an old-school tie, and he treated Julietta with extraordinary kindliness. He was many years older than she. They lived on Sutton Place and were of such polished elegance that they seemed simply out of place dancing Argentine tango.
She was of Paraguayan extraction, very dark with extremely dark eyes, who was known among the tango people in New York as one who kept to herself. She spoke no Spanish, having been raised in East Side Manhattan on Fifth Avenue. Julietta and William had a great deal of money, and had traveled the world, staying in the most remarkable hotels anyone could imagine. They received an expensive gift every Christmas, for example, from the general manager of the Danieli in Venice, where they would stay for a month each year. A hand-written letter as well from that same general manager.
Julietta was a fine tango dancer. One afternoon, I danced with her to "Tengo miedo", recorded by Ada Falcón with the orchestra of Francisco Canaro. This tango is no longer well known, but Falcón sings it in such a way that I feel it is an undiscovered treasure. The lyrics tell of a woman afraid to love her lover. The irony of the performance is that, when Falcón declares her fear, she does so with a smile in her voice.
I asked Julietta if she knew the lyrics to this tango. When she replied that she did not, I translated them for her as we danced.
Tengo miedo ... A pause, in which you can feel Falcon's search for the correct words, which she delivers with considerable intensity, as though she's looking up at her lover and saying, with a smile, "Yes. Yes, I will." Tengo miedo ... de quererte.