8

Amadeo Salvatierra, Calle República de Venezuela, near the Palacio de la Inquisición, Mexico City DF, January 1976. I said to them: boys, the Los Suicidas mezcal is gone, that's an undeniable, incontrovertible fact, so why doesn't one of you go down and buy me a bottle of Sauza? and one of them, the Mexican, said: I'll go, Amadeo, and he was already on his way to the door when I stopped him and said wait a minute, you're forgetting the money, my friend, and he looked at me and said don't even think about it, Amadeo, we'll get this one. Such nice boys. I did give him some instructions before he left, though: I told him to head down Venezuela to Brasil, then turn right and walk up to Calle Honduras, to the Plaza de Santa Catarina, and turn left, then walk until he came to Chile and then turn right again and keep on as if he were going to La Lagunilla market, and there, on the left side of the street, he would find the bar La Guerrerense, next to the hardware store El Buen Tono, you couldn't miss it, and at La Guerrerense he should say that I, the scribe Amadeo Salvatierra, had sent him, and he should hurry. Then, as I was going through some papers, the other boy got up from his seat and started to examine my library. In fact, I didn't see him, I just heard him, stepping forward, pulling out a book, putting it back. I heard the noise his finger made as he ran it along the spines of my books! But I couldn't see him. I was sitting down again, I had put my money back in my wallet, and with shaky hands (once you reach a certain age drinking isn't what it used to be), I was going through my old, yellowing papers. My head was bent and my vision was blurred and the Chilean boy moved silently around my library and all I heard was the sound of his index finger or his little finger, such a need that boy had to touch everything, skimming like lightning along the spines of my massive tomes, his finger a buzz of flesh and leather, of skin and pasteboard, a sound pleasing to the ear and sleep inducing, and I must really have fallen asleep because suddenly I closed my eyes (or maybe they'd been closed for a while) and I saw the Plaza de Santo Domingo with its archways, Calle Venezuela, the Palacio de la Inquisición, the Cantina Las Dos Estrellas on Calle Loreto, the Cafetería La Sevillana on Justo Sierra, the Cantina Mi Oficina on Misionero near Pino Suárez, where men in uniform and dogs and women weren't allowed in, with the exception of one woman, the only woman who ever went there, and I saw that woman walking those streets again, down Loreto, down Soledad, down Correo Mayor, down Moneda, I saw her hurry across the Zócalo, ah, what a sight, a woman in her twenties in the 1920s crossing the Zócalo as fast as if she were late to meet a lover or on her way to some little job in one of the stores downtown, a woman modestly dressed in cheap but pretty clothes, her hair jet-black, her back straight, her legs not very long but unutterably graceful like all young women's legs, whether they be skinny, fat, or shapely-sweet, determined little legs, and feet clad in shoes with no heel or the lowest possible heel, cheap but pretty and most of all comfortable, as if they were made for walking fast, for meeting someone or getting to work, although I know she isn't meeting anyone, nor is she expected at any job. So where is she going? Or is she going nowhere at all, and is this the way she always walks? By now the woman has crossed the Zócalo and she's walking along Monte Piedad to Tacuba, where the crowds are thicker and she can't walk as fast anymore, and she turns down Tacuba, slowing, and for an instant the throngs hide her from sight, but then she appears again, there she is, walking toward the Alameda, or maybe she's stopping somewhere nearer by, maybe she's headed to the post office, because now I can clearly see papers in her hands, they could be letters, but she doesn't go into the post office, she crosses the street to the Alameda and stops, as if she's trying to catch her breath, and then she keeps walking, at the same pace, through the gardens, under the trees, and just as there are women who see the future, I see the past, Mexico's past, and I see the back of this woman walking out of my dream, and I say to her: where are you going, Cesárea? where are you going, Cesárea Tinajero?

Felipe Müller, Bar Céntrico, Calle Tallers, Barcelona, January 1978. For me, 1977 was the year I moved in with my girlfriend. We had both just turned twenty. We found an apartment on Calle Tallers and went to live there. I was doing proofreading for a publishing house and she had a scholarship at the same school where Arturo Belano's mother was on scholarship. In fact, it was Arturo's mother who introduced us. Nineteen seventy-seven was also the year we traveled to Paris. We stayed in Ulises Lima's chambre de bonne. Ulises, I have to say, wasn't doing so well. The room was a dump. Between the two of us, my girlfriend and I tidied things up a little bit, but no matter how much we swept and mopped there was something there that couldn't be scrubbed away. At night (my girlfriend slept in the bed and Ulises and I slept on the floor) there was something shiny on the ceiling, a glow that came from the only window (which was crusted with dirt) and spread over the walls and ceiling like a tide of seaweed. When we got back to Barcelona we discovered that we had scabies. It was a blow. The only person we could have gotten it from was Ulises. Why didn't he warn us? my girlfriend complained. Maybe he didn't know, I said. But then I thought back on those days in Paris and I saw Ulises scratching himself, drinking wine straight out of the bottle and scratching himself, and the image convinced me my girlfriend was right. He knew it and he kept it to himself. For a while I held a grudge against him because of the scabies, but then it stopped mattering so much and we even laughed about it. Our problem was curing ourselves. We didn't have a shower at our apartment and we had to wash at least once a day with sulfur soap and then use a special cream, Sarnatín. So besides being a good year, 1977 was also the year when for a month or a month and a half we were constantly visiting friends who had showers. One of those friends was Arturo Belano. He didn't just have a shower, he had an enormous claw-foot bathtub that could easily fit three people. The problem was, Arturo didn't live alone, he lived with seven or eight other people, in a kind of urban commune, and some of them didn't like my girlfriend and me showering at their house. Well, it wasn't as if we really showered there much, in the end. Nineteen seventy-seven was the year Arturo Belano found work as a night watchman at a campground. Once I went to visit him. They called him the sheriff, and that made him laugh. I think that was the summer when the two of us broke with visceral realism. We were publishing a magazine in Barcelona, a magazine with hardly any funding and almost no distribution, and we wrote a letter announcing our resignation from visceral realism. We didn't repudiate anything, we didn't bad-mouth our friends in Mexico, we just said we weren't members of the group anymore. Mostly we were busy working and trying to get by.

Mary Watson, Sutherland Place, London, May 1978. In the summer of 1977 I traveled to France with my friend Hugh Marks. At the time I was reading literature at Oxford and I was living on a tiny scholarship. Hugh was on the dole. We weren't lovers, just friends. The truth is, we left London together that summer because we'd each been through a bad relationship, and we knew nothing like that could ever happen between us. Hugh had been dumped by a horrible Scottish girl. I had been dumped by a boy from university, someone who was always surrounded by girls and whom I thought I was in love with.

Our money ran out in Paris, but we weren't ready to go home, so we made our way out of the city somehow and hitched south. Near Orléans we were picked up by a camper van. The driver was German and his name was Hans. He was heading south too, with his wife, a Frenchwoman called Monique, and their little boy. Hans had long hair and a bushy beard. He looked like a blond Rasputin, and he'd been all the way around the world.