NOVEMBER 12

Ran into Jacinto Requena, Rafael Barrios, and Pancho Rodríguez at Café Quito. I saw them come in around nine and motioned them over to my table, where I had just spent three good hours writing and reading. They introduced me to Pancho Rodríguez. He's as short as Barrios, and has the face of a twelve-year-old, even though he's actually twenty-two. It was almost inevitable that we'd like each other. Pancho Rodríguez never stops talking. Thanks to him I found out that before Belano and Müller showed up (they came to Mexico City after the Pinochet coup, so they weren't part of the original group), Ulises Lima had published a magazine with poems by María Font, Angélica Font, Laura Damián, Barrios, San Epifanio, some guy called Marcelo Robles I'd never heard of, and the Rodríguez brothers, Pancho and Moctezuma. According to Pancho, Pancho himself is one of the two best young Mexican poets, and the other one is Ulises Lima, who Pancho says is his best friend. The magazine (two issues, both from 1974) was called Lee Harvey Oswald and was bankrolled entirely by Lima. Requena (who wasn't part of the group back then) and Barrios confirmed everything Pancho Rodríguez said. That was how visceral realism started, said Barrios. Pancho Rodríguez thought otherwise. According to him, Lee Harvey Oswald should have continued. It folded just as it was taking off, he said, just as people were starting to know who we were. What people? Well, other poets, of course, literature students, and the poetry-writing girls who came each week to the hundred workshops blossoming like flowers in Mexico City. Barrios and Requena disagreed about the magazine, even though they both looked back on it with nostalgia.

"Are there a lot of poetesses?"

"It's lame to call them poetesses," said Pancho.

"You're supposed to call them poets," said Barrios.

"But are there lots of them?"

"Like never before in the history of Mexico," said Pancho. "Lift a stone and you'll find a girl writing about her little life."

"So how could Lima finance Lee Harvey Oswald all by himself?" I said.

I thought it prudent not to insist just then on the subject of poetesses.

"Oh, poet García Madero, Ulises Lima is the kind of guy who'll do anything for poetry," said Barrios dreamily.

Then we talked about the name of the magazine, which I thought was brilliant.

"Let's see if I understand. Poets, according to Ulises Lima, are like Lee Harvey Oswald. Is that it?"

"More or less," said Pancho Rodríguez. "I suggested that he should call it Los bastardos de Sor Juana, which sounds more Mexican, but our friend is crazy about anything to do with gringos."

"Actually, Ulises thought there was already a publishing house with the same name, but he was wrong, and when he realized his mistake he decided to use the name for his magazine," said Barrios.

"What publishing house?"

"P.-J. Oswald, in Paris, the place that published a book by Matthieu Messagier."

"And that dumbass Ulises thought that the French publishing house was named for the assassin. But it was P.-J. Oswald, not L. H. Oswald, and one day he realized and decided to take the name."

"The French guy's name must be Pierre-Jacques," said Requena.

"Or Paul-Jean Oswald."

"Does his family have money?" I asked.

"No, Ulises's family doesn't have money," said Requena. "Actually, the only family he has is his mother, right? Or at least I've never heard of anyone else."

"I know his whole family," said Pancho. "I knew Ulises Lima long before any of you, long before Belano, and his mother is the only family he has. He's broke, that I can promise you."

"Then how could he finance two issues of a magazine?"

"Selling weed," said Pancho. The other two were quiet, but they didn't deny it.

"I can't believe it," I said.

"Well, it's true. The money comes from marijuana."

"Shit."

"He goes and gets it in Acapulco and then he delivers it to his clients in Mexico City."

"Shut up, Pancho," said Barrios.

"Why should I shut up? The kid's a fucking visceral realist, isn't he? So why do I have to shut up?"

NOVEMBER 13

I spent all of today following Lima and Belano. We walked, took the subway, buses, a pesero, walked some more, and the whole time we never stopped talking. Sometimes they'd go into houses, and then I had to wait outside for them. When I asked what they were doing they told me that they were taking a survey. But I think they're making deliveries of marijuana. Along the way I read them the latest poems I'd written, eleven or twelve of them. I think they liked them.

NOVEMBER 14

Today I went with Pancho Rodríguez to the Font sisters' house.

I'd been at Café Quito for four hours, I'd already had three cups of coffee, and I was losing my appetite for reading and writing when Pancho showed up and invited me to come with him. I leaped at the invitation.

The Fonts live in Colonia Condesa, in a beautiful two-story house on Calle Colima, with a front yard and a courtyard in back. The front is nothing special, just a few stunted trees and some ragged grass, but the courtyard is another story: the trees are big, and there are enormous plants with leaves so intensely green they look black, a small tiled pool that can't quite be called a fountain (there are no fish in it, but there is a battery-powered submarine, property of Jorgito Font, the youngest brother), and a little outbuilding completely separate from the big house. At one time it was probably a carriage house or stables and now it's where the Font sisters live. Before we got there, Pancho gave me a heads-up:

"Angélica's father is kind of nuts. If you see something strange, don't be scared, just do whatever I do and act like nothing's happening. If he starts to make trouble, don't worry. We'll take him down."

"Take him down?" I wasn't quite sure what he meant. "The two of us? In his own house?"

"His wife would be eternally grateful. The guy's a total headcase. A year or so ago he spent time in the bin. But don't repeat that to the Font sisters. Or if you do, don't say you heard it from me."

"So he's crazy," I said.

"Crazy and broke. Until recently they had two cars and three servants, and they were always throwing these big parties. But somehow he blew a fuse, poor fucker, and just lost it. Now he's ruined."

"But it must cost money to keep up this house."

"They own it. It's all they've got left."

"What did Mr. Font do before he went crazy?" I said.

"He was an architect, but not a very good one. He designed the two issues of Lee Harvey Oswald."

"No shit."

When we rang the bell, a bald man with a mustache and a deranged look came to let us in.

"That's Angélica's father," Pancho whispered to me.

"I figured," I said.

The man came striding up to the gate, fixing us with a look of intense hatred. I was happy to be on the other side of the bars. After hesitating for a few seconds, as if he wasn't sure what to do, he opened the gate and charged. I jumped back, but Pablo spread his arms wide and greeted him effusively. The man stopped then and extended an unsteady hand before he let us through. Pancho walked briskly around the house to the back, and I followed him. Mr. Font went back inside, talking to himself. As we headed down a flower-filled outside passageway between the front and back gardens, Pancho explained that another reason for poor Mr. Font's agitation was his daughter Angélica:

"María has already lost her virginity," said Pancho, "but Angélica hasn't yet, although she's about to, and the old man knows it and it drives him crazy."