Alfonso Pérez Camarga, Calle Toledo, Mexico City DF, June 1981. Belano and Lima weren't revolutionaries. They weren't writers. Sometimes they wrote poetry, but I don't think they were poets either. They sold drugs. Marijuana, mostly, although they also had a stock of shrooms in glass jars, little baby-food jars, and although at first it looked disgusting, like a tiny turd floating in amniotic fluid in a glass container, we ended up getting used to those fucking shrooms and that's what we usually ordered, shrooms from Oaxaca, shrooms from Tamaulipas, shrooms from La Huasteca in Veracruz or Potosí, or wherever they were from. Shrooms to do at our parties or in petit comité. Who were we? Painters like me, architects like poor Quim Font (in fact, he was the one who introduced them to us, never suspecting the relationship we would soon strike up, or at least that's what I'd like to think). Because beneath it all those kids were shrewd businessmen. When I met them (at poor Quim's house), we talked about poetry and painting. Mexican poetry and painting, I mean (is there any other kind?). But before long, we were talking about drugs. And from drugs we moved on to business. And after a few minutes they had taken me out into the garden, and I was under a poplar tree, sampling their marijuana. First-class? Was it ever. Like nothing I'd tasted for a long time. And that was how I became their client. And meanwhile I talked them up to various painter and architect friends of mine for free, and they became clients of Lima and Belano too. Well, from a certain point of view, it was an improvement, even a relief. They were at least clean, I guess. And you could talk to them about art while you were doing the deal. And we trusted them not to blackmail us or set us up. You know, none of the shit that small-time dealers pull. And they were more or less discreet (or so we thought) and punctual, and they had connections, you could call them and say I need fifty grams of Acapulco Gold for tomorrow because I'm throwing a surprise party, and all they would ask you was where and when, they didn't even mention money, although of course they never had anything to complain about in that regard, we paid what they asked without argument, which is always nice in a customer, don't you think? And everything went perfectly smoothly. Sometimes, of course, we had disagreements. It was mostly our fault. We were too trusting, and as everybody knows, some people are better kept at arm's length. But our democratic spirit got the best of us, and when there was a party or an especially boring meeting, for example, we would invite them in, pour them drinks, ask them to tell us more about where exactly the stuff that we were about to ingest or smoke came from, that kind of thing, innocent questions, in no way meant to be offensive, and they drank our liquor and ate our food, but-how to put it?-in an absent way, maybe, or a cold way, as if they were there but not there, or as if we were insects or cows that they bled each night and that it made sense to keep comfortably alive but without the slightest hint of closeness, warmth, or affection. And even though we were usually drunk or high, we noticed, and sometimes, to annoy them, we forced them to listen to what we had to say, our opinions, what we really thought about them. Of course, we never considered them to be real poets. Much less revolutionaries. They were salesmen, and that was all. We respected Octavio Paz, for example, and they held him in utter contempt, willfully ignorant. That's just unacceptable, don't you think? Once, I don't know why, they said something about Tamayo, something negative about Tamayo, and that was the last straw, I can't remember the context, and in fact I don't even know where it was, maybe at my house, maybe not, it doesn't matter, but someone was talking about Tamayo and José Luis Cuevas, and one of us praised José Luis's toughness, the power and courage that each and every one of his works radiates, saying how lucky we were to be his fellow citizens and contemporaries, and then Lima or Belano (the two of them were sitting in a corner, that's how I remember them, in a corner waiting for their money) said that Cuevas's courage, or his toughness, or his energy, I don't know which, was all bluff, and that declaration cast a sudden chill over us, made a cold indignation rise in us, if you know what I mean. We almost ate them alive. I mean, sometimes it was funny to hear them talk. They really seemed like two extraterrestrials. But as they got more comfortable, as you got to know them or started to listen to them more carefully, their pose seemed more sad than anything else, off-putting. They weren't poets, certainly, and they weren't revolutionaries. I don't even think they were sexualized. What do I mean by that? Just that sex didn't seem to interest them (the only thing that interested them was the money they could squeeze out of us), nor did poetry or politics, although their look seemed modeled on the hackneyed archetype of the young leftist poet. But sex didn't interest them, I know that for a fact. How do I know? From a friend, an architect friend who tried to have sex with one of them. Belano, probably. And at the moment of truth nothing happened. Limp dicks.

14

Hugo Montero, having a beer at the bar La Mala Senda, Calle Pensador Mexicano, Mexico City DF, May 1982. There was a free spot, and I said to myself, why don't I get my buddy Ulises Lima into the Nicaragua group? This happened in January, so it was a good way to start the year. Also, I'd heard that Lima was in bad shape, and I thought that a little field trip to the Revolution would cheer anybody up. So I got the papers in order without consulting anyone and I put Ulises on the plane to Managua. Of course, I had no idea that I was signing my own death warrant. If I'd known, Ulises Lima would never have left Mexico City, but sometimes I'm like that, impulsive, and in the end what's meant to be will be, because we're puppets in the hands of fate, aren't we?

Well, anyway, as I was saying: I put Ulises on the plane, and even before we took off I think I got a whiff of what our little trip might have in store for me. My boss, the poet Álamo, was the head of the Mexican delegation, and when he saw Ulises he turned pale and called me aside. What's that idiot doing here, Montero? he said. He's coming with us to Managua, I replied. I'd rather not repeat the rest of what Álamo said, because I'm really not a bad person. But I thought: if you didn't want him on the trip, you lazy bastard, why didn't you take care of the invitations yourself? why didn't you

take the trouble to call everyone who was supposed to come? Álamo had personally invited his best buddies, namely the peasant-poet gang. And then he had personally invited his favorite suck-ups, and then the heavyweights, or literary lights, all local champions in their respective divisions of Mexican literature, but as always, no one has any sense of etiquette in this country, and two or three assholes canceled at the last minute and I was the one who had to fill the gaps, or rellenar las ausencias, as Neruda puts it. And that was when I thought of Lima. I'd heard from who knows who that he was back in Mexico and that he was having a shitty time of it, and I'm the kind of guy who'll help a person out when I can, what can you do, Mexico made me this way and that's all there is to it.

Now, of course, I'm out of a job and sometimes, when I'm in a certain mood, when I wake up with a hangover and it's one of those apocalyptic Mexico City mornings, I think that I did the wrong thing, that I could have invited someone else, in a word, that I fucked up, but most of the time I'm not sorry. And there we were on the plane, as I was saying, Álamo having just found out that Ulises was crashing our junket, and I said: relax, maestro, nothing will happen, you have my word, and then Álamo gave me a hard look, a scorching look, if that doesn't sound too ridiculous, and said: all right, Montero, it's your problem, let's see how you deal with it. And I said: the Mexican pavilion will float above the fray, boss! Peace and calm. Don't you worry about a thing. And by then we were already on our way to Managua through the blackest of black skies, and the writers of the delegation were drinking as if they knew or suspected or had been tipped off that the plane was going down, and I was walking back and forth, up and down the aisle, greeting all the attendees, passing out sheets printed with the Declaration of Mexican Writers, a statement that Álamo and the peasant poets had composed in support of their sister country of Nicaragua and that I'd typed up (and corrected, I don't mind saying), so that those who weren't familiar with it, which was most people, could read it, and those who hadn't given it their stamp of approval, which was only a few, could scrawl their names under the heading "We the undersigned," or in other words right under the signatures of Álamo and the peasant poets, the five horsemen of the apocalypse. And then, as I was collecting the missing signatures, I remembered Ulises Lima. I saw him slouched in his seat with his head hanging down, and I thought he must be sick or asleep, but whatever it was, he had his eyes closed and he was grimacing, like someone in the middle of a nightmare, I thought. And then I thought, this guy isn't going to sign the declaration just like that, and for a second, as the plane lurched from side to side and everyone's worst fears seemed about to be confirmed, I weighed the possibility of not asking for his signature, of completely ignoring him, since, after all, I'd gotten him on the trip as a friendly favor, because he wasn't doing well, or so I'd been told, not so that he would pledge his allegiance to some group or other, but then it occurred to me that Álamo and the peasant poets would go over the "We the undersigned" with a magnifying glass and I'd be the one to pay if his name was missing. And doubt, as Othon says, lodged itself in my mind. And then I went over to Ulises and touched his arm and he opened his eyes immediately, like he was a goddamn robot I had awoken by activating some hidden mechanism in his flesh, and he looked at me as if he didn't know me but did recognize me, if that makes sense (I guess it doesn't), and then I sat down next to him and I said look, Ulises, we have a problem, all the poets here have signed this stupid thing that's supposed to show their solidarity with Nicaraguan writers and the people of Nicaragua, and your signature is the only one I still don't have, but if you don't want to sign, it's no big deal, I think I can fix things, and then he said, in a voice that broke my heart: let me read it, and at first I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about and when I realized I handed him a copy of the declaration and I watched him, what's the word, immerse himself in it? something like that, and I said: I'll be back in a minute, Ulises, I'm going to take a stroll around the plane since you never know when the captain might need my help, and meanwhile you sit there and read, take your time and don't feel pressured, if you want to sign you can, and if you don't, then don't, and with that I got up and went back to the prow of the plane, it's called the prow, isn't it? well, anyway, the front part, and I spent more time handing out the fucking declaration and chatting away with the cream of Mexican and Latin American literature (there were several writers on the trip who were living in exile in Mexico: three Argentinians, one Chilean, a Guatemalan, and two Uruguayans), who by this point were beginning to show the first signs of inebriation, and when I got back to Ulises's place, I found the signed declaration, the paper neatly folded on the empty seat, and Ulises, sitting up very straight, though with his eyes closed again, as if he were suffering horribly, but also as if he were enduring his suffering with great dignity. And that was the last I saw of him until we reached Managua.