Nacos, as far as I know, are urban Indians, city Indians. Jorgito must be using the word in some other sense.

NOVEMBER 15

Back at the Fonts' house today.

Things happened exactly as they did yesterday, with minor variations.

Pancho and I met at El Loto de Quintana Roo, a Chinese café near the Glorieta de Insurgentes, and after having several cups of coffee and something a little more substantial (paid for by me), we headed for Colonia Condesa.

Once again Mr. Font came to the door when we rang the bell, in the exact same state as yesterday; if anything, he was a few steps farther down the path to madness. His eyes bulged from their sockets when he accepted the cheerful hand Pancho offered him, unperturbed, and he showed no sign of recognizing me.

María was by herself in the little house in the courtyard; she was painting the same watercolor as before and in her left hand she held the same book, but it was Olga Guillot's voice, not Billie Holiday's, coming out of the record player.

Her greeting was just as cold.

Pancho, for his part, repeated the previous day's routine and took a seat in a little wicker armchair while he waited for Angélica to arrive.

This time I was careful not to make any value judgments about Sor Juana, and I occupied myself first by looking at the books and then the watercolor, standing near María but keeping a prudent distance. The watercolor had undergone significant changes. The two women beside the volcano, whom I remembered in a stern or at least serious pose, were now pinching each other's arms; one of them was laughing or pretending to laugh; the other one was crying or pretending to cry. Floating on the streams of lava (clearly lava, since it was still red or vermillion) were laundry detergent bottles, bald dolls, and wicker baskets full of rats; the women's dresses were torn or patched; in the sky (or at least in the upper part of the watercolor), a storm was brewing; in the lower part María had reproduced this morning's weather report for Mexico City.

The painting was hideous.

Then Angélica came in, glowing, and once again she and Pablo set up the screen. I spent a while thinking, as María painted: there was no longer the slightest doubt in my mind that Pancho had dragged me to the Fonts' house so that I could distract María while he and Angélica went about their business. It didn't seem very fair. Before, at the Chinese café, I'd asked him whether he considered himself a visceral realist. His reply was ambiguous and lengthy. He talked about the working class, drugs, Flores Magón, some key figures of the Mexican Revolution. Then he said that his poems would definitely appear in the magazine that Belano and Lima were putting out soon. And if they don't publish me, they can go fuck themselves, he said. I don't know why, but I get the feeling the only thing Pancho cares about is sleeping with Angélica.

"Are you all right, Angélica?" said María, when the moans of pain, exactly the same as yesterday's, began.

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Can you go take a walk?"

"Of course," said María.

Once again we resignedly settled ourselves at the metal table under the climbing vine. For no apparent reason, my heart was broken. María started to tell me stories about their childhood, thoroughly boring stories that it was clear she was only telling to pass the time and that I pretended to find interesting. Elementary school, their first parties, high school, their shared love of poetry, dreams of traveling, of seeing other countries, Lee Harvey Oswald, in which they'd both been published, the Laura Damián prize that Angélica had won… Once she reached this point (I don't know why; possibly because she stopped talking for a minute), I asked who Laura Damián had been. It was pure intuition. María said:

"A poet who died young."

"I already know that. When she was twenty. But who was she? Why haven't I read anything by her?"

"Have you ever read Lautréamont, García Madero?" said María.

"No."

"Well, then, it's no surprise that you've never heard of Laura Damián."

"I'm sorry. I know I'm ignorant."

"That's not what I said. All I meant was that you're very young. Anyway, Laura's only book, La fuente de las musas, was privately published. It was a posthumous book subsidized by her parents, who loved her very much and were her first readers."

"They must have lots of money."

"Why do you think that?"

"If they're able to fund an annual poetry prize themselves, they have to have lots of money."

"Well, not really. They didn't give Angélica much. The prize is more about prestige than money. It's not even all that prestigious. After all, they only give it to poets under the age of twenty."

"The age Laura Damián was when she died. How morbid."

"It isn't morbid, it's sad."

"And were you there when the prize was awarded? Do the parents give it in person?"

"Of course."

"Where? At their house?"

"No, at the university."

"Which department?"

"The literature department. That's where Laura was studying."

"Jesus, that's so morbid."

"None of it seems morbid to me. If you ask me, you're the morbid one, García Madero."

"You know what? It pisses me off when you call me García Madero. It's like me calling you Font."

"Everybody calls you that, so why should I call you anything different?"

"Fine, never mind. Tell me more about Laura Damián. Didn't you ever enter the contest?"

"Yes, but Angélica won."

"And who won before Angélica?"

"A girl from Aguascalientes who studies medicine at UNAM."

"And before that?"

"Before that, no one won, because the prize didn't exist. Next year maybe I'll enter again, or maybe I won't."

"And what will you do with the money if you win?"

"Go to Europe, probably."

For a few seconds we were both silent, María Font thinking about unexplored foreign countries, while I thought about all the foreign men who would make love to her night and day. The thought startled me. Was I falling in love with María?

"How did Laura Damián die?"

"She was hit by a car in Tlalpan. She was an only child, and her parents were devastated. I think her mother even tried to commit suicide. It must be sad to die so young."

"It must be extremely sad," I said, imagining María Font in the arms of a seven-foot-tall Englishman, so white he was practically an albino, his long pink tongue between her thin lips.

"Do you know who you should ask about Laura Damián?"

"No, who?"

"Ulises Lima. He was friends with her."

"Ulises Lima?"

"Yes, they were inseparable, they were in school together, they went to the movies together, they lent each other books. They were very good friends."

"I had no idea," I said.

We heard a noise from the little house, and for a while we both sat expectantly.

"How old was Ulises Lima when Laura Damián died?"

María didn't answer for a while.

"Ulises Lima's name isn't Ulises Lima," she said in a husky voice.

"Do you mean it's his pen name?"

María nodded her head yes, her gaze lost in the intricate tracings of the vine.

"What's his real name, then?"

"Alfredo Martínez, something like that. I don't remember anymore. But when I met him he wasn't called Ulises Lima. It was Laura Damián who gave him that name."

"Wow, that's crazy."

"Everyone said that he was in love with Laura. But I don't think they ever slept together. I think Laura died a virgin."

"At twenty?"

"Sure, why not."

"No, of course, you're right."

"Sad, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is sad. And how old was Ulises, or Alfredo Martínez, then?"

"A year younger, nineteen, maybe eighteen."

"He must have taken it hard, I guess."