What thou lovest well remains, said someone who was standing nearby and had overheard us, a light-skinned guy in a double-breasted suit and red tie who was the official poet of San Luis Potosí, and right there, as if his words had been the starting pistol shot, or in this case the departing shot, major chaos broke out, with Mexican and Nicaraguan writers autographing books for each other, and there was more chaos in the van, which was too small for all of us who were leaving and those who were seeing us off, so that we had to call three taxis to provide additional logistical support for our deployment. It goes without saying that I was the last person to leave the hotel. Before I did, I made a few phone calls and left a letter for Ulises Lima on the highly unlikely chance that he might show up there. In the letter I advised him to head straight to the Mexican embassy where they would take care of getting him back to Mexico. I also called the police station and spoke to Álamo and Labarca, who assured me that we would meet at the airport. Then I got my suitcases, called a taxi, and left.

15

Jacinto Requena, Café Quito, Calle Bucareli, Mexico City, July 1982. I went to see Ulises Lima off at the airport when he left for Managua, partly because I still couldn't believe he'd been invited and partly because I didn't have anything else to do that morning, and I went to meet him when he came back too, more than anything just to see his face and so we could have a laugh together, but when I caught sight of the writers who'd been on the trip, neatly lined up in two rows, I couldn't pick out his figure (which was unmistakeable) even though I looked and looked.

There were Álamo and Labarca, Padilla and Byron Hernández, Villaplata and our old acquaintance Logiacomo, Sala and the poetess Carmen Prieto, sinister Pérez Hernández and sublime Montesol, but not Ulises.

My first thought was that he'd fallen asleep on the plane and that he'd show up soon escorted by two stewardesses and with a hangover of Homerian proportions. At least that's what I wanted to think, since I'm pretty slow to panic, although to be honest, I had a bad feeling the moment I saw that group of intellectuals returning tired and content.

Bringing up the end of the line, loaded down with several carry-ons, was Hugo Montero. I remember that I waved to him but he didn't see me, or didn't recognize me, or pretended not to recognize me. When all the writers had left I saw Logiacomo, who seemed reluctant to leave the airport, and I went up to say hello, trying not to show how worried I was. He was with another Argentinian, a tall, fat guy with a little goatee, no one I knew. They were talking about money. Or at least I heard the word dollars a few times, followed by multiple, tremulous exclamation points. After I said hello, Logiacomo's initial tactic was to act as if he didn't remember me, but then he had to accept the inevitable. I asked him about Ulises. He looked at me in horror. There was disapproval in his gaze too, as if I were parading around the airport with my fly open or an oozing sore on my cheek.

It was the other Argentinian who spoke. He said: that asshole made us look like a bunch of idiots. Is he your friend? I looked at him and then I looked at Logiacomo, who was watching for someone in the waiting area, and I didn't know whether to laugh or be serious. The other Argentinian said: a person has to show a little more responsibility (he was talking to Logiacomo, not even looking at me). If I run into him I swear I'll nail his balls to the wall. But what happened? I murmured with my best smile (that is, my worst). Where's Ulises? The other Argentinian said something about the literary lumpen proletariat. What are you talking about? I said. Then Logiacomo spoke, to calm us down, I guess. Ulises disappeared, he said. What do you mean he disappeared? Ask Montero, we just found out about it. It took me longer than it should have to realize that Ulises hadn't disappeared during the flight home (in my imagination I saw him get up from his seat, go down the aisle, pass a stewardess who smiles at him, go into the toilet, lock the door, and disappear) but in Managua, during the Mexican delegation's visit. And that was all. The next day I went to see Montero at Bellas Artes and he told me that because of Ulises he was going to lose his job.

Xóchitl García, Calle Montes, near the Monumento a la Revolución, Mexico City DF, July 1982. Someone had to call Ulises's mother, I mean, it was the least we could do, but Jacinto didn't have the heart to tell her that her son had disappeared in Nicaragua, even though I said it's probably not such a big deal, Jacinto, you know Ulises, you're his friend, you know what he's like, but Jacinto said that he'd disappeared, end of story, just like Ambrose Bierce and the English poets who died in the Spanish Civil War and Pushkin, except that in Pushkin's case his wife, Pushkin's wife, I mean, was Reality, the Frenchman who killed Pushkin was the Contras, the snows of St. Petersburg were the empty spaces Ulises Lima left in his wake, his lethargy, I mean, and his laziness and lack of common sense, and the seconds in the duel were Mexican Poetry or Latin American Poetry, which, in the form of the Solidarity Delegation, were silent witnesses to the death of one of the best poets of our day.

That was what Jacinto said, but he still wouldn't call Ulises's mother, and I said: let's see, let's examine the situation, the last thing that woman cares about is whether her son is a Pushkin or an Ambrose Bierce. I put myself in her shoes, I'm a mother, and if someday some bastard kills Franz (God forbid), then I'm not going to be thinking that the great Mexican (or Latin American) poet is dead, I'm going to be writhing in pain and anguish and I won't be having the first thought about literature, I can promise you that, because I'm a mother and I know about sleepless nights and the fears and worries that come with having a brat of your own. The best thing we could do, I swear, is to call her or go see her in Ciudad Satélite and tell her what we know about her son. And Jacinto said: she probably already knows, Montero probably already told her. And I said: how can you be so sure? And then Jacinto was quiet and I said: it hasn't even come out in the papers, no one has said anything, it's as if Ulises never went to Central America. And Jacinto said: that's true. And I said: there's nothing you or I can do, because no one will pay attention to us, but I'm sure they'll listen to his mother. They'll tell her to get lost, said Jacinto, and all we'll do is give her more to worry about, more to think about, when she's better off the way she is. What you don't know can't hurt you, he said, preparing food for Franz and pacing around the house, what you don't know can't hurt you, living in ignorance is almost like living in bliss.

And then I said: how can you call yourself a Marxist, Jacinto, how can you call yourself a poet, when you say things like that? Do you plan to make revolution with clichés? And Jacinto answered that frankly there was no way he was planning to make revolution anymore, but that if some night he happened to be in the mood, then making it with clichés and the lyrics of sappy love songs wouldn't be such a bad idea, and he also said that it was as if I was the one who'd gotten lost in Nicaragua, I was so upset, and who's to say, he said, that Ulises did get lost in Nicaragua, he might not have gotten lost at all, he might have decided to stay of his own free will, since after all, Nicaragua must be like what we dreamed about in 1975, the country where we all wanted to live. And then I thought about the year 1975, before Franz was born, and I tried to remember what Ulises was like back then and what Arturo Belano was like, but all I could remember clearly was Jacinto's face, his gap-toothed angel smile, and it made me feel so fondly toward him, made me feel like hugging him right then and there, him and Franz, and telling the two of them that I loved them very much, but right away I remembered Ulises's mother and I thought that no one had the right not to tell her where her son was, she'd already suffered enough, the poor woman, and I insisted again that he call her, call her, Jacinto, and tell her everything you know, but Jacinto said that it wasn't his responsibility, that he wasn't one to speculate on the basis of vague news, and then I said: stay with Franz for a little while, I'll be right back, and he was quiet, watching me without saying anything, and when I picked up my bag and opened the door he said: at least try not to be alarmist. And I said: all I'm going to tell her is that her son isn't in Mexico anymore.