Sunday, March 22, 2009

So this Marco Antonio, who is he? said the inspector. A poet, said Álamo, flatly. But what kind of poet? the inspector wanted to know. A surrealist poet, said Álamo. A surrealist and a PRI-ist, specified Labarca. A lyric poet, I said. The inspector nodded his head several times, as if to say I see, although it was clear to us that he didn’t understand shit. And this lyric poet didn’t want to show his support for the Sandinista revolution? Well, said Labarca, that’s a strong way to put it. He couldn’t make it, I guess, said Álamo. Although you know Marco Antonio, said Labarca, and he laughed for the first time. Álamo took out his pack of Delicados and offered it around. Labarca and I each took one, but the inspector waved them away and lit a Cuban cigarette. These are stronger, he said with a clear hint of irony. It was as if he were saying: we revolutionaries smoke strong tobacco, real men smoke strong tobacco, those of us with a stake in objective reality smoke real tobacco. Stronger than a Delicados? said Labarca. Black tobacoo, comrades, genuine tobacco. Álamo laughed under his breath and said: it’s hard to believe we’ve lost a poet, but what he really meant was: what do you know about tobacco, you stupid son of a bitch? You can kiss my ass with your Cuban tobacco, said Labarca almost without batting an eye. What did you say, comrade? said the inspector. That I don’t give a shit about Cuban tobacco. Where Delicados are lit, let the rest be put out. Álamo laughed again and the inspector seemed to hesitate between turning pale with rage and looking confused. I assume, comrade, that you mean what I think you mean, he said. That’s right, I do, you heard me. No one turns his nose up at a Delicados, said Labarca. Oh, Julio’s a bad boy, murmured Álamo, looking at me to hide his barely suppressed laughter from the inspector. And on what grounds do you say that? said the inspector, wreathed in a cloud of smoke. I could see that things were taking a new tone. Labarca raised a hand and waved it back and forth a few inches from the inspector’s nose, as if he were slapping him. Don’t blow smoke in my face, man, he said, do you mind? This time the inspector definitely turned pale, as if the strong scent of his own tobacco had made him sick. For fuck’s sake, show a little respect, comrade, you almost hit me in the nose. If you call that a nose, said Labarca to Álamo, unruffled. If you can’t tell the smell of a Delicados from a bundle of vulgar Cuban weed then your nose is failing you, comrade, which hardly matters in and of itself, but in the case of a smoker or policeman is worrisome, to say the least. A Delicados, you see, Julio, is blond tobacco, said Álamo, overcome by laughter. And the paper is sweet, too, said Labarca, which is something you only find in parts of China. And in Mexico, Julio, said Álamo. And in Mexico, of course, said Labarca.

Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives