“You smoked without us, Adán,” Rufina exclaimed. She must have asked Isabel
“I can make more,” I said. “I can roll another,” I corrected.
“So you’re a poet, Adán,” she ignored me. I just smiled. She repeated my name as
if it were a one-word joke at my expense.
“He just read at a gallery in Salamanca,” Isabel said to spite me.
“Salamanca—elegant!” It was clear Rufina was going to ask me what kind of poetry I wrote. “What kind of poetry do you write?”
“What kinds of poetry are there?” I was pleased
with this response and made amental note to use it from then on.
“Bad and worse,” Rufina said with mock derision. Isabel laughed a little. Maybe it
relaxed them further to be allied against me, to taunt the new boyfriend after clearingthe air of the old.
“I, too, dislike it,” I said in English.
“You must come from money,” Rufina said, ignoring me again. Then she said
something idiomatic involving hands and clouds, which I assumed was a colorful way of
saying the same thing. “Do you have to work at all?”
wasn’t sure how to respond to this. I had encountered this association of poetry
and money before in Spain, compounded, in my case, by the assumption that allAmericans, I mean Americans abroad, were rich; compared to Isabel and Rufina, myfamily probably
was. I had no clear sense of Isabel’s class position, let alone Rufina’s; I
knew Isabel had graduated from college, had long worked at the language school, andnow had a nice enough apartment, but she also had two roommates. I paid for almost allof our meals and drinks, but thought very little of it, even though it was a significant portion of my total funds, because euros always seemed fake to me. I had no idea, forinstance, if the house we were in was of significant value, if land near Toledo wasworth
less or in high demand, if Rufina’s manner of dress or address indicated the
working or middle or some other class, or if those were the relevant terms for Spain.
“I won’t have to work for several months, it’s true,” I said in a way that implied I
en have to work in a coal mine. “Unless you think writing is work.”
“What will you do when you go back to the United States?” Rufina asked. Perhaps
the most important unspoken rule that Isabel and I had developed in our short relationship, our most important kind of silence, was never to refer to the time after my
fellowship. I looked at Isabel. It had been a while since I’d thought what I would,
in fact, do upon my return.
“I don’t know
that I will go back,” I lied. Isabel remained quiet, but there was a
change in the intensity of her silence. I lit a cigarette to distance myself from thisstatement.
“And your parents will send you money,” Rufina laughed, and then saidsomething that involved the word “Bohemian.” “What,” she said, “do they do?”
I knew that no matter what I said my parents did, Rufina was going to find it hilarious, so I decided to tell the truth, although I knew it would be particularly funny:
“They’re both psychologists.” I heard Isabel shift uncomfortably.
As expected, this cracked Rufina up. I assumed the flourish of talk that followed