I crossed the street, away from the blue car with the tinted windows that had been following me for two days. La Tula and her querido stood screaming at the top of their lungs on the corner, sun beading her black skin with sweat and glinting off the bottle of aguardiente she waved in Homero's face. “She took the money from the box and you let her,” Tula repeated this as she raised and lowered the bottle. She stood several inches taller than he. The bottle came closer to his face with each swing. Homero waved at me, “Hola Noel.” He had an imploring look, as if I, or anyone, could save him from Tula in a rage.
I walked faster to my own corner. Violeta Silva, of the telenovela Almas Libres, glided past. She was the neighborhood celebrity, and because she was famously pro-Karayan independence we always watched the soap for hidden subversive messages. She was flanked by two little girls, around eleven. I wanted to do her portrait and considered approaching her. Her hair was a brighter red than on screen, her face was scrubbed and glowed. “She's only twenty but she has HIV,” the taller girl said. “How does that make you feel?' Violeta gave the girl her full gaze, total attention. She didn't seem to notice Tula and Homero's drama across the street. I thought that Tula and Homero and Violeta and those girls weren't even in the same dimension, on the same planet.
I walked into my gate, toward the studio in the shed behind the house. I stepped inside the studio. I saw Adela. She had fallen asleep in the rocker she kept in my studio, to watch me paint. I bent down and kissed her forehead. She stirred, woke up, her eyes lit up and she smiled. We smiled. I rejoiced that my very being had the power to make one person this happy.

In my mind's eye I hold the image of the sidewalk I just walked on, lit bright by sunlight. There was a shade to the gray, a texture to the cracked, patterned cement. Decades ago it had been embossed with a filigree design...

It made me recall another sidewalk from my mostly forgotten childhood in Ventura. I noticed and it made me smile, that those memories stand in my mind for “the real.” Everyplace else is “the false.” I wanted to give that texture, that shade of gray, that quality of light, to this troublesome painting I've been struggling with since after then Presidio. Since I'd been warned my name was on a Mano Blanca list, surveillance by the Guardia had stepped up, and my contact with the Brigada Tomasista had completely stopped. I shuddered as I mixed the paint, wanting to fill my mind completely with my quest for the exact shade of gray.

I brought my mind back to my task, tried to empty my mind, but the voices persisted in filling it.
I heard the voice of Cristina, my student this morning, who came in late, with make up covering her bruised life. When I stood beside her at the easel she whispered, “My son.” It wasn't the first time her son hit her. He hit her whenever she confronted him on his d and d as she called it, in between his binges. She called it d and d and not drinking and drugging and laughed, because she knew how to use laughter to cleanse her fierce spirit.
I heard my pursuers. Before thePresidio surveillance of me had been bad. After the Presidio it was everyplace I went. Adela didn't know. She believed we'd have no problem getting away from the Tomasistas. I knew they would not easily release us to the delights of domestic society. They'd released her, the pregnant woman, but not me, the impregnator. As if my job as a parent was done when it had barely begun.
I hushed my mind. I brought my awareness back to gray. Then a voice in my mind screamed. “What kind of father will you be?”
After the Presidio everybody wanted me. The surveillers for what they thought I did. The Tomasistas for what I hadn't done. I stood before my easel and let the terror shudder through me. I shook. My teeth chattered. Adela woke up and stood beside me and drew me into her arms. I sobbed. She was used to my painting sobbing. She held me whispering, “yes, yes, yes.”
Sometimes after I cried and while Adela held me I fell into myself like the stones I used to throw into the center of the pond in El Pico close to my abuelos', where my parents sent me to be raised like a feral boy. Today was not one of those days. I bounced against the walls of my own terror afraid of the paint the brush and of the hand that held the brush, afraid and confused.
“We fight to lose,” was the slogan of Tomasa Monte's that floated into my mind. I needed to fight here, right here, wage this struggle with this paint. I needed to fight even if, more than likely, I would lose. It wasn't a business deal, or a gamble. I had to fight now. My job was to provide a memory of fighting for the future fighters who one day would win. Just as the patriots of Grito Day gave us a memory of fighting. I didn't think that victory would come to me. Not me. I saw Adela bent over her potted plants outside the shed that was my studio. Adela my wife, carrying my, the husband committed to a losing fight because these losses of today were the memories that would ignite the fight of those who will come later when the conditions created by this defeat and all the others defeats will have made victory possible.
In these defeats were the seeds of victory. But I didn't want to fight to lose. I didn't want to fight at all. This was the defeat. I wanted a sure thing, a guaranteed reward for my effort.
I spread the desperate gray paint onto the canvas.
Tomasa envisioned a time when the indigenous people of El Pico, her people, would no longer be invisible, would have power in the government, would be valued as the builders of almost everything that stood, as the birthers of the spirit of Cayo Karaya, the indigenous name before the colonizers divided the land into Ventura and Isla Karaya.
Tomasa fought to lose, but now after the Presidio, the Brigadas Tomasistas were calling for a plebiscito on indigenous rights and it looked like Governor Jerez would capitulate, had to capitulate, following the Presidio there had been protests all over the world, not only at the road access to el Pico and by the Mansion del Gobernador in Ciudad Vieja, not only in El Caserio.
Days after the presidio Comandante Guille left the Territorio, snuck into the City and flew from there to an International Conference in Europe, where she issued a Declaration calling for all Islanders, Karayan and Venturan, to unite for the liberation of the indigenous people of El Pico.
My mind was not on the paint, the brush, my hand, the woman bending over the plants, the child swimming inside her, but on the car that had followed me everyplace I'd gone since the Presidio. And on what escalation the Tomasistas would orchestrate now that Jerez had refused to send observers to El Pcio where Popular Councils were being held on how to end the war.

I walked across El Parque de Los Zinzontes on my way to the Galeria Relampago. I had my folder with the Cuadros Grises slides. The back of my neck bristled with the humiliation that always preceded trying to sell my work. Adela would say, “See it as a gift. A gift you give.” But I didn't feel big enough, bigger than Solano, big enough to accept that to others it was not a gift, but a product, like a shoe from Italy, maybe...a line of shoes they might not want to sell or had reason to foresee no one would buy.
Solano me saludo con ganas. That was a good sign. Things went better when I caught him after a good lunch and maybe one or two mojitos. I glanced at the large paintings of rifles and other dismantled weapons and big men in jungle camouflage, big men with guns. Who wanted to hang one of these things up in their living room? A too thin woman in a City cut black dress was leaning toward Solano's desk, her cigarette resting on a ceramic ashtray, smoke floating up to the the fat black ancient ceiling beams. She was writing a check, lots of zeros from where I stood. As she left she waved to me as if she knew me, recognized me, and paused to look at the largest of the canvasses where the figure of a dark skinned man emerged from foliage and his weapon projeced from this mass of green like a giant cock. Just then I wished that the earth would swallow me and my Cuadros Grises slides.
Isaac Robledo didn't have a clue about real weapons, real shooting, real corpses. His images were voyeuristic, exploitative. If this was the shit Solano wanted for his Galeria Relampago I might as well spin on my heel and get my self out of there. This shit was saying exactly what about war? This was the game I wasn't going to play. Especially now. Just this morning the Gobernador announced a cese unilateral. Most people might consider that surrender. And everybody already knew, everybody listened to the one AM broadcast of Radio El Pico, or if they didn't listen they knew somebody who did and told them what was said. Everybody knew the Tomasistas called a truce after the Presidio which by the way they repudiated, did not take responsibility for, perhaps it had been Insurgencia Urbana or even Jerez or the City or the Mano Blanca...
Whenever peace mirages floated into view Isaac Robledo got a gallery show of his killing men.
Now Solano waved me to a chair. He pointed to the steel carafe of cafe. I poured myself a cafecito, hot and sweet and sat where the skinny check signer had sat. I pushed my binder with the slides toward the person who could make or break me. He leafed the pages and nodded quietly, then slowly began to shake his head. “Porque ahora Noel?” He turned his hands up.
Why should it matter that my inner world was not attuned to the market? That my best was not something he wanted to sell, or skinny cigarette smoking woman in well cut too hot City black dress wanted to buy.
“Your figurative stuff...” he waved his hand at the paintings on the wall, “Que paso con aquello?”
I stepped back into the sunlight. Maybe he was right. I fought an enormous desire to cry. I walked along the narrow cobblestoned street, close to the building walls, there was a lmost no sidewalk. Maybe Solano was right. There was something I wasn't confronting, not looking at, in my work. The Gray Series probably sucked from self deceit and it was Robledo who was really looking. I fought the urge to toss the slides and sped up heading toward the sea wall. I stood by the thick stone wall looking at the sea many feet below. Foaming narrow white crests of foam hit the rocks upon which the fortress was built five centuries ago by the Spanish colonizers to defend their war.
I walked along the wall away from the ancient guard tower. It was said Jerez kept lots of the detainees following the Presidio in these colonial dungeons under the sea wall, carved by the Spanish into the rock.
I wasn't heading for El Caserio but there I was, standing at the place where the sea wall turned to follow the sea and over the years footsteps had paved their own narrow path. I saw the path wind down into the heart of a hive of homes built by squatters, some as solid as any built by contractors in El Llano, others thrown together from scraps of billboard, tin, wood, cardboard. I should paint this. I shall paint this.
I didn't at first recognize the young man who walked past me, and waved, until I saw him from behind, gaunt, long-haired in a pony tail at the neck, baggy pants, and giant shirt, disguised by the uniform of his age. It was the desaparecido Tomas, my young neighbor, who'd been gone since not long after the fire, after a scream fest by his mother Irma. “You can not do drugs and live with me.” So he had gone and she had gone more mad from the terror of losing her son altogether.
The black Lincoln car couldn't follow me into El Caserio. I saw the driver standing at the seawall, considering whether or not to follow me on foot. I wondered what my pursuer thought of Robledo's men with guns? Should I ask his opinion of my Cuadros Grises? Bang on his tinted windows and get his aesthetic point of view? Aesthetics is to art what ornithology is to birds...Some artist said that...I'd been wanting to enter El Caserio all my life, enter this parallel world that existed in its own right on its own terms. All my life I'd searched for solace, sanctuary, worlds constructed independent of the false world made by and for the Isaac Robledos, the Solanos. I longed for worlds on the margin to assert themselves as centers. I longed for a world of many, many centers, not this world of imperial iterations, false repetitions of an original meaningless and corrupt at the core..Everything real and solid in the belly of the beast was what workers had made...and we artists are workers too, damn it...
I followed Tomas. He'd turned left from the main path onto a narrower trail between shelters, and then left again into an alley between two winding mushroomings of tin houses barely wide enough for me to pass. The crash of the surf against the reefs on which Ciudad Vieja was built came louder. The sky was that blue pale and brilliant at once and the light...the gorgeous light..I longed for the brush and the paint in my hand, a nearly or fully erotic rush. It came from that same place in me that longed for a just world. Was that why I painted? To make little rectangles of justice? Worlds I could control? Make right? Little gray rectangles of justice...The day word hit la Capital that a group calling itself Brigada Tomasista had taken the provincial capital of El Pico, the nearby Barranco, a village of maybe 30 families, that the Tomasistas laid siege to the Cuartel de la Guardia for 24 hours before Jerez ordered his City provided planes to bomb, that day Adela and I joined the thousands who converged, with little prompting from the Partido or the Frente, at the Parque de los Zinzontes...and so we started the Third Island War. Tomas, I'd heard from Iris, had been deployed. And then I'd heard from her he'd gone AWOL. So what was he doing here, in El Caserio?
But not really. As Guillermina said, paraphrasing Tomasa Monte, “We didn't start this war...It's been waged silently against us for centuries. We are being killed by poverty, dying of diseases that have long ago been conquered in the City's first world, of hunger, of addictions..Those are all acts of war.”
I looked around. Chasing Tomas (why was I?) I'd walked myself into a callejon sin salida. Impossibly miserable huts surrounded me. They smelled poor. The scent of old coffee grounds, wet dirt, sunburnt dust and scorched sweat I'd noticed in my friend Carifeo's house in El Bajio when I was a boy wafted from the shelters. The smell of pain. I'd surprised that scent in my parents' house, my childhood home, the moment I stepped in the door the first time I came home from la Universidad. Then it suddenly dawned on me we'd been poor, we were poor. I'd somehow never figured that out.
I realized I'd lost sight of Tomas completely. Would I dare tell Irma he was living somewhere in El Caserio? Spending his days in the Parque de los Zinzontes?
All the spaces among the huts looked the same. I turned slowly, trying to figure out which way I'd come into this dead end. It was then a thin man approached me, grabbed me by the elbow and drew me between two of the shacks into a wider alley, wide enough for the small green car he shoved me into.
“Expulsaron a cinco curas de El Pico. Jerez suspendio las mal llamadas Negociaciones de la Cordialidad. Supimos que estan a punto de arrestarte...”
“Quieren impedir que la caravana salga de Barranco hacia la Capital para la manifestacion de manana?
“Y yo que les importo? No soy nada, no soy nadie...”
Neither the man who took me, nor the driver of the small green car, said a word. Of course all three of us knew why the Seguridad wanted me. The green car wove deeper and deeper into El Caserio, downhill and unexpectedly up again, and stopped The taller man, not the driver, led us up a slope. Under our feet I could see the ochre arrecife on which the centuries old squat was built. The wind picked up. I smelled a gust of sea breeze, salty, fishy, clean. I looked up. The wind drove clusters of clouds toward the distant Pico. They were that yellow tinged shade I thought of as global warming gray. I'd never been able to mix paint to match this apocalyptic, dystopic, sci fi hue, at once fierce nature and desperate petrochemistry. The leader stopped by a strange structure. This house did not look makeshift although like the others it too was made from scraps, billboards, even license plates. It looked more cerebral and less organic than most of the huts I'd seen. We stepped inside.
“Jerez flipped out since Quintero broke away from the official line and met with la Dirigencia.” Tall Man motioned me to a raw wood bench. “Met with them right in El Pico, came to us!” Short Man sat on a straightback chair, the caning was cracked on seat and back. Noel sat on the bench and looked around. The storm had broken. The ceiling had been made of undulated scrap fiberglass, also global warming yellow gray. I saw it was slanted to pour off rainwater into a cistern made from an old Ron Pico barrel which in turn poured off into another and another and another making at once a fountain and a water supply.
The man who approached me now I recognized. “Carifeo?” I rose and we met in the center of the room. Nos abrazamos, held each other tight. How was it possible I recognized as a man a boy I grew up with in El Bajio, whom we called Carifeo because of his fair skin, green eyes and City anglo beauty?
“La pasabamos como monos trepados en los palos.” Carifeo sat on a low duho, almost squatting. I nodded, “The Carablancas started to think we were their own.” The rain had stopped and the sci fi yellow gray sky was flat blue, its brilliance visible even through the opaque translucence of the fiberglass ceiling. I jumped up off the wooden bench I was sitting on when a fat rat scurried over the fiberglass ridges. Carifeo banged the ceiling with a long pole. “We've got to keep those rats from falling into our water. And they do. We've got to have someone assigned to rat-catch after every rain.”
“Noel aca,” Carifeo pointed to me as he went on with our story. As a boy he was our storyteller. “Noel could recreate the petroglyphs from memory, do you believe that? No matter how many zig zags or curlicues or goddess cunts or god dicks...or unidentifiable frog like squiggles we'd seen, when we got back from the cuevas to El Bajio he took out the drawing stone we found in the cave and drew the things on big flat river rocks we'd rolled to where the river never rose, and then we used the chisels he'd chipped from stones, copied from one we found in one of our first excursions...
Tall Man, Miguel, my driver, leaned forward. “Those are the El Bajio glyphs that had that ethnographer drooling? You've got to be kidding me.” Carifeo rose. “Jose Cordero thought his academic career was made. He showed up here wanting to be a guerrillero but it was all we could do to keep him from running back to tell the world his find. I had to carve a section myself in front of him to get him to believe this was the work of the boys of El Bajio led by our artist.” He waved in my direction. “Our artist with the photographic memory.”

Carifeo led me outside and walked me around a huge outcropping of ancient coral arrecife. A few yards ahead stood an enormous old stone structure. I arched my eyebrows and Carifeo responded. As in childhood we barely needed words. “They say it was a pirate's landfall refuge, one of the few houses anyone ever built on this side of the seawall, too steep, pointing right into the sea storms.” We reached the house. “It took a lot of storms to wear this down,” I said. We stepped inside. The walls held up an entire section of the high beamed ceiling overhead, still covered by rows of stacked, curved, clay tejas. He led me inside into the next room, cave cool. The tiles were intricately decorated with black moorish filigree on a deep blue background, so beautiful it made my eyes begin to tear. The stockpile of weapons stacked against the far wall of the room, big enough for a formal ball or even a rally, stopped my breath. A shudder of terror climbed my spine.
“My name is Maximo,” Carifeo said, “Mi nombre de guerra.”
I shook my head, confused for a moment, then understanding. So Carifeo was Comandante Maximo, never seen without a red and black bandanna on his face. I couldn't understand why they had sought me out, bothered to pick me up. Now I did. Because my childhood friend Carifeo believed I have a photographic memory, total recall of whatever I saw, no need to write down things best never written.
“We couldn't let them detain you. Just because you have no idea what it is you know, what your memory remembers, doesn't mean they wouldn't if they got it out of you.”

Carifeo, I couldn't get used to another name, led me to the old courtyard where the old pila still flowed. Where was it drawing fresh water here on the arrecife? I'd always wondered how El Caserio got potable water. A network of pipes extended from the uphill side of the pila. Maximo (Carifeo) moved a wheelbarrow to one side, lifted a weathered wooden lid and eased himself into the ground. I followed him into a rectangular, earthen room, damp, brightly lit. At one end cots were lined up. Young men lay asleep on three of them. Tomas lay sleeping on the cot closest to where we stood. “We tell them to be revolutionaries they've got to be clean. They've got to have their minds to win. Drugs are land mines put right inside their heads. Sometimes they hear me. Most times they see an old man speaking.”
We walked beyond the dormitory into another room. I had to touch the ancient stones lining the walls. “An old catacomb from the old convento. We stumbled onto it. If only we'd begun our digging a few yards this way we would have spared ourselves several tons of dirt. Who would have dreamt there was soft dirt so close to the arrecife, and water? The early colonos missed this too. But we're lucky we stumbled onto this catacumba as soon as we did. He tapped the walls. “The graves of fetuses fathered by priests on nuns.” He shuddered as he led me into a square room with a table under a dangling light. “The tunnel goes on and on, underground, up the hill. We can exit near the Parque de los Heroes, what you call the Parque de los Zinzontes, inside the compound of the abandoned Convento de la Aparecida. He grabbed two from among the many folding chairs stacked against the sweating stone walls, and we sat facing each other across the table built from old time blackened planks.
I looked at him hard. “I've got to get back to my wife, my life. By now I'm overdue by several hours. She won't know where I am. She's pregnant.”
He gave the slightest of shrugs.
“You didn't show up where you were expected the night of the Presidio. It's a good thing nobody died because you didn't show. Now you know why you're not dead.”

Sleep betrayed me, overtook me as I lay curled on my side on a cot by the wall. I'd lain in a white rage at Carifeo and resolved to keep a vigil, my mind on the terror Adela must be feeling and how our baby was swimming in it, a victim of terrorism before he (I always imagined a boy) was even born.
The scream, “Jumpbacks” merged into my dream (I was dreaming of buying a hotdog with sauerkraut and onions) and woke me. I sat up and saw a tall skinny man striding into the dormitory from the seaside door. Again he hollered, “jumpbacks.” The young men sat upright one by one on their cots. Five others ran in from the courtyard door.
We lined up (eight of us) in the center of the huge tiled ballroom and saluted, “Comandante Omar, Relampago, Barra Cecilia, presente. Each man said his name. Rio. Manantial. Serpiente. Amanecer. Diluvio. Terremoto. Fuego. Relampago. Canon. Cueva. I noticed Tomas was Relampago. Fitting name. Comandante Omar looked into my eyes. He said, “Sendero.” I repeated my barra name.
Omar marched us through the catacombs up the ladder into the brilliant sunlight of the courtyard. He lined us up and led us through stretches, jumpbacks, jump forwards, handstands. All the while he chanted, “to have grace first you've got to have faith, to have faith first you've got to have grace, grace, faith, grace, faith....”
I was close to collapsing when he stopped, drenched in sweat, stumbling. Carifeo, Maximo, pulled me away from the other men. I stepped close to him, this stranger Maximo who'd once been my best childhood friend. “I've got to get back to my wife.” I had a sharp image of her womb waters overheating from terror, Pulgarcito swimming like a lobster whose home seawater had turned lethal. “She's pregnant.”
Carifeo gave me his back.” We'll make sure she's taken care of. You're too hot out there. We can't chance it.” He turned to face me. “This isn't something you just walk away from.”
I noticed the younger men file into the building across the courtyard. I smelled cafe and heard the din of dozens of forks hitting metal plates. “Faith, grace, faith, grace.” Maximo walked toward the dining room. I watched him, hands in fists, and let tears of despair stream my face.

That night Omar led us rooftop to rooftop. First he marched us through the catacombs, past the rows of fetal sarcophagi. I ached to paint that brown black earth, to fix this thing being birthed through a canal of centuries packed earth and stone. I could no longer bear to think of Adela's pain. Faith, grace; grace, faith. Except when suddenly, like now, her face floated into my consciousness, clear like a snapshot. Una aparecida. Omar led us out into the overgrown courtyard of the abandoned Convento de la Aparecida. Adela la aparecida. Noel el desaparecido. Omar hissed, “Faith, grace; grace, faith.”
A star strewn, deep blue black sky wrapped itself around us as we followed Omar onto the slanted, tile rooftop of the old convento, whose nuns fornicated in the rooms where now the Barra Cecilia slept, whose dead babies lay interred in the catacomb walls.
Most of the blood red tiles were gone and it was important to keep looking down to avoid stepping through the holes where the colonial timbers had given way.
I wasn't thinking. I was an aching machine of muscles pulling bones and jiggling organs.
Tomas, Relampago, still pretended now to know me. It was impossible that he didn't. Maybe he was unsure of my rank in their Barra. My standing. Was I prisoner or recruit?
None of the young men wanted to run away. There were opportunities as they stepped across narrow spaces between old crumbling colonial structures, or simply stepped over low adobe muros between houses that shared a wall, or as they carefully climbed over high muros whose tops had been inset with broken glass shards, many already dulled by decades, even centuries, of rain and wind.
Why didn't I escape? I felt as underwater as Pulgarcito, my vision blurred by exhaustion and sweat. Only now, after what must be weeks of this, I occasionally experienced unexpected surges of adrenalin. I'd gotten addicted to the morning jumpbacks and whenever my mind wanted to think of my old life, my old room, my warm-bodied wife, of my leg over her hips as we spooned at night, my hand cupped over her rounding belly, feeling through the taut drum of its surface the vibration of my son (Adela too was sure she was carrying a boy), instead of those images and sensations, my mind was filled by Omar's incantation: grace faith; faith, grace...
We stood for a moment. Our black clothed silhouettes and black painted faces disappeared into the dark night, overlooking the human pageantry, the milling night people in the Parque de los Zinzontes, by the Pabellon de los Heroes. We were directly over the statue of La India Cecilia, a cacica who defied the invaders, the Spaniards, after whom their Barra was named. Down below the humans swarmed, pretending they didn't know there was a war.
So now we'd proven we could penetrate Ciudad Vieja and remain invisible. And it was time to prove we could get back to our base. Omar led us along another route I (Sendero) didn't remember taking before. It involved parading through the center of the Pabellon de los Heroes, hidden in plain sight, like a guerrilla theatre troupe, or a band of post-modern performance artists.
We strode through, in a file, our Barra of ten, counting Omar. Those watching us froze for an instant, paused their own performance, midway to a novio kiss, reaching for a cigarette, handing over a tiny bag of marihuana, looking up at the sky. The war had come to them, for this one moment.

We emerged from another exit of the catacomb tunnel at a place in El Caserio I didn't recognize. We filed in the full moonlight still in blackface and black clothes. A woman in red sat nursing an infant in front of a shack. She looked straight at us, glazed eyes, unseeing. I'd seen her begging at El Parque de los Zinzontes. Blonde and shriveledw ith her blonde and shriveled child. I shuddered and came close to colliding with a boy with no legs I'd seen begging in the park. He was pushing himself across the narrow path we were crossing, with his arms, on a wooden cart.
It appeared we were invisible as we passed what I imagined was the Escuela de Pordioseros I'd heard say existed in El Caserio. Later I would ask Omar, Volcan.

I awoke to screams. How long was I sleeping? There was no light in the dormitory in la catacumba. Black as a tomb or a womb. A dim light filtered under the door from the kerosene farol in the hallway. I saw I was alone, rose and followed the harrowing yells. I hesitated outside a massive wooden doorway and only stepped inside when one of the young men, still in black, pulled the door open, away from me, and stepped outside.
“Entra, Sendero.”
I saw the young men, most of them sitting huddled together on the floor. Three of them held Tomas' legs. Two held his shoulders. Maximo himself leaned over Tomas, looked into his face. “Relampaguea, hombre. Dejate tronar.” Tomas screamed from the pit of his lungs. The sound shuddered through Noel. “I wanted to kill him for hurting my Mother. I did. I hit him.” Tomas flailed his body, pushed his fists and arms into the two men holding his limbs.
“I was afraid I was going to kill him. El gran Teniente. Mi propio padre.” He screamed again. “I was younger and smaller than he was and when I saw it, the terror in his eye, I felt I'd done it. I'd killed my own father. Killed him as a man. He was dead to me.”
Maximo held him when he cried. Tomas collapsed into him. He sobbed and shook. None of the men holding him let go, but now there was a tenderness in their holding I'd never before seen among men. When Tomas next spoke it was just above a whisper. Still I could hear him clearly over the silence.
“He was as good as dead to me. But then, I'd never really had a Father.”
Still holding Tomas, Maximo said, “That was a hairy moment tonight when you paraded through the Parque and Tomas let himself be provoked by his old pana Duque, and Rio (Maximo patted the young man to his left, stocky and muscular, his blackface streaked where tears had run), Rio did good holding you back...
“But you did good too, Relampago. That's part of the reason we go out there, to find out what our triggers are...
He looked at each of us. “There are landmines the system's put inside us, so they can play the rage they put inside us, get us to deploy it against each other. We're going to reclaim that rage and aim those mines where they belong, when the time is right.” He looked into Tomas, Relampago's, eyes.
“Thank you for finding a landmine. This is how we take the fuse in our own hands. The biggest war is for our minds.” Maximo sippped hot water. The young men had left and he and I stayed behind and were facing each other, sitting on folding chairs, our feet propped on the folding table between us.
I looked up at a sudden eruption of sound. Maximo laughed. “They're ready to make music now, dig deep.”
“I remember now. Relampago's from El Llano and he write lyrics. My wife told me she ran into him once in El Pico, heard him and his friends play.”
“She'd be hearing a change in his lyrics now.”
“They have a studio down here?'
Maximo nodded just as a deep base sound, loud enough to vibrate the stone walls, reached us. As I walked back to the dormitory I recognized Relampago's voice.”
“Refuse to be defeated, Claim your rage, Aim your rage...”
A vivid image of Adela arose in my mind. I thought she must be thinking about me, aiming her energy my way, trying to make contact. I saw her deep set eyes, the bump on her nose, the soft wave of her brown hair. I knew she now knew I was alive and well, almost well.

“You're picture's up everywhere. All over El Llano and Ciudad Vieja and El Parque. Underneath your face, in fat black letters it says DESAPARECIDO.” I saw Adela and my mother and Tina and Lydia and Elpidio taping them all the way to the entrance to El Caserio. I saw them think about it and then not dare to step inside.”
Tomas (now I knew why he was called Relampago) had struck me with news from the outside I wasn't ready to hear. We were heading for the basketball court. How many times had I seen women trailing children, posting pictures of their desaparecidos? After the Presidio photos and signs grew like fungi on the posts and tree trunks and muros. And now, my picture was on one and my wife and cousin and friend were the ones making the sad procession.
On the court I elbowed and pounded and found myself on top of someone, maybe Rio, about to bite him before my arms and legs were held and Maximo took my head onto his lap, and in the grip of his tenderness and his firmness, I, Noel, Sendero, screamed, bellowed, from my gut, deep, loud.
“I want out of here. I want my life, my wife, my child. You told me you'd get word out to her but she's out on the street posting pictures of me. Her womb is cooking my unborn child with terror. I don't want to abandon my child. I swore I would not be one of those men. You can't make me do this. I set up my whole life to not be one of those men.”
I bellowed. My body shook. I flailed. This force uncorked in my middle. I knew that I could kill.
“I'm not one of those men. I'm not one of the men who kills. History's not making me a killer. Not you Maximo Carifeo Mother fucker. I am not a killer.”
I heard Tomas, Relampago. “Claim your rage. Aim your rage.” A chorus rang out, “Claim your rage, aim your rage.”
I fought Maximo with all my strength and all the while the men were chanting, “Claim your rage, aim your rage.” After a few minutes my rage was spent. They lifted me and carried me as if I had triumphed, chanting all the way to the mess hall.