The Ghost of Roberto B
by Jason Newport
I met the ghost of Roberto B in a Mexico City café. I was expecting Borges, of course, or Octavio Paz. Manuel
Puig, even. But Roberto B was who I got. He sat there across the small table from me, adjusting his round
spectacles and measuring me with half a sneer. I signaled the waiter, ordered two coffees, milk, sugar. B lit a
cigarette and smoked until the man finished pouring and went away. Our cups steamed. “In your poetry
collection, The Romantic Dogs,” I asked, leaning forward urgently, “who are the frozen detectives? Is it us?
Writers hopelessly observing?” B sipped his coffee to hide his smirk at my stupidity. Then he got up, soberly
put down a few pesos to cover the bill, and left. I sat back, defeated. My coffee cooled. Gradually, the first
chills embraced me, freezing my feet, my legs, my hips, my belly, my breast, enveloping me in ice up to my
scalp, leaving just my fingers free to finally write the truth: we must find here that which defines us, for the
spirit will beckon, sooner if not later, dissolving all of our bodies away, leaving our icy exoskeletons, hollow
and glistening, seated alone in forgetful cafés.
Jason Newport’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in many journals, including Chautauqua,
where he is a contributing editor. He is currently revising a novel about Hungarian Roma in the Holocaust
and working on a collection of very short stories.