“He almost died! My God, he almost died! We thought he was leaving us!” Kiko’s mother kept repeating hysterically over the telephone.
I had run into Kiko, completely by chance, the previous Saturday afternoon on my way to the University to pay the tuition for the year, forty-five dollars. He asked me what I was doing and when I told him he suggested I put the money to better use—to a good meal. There would always be time for paying the tuition and, in the overall scheme of things, he argued, having a good meal ranked far above paying—paying for anything—so we went to an Italian restaurant on Prado Boulevard, not far from where we had run into each other.
Kiko’s approach to money had by now grown into a full-fledged philosophical theory, and as we ate he espoused it in detail, with references to European and Eastern philosophers, literary figures, famous poets, and to the lyrics of several popular songs. Buying, he explained, was a pleasurable experience, sometimes related to something you needed, but most of the time tied to nothing else than the satisfaction the buying action provided: the transaction, the acquisition. So you bought when you felt like buying. Paying was something else, a painful experience, usually but not always the byproduct of buying, and it occurred arbitrarily in time and space with all sorts of people trying to find ways of forcing you to pay for things you had never wanted, never needed, never thought of, never seen, never enjoyed and, sometimes, never bought. So paying was to be avoided whenever possible, and you should pay only under duress, when no other alternative existed.
While he spoke, he ate. He never ate in a rush but slowly, carefully, observing how each new serving of pasta reached his plate and each string of spaghetti found its proper place, and then he would pour the sauce, as