past as a mess that needed cleaning up or hiding. But he would not argue. He regretted coming here. I t was the night before the rally, around six-thirty. Gil was putting the finishing touches on an arroz con pollo, which he’d made with the last of his saffron. He looked out into the dining room. His friends were there, talking and talking, in Spanish mostly, telling stories of the old days he’d heard a hundred times. How they could all talk! Full of sadness and bullshit and joy. il transferred the aromatic yellow rice with clumps of chicken to a large plate G and brought it out to his guests. It was greeted with loud approval--cooking for company was a rare thing for Gil nowadays. 108 is friends sat around the rectangular dark wood table in their high-backed H chairs like some council of elders in a fading empire’s outpost. At one end of the table, in Olga’s old spot, sat Carla. Beside her was Rosa Ruiz, whose timid face and matronly eyeglasses belied her former fame as a Lower East Side midwife and occasional abortionist. Now she sat quietly picking at her food; she’d lost a lot of weight since her stroke a couple of years ago. She was nodding as Manolo Pereira spoke into her good ear in that gruff voice that contrasted with his gentle green eyes. Across from him sat Enrique Nunez, bald and ninety, proper-looking as an oldtime banker with his neat bowtie and round glasses (in fact, he’d been a shopkeeper).. Gil loved them all, and he was weary of them all. fter dinner the singing began. Manolo played bagpipes while Enrique A strummed guitar. There were old labor songs and folk songs in Spanish, some old pop tunes in English. Carla would clap the rhythm as the tunes followed the bagpipe’s whirl and whine. he singing ended when Carla got angry at Gil for saying they shouldn’t sing T socialist songs anymore—and her raspy objections dissolved into hacking. They all look exhausted, Gil thought. They’d overdone it, forced the revelry. You could not, after all, change the world with songs or camaraderie. Not those alone.