He called her at six in the evening, and by eight Teresa had appeared, dressed as a rich young divorcee with leftist leanings, the sort of woman who spends summer in the city and always has another djellaba that she bought somewhere, without even realizing it was a djellaba. She could just as easily have been disguised as a Touareg or a Mayan woman in the shadow of Chichen Itzá. She looked like the living symbol of liberated womanhood. She clung on to Carvalho's arm, and spoke only after he had gone a hundred metres with no indication of where they were heading.
"What was your idea for tonight? Are you trying to get more information out of me, or do you want to sleep with me?"
"For the moment I want to have dinner."
"I'll eat any old thing."
"Well, I won't. Here: it's my first gift of the evening."
He handed her an old book, the covers of which had faded from pink to off-yellow.
"The Physiology of Taste, by Savarin. What am I supposed to do with it?"
"Read it at your leisure. I bet you've read Materialism and Empiriocriticism, haven't you?"
"Yes, of course. A... long, long time ago."
"Well, now read this one. That way your taste buds will be educated and you won't torture your friends by asking them to eat frozen croquettes."
"What are you exactly? A cop? A Marxist? A gourmet?"
"I'm an ex-cop, an ex-Marxist and a gourmet."
Carvalho took the initiative and headed for Quo Vadis. He returned the friendly greetings of the family who ran the restaurant, presided over by the impressive mother sitting in a chair anchored by the front door. When she saw the prices on the menu, Teresa immediately offered:
"I'll only have one course."
"Are you short of money?"
"No, but I feel bad spending so much on food. I would have been happy going to a much less fancy place."
"The thing is, I still haven't got over my lingering respect for the bourgeoisie, and I still think they know how to live."
"Who says they don't?"
"Eighty-nine per cent of the bourgeoisie in the city dine on overcooked spinach and a tiny fish eating its own tail."
"At least it's healthy."
"If they added raisins and pine kernels to the spinach and ate a nice piece of dorado with herbs, wrapped in silver foil and baked in the oven, it would be just as healthy, not much more expensive, and yet much more imaginative."
"What's so strange is that you mean it."
"Naturally. Sex and food are the two most serious things in life."
Translated by Nick Caistor.