One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 14

MEME’S LAST VACATIONS coincided with the period of mourning for Colonel Aureliano Buendía. The shuttered house was no place for parties. They spoke in whispers, ate in silence, recited the rosary three times a day, and even clavichord practice during the heat of siesta time had a funereal echo. In spite of her secret hostility toward the colonel, it was Fernanda who imposed the rigor of that mourning, impressed by the solemnity with which the government exalted the memory of its dead enemy. Aureliano Segundo, as was his custom came back to sleep in the house during his daughter’s vacation and Fernanda must have done some. thing to regain her privileges as his legitimate wife because the following year Meme found a newborn little sister who against the wishes of her mother had been baptized with the name Amaranta ?rsula.
   Meme had finished her course of study. The diploma that certified her as a concert clavichordist was ratified by the virtuosity with which she executed popular melodies of the seventeenth century at the gathering organized to celebrate the completion of her studies and with which the period of mourning came to in end. More than her art, the guests admired her duality. Her frivolous and even slightly infantile character did not seem up to any serious activity, but when she sat down at the clavichord she became a different girl, one whose unforeseen maturity gave her the air of an adult. That was how she had always been. She really did am have any definite vocation, but she had earned the highest grades by means of inflexible discipline simply in order not to annoy her mother. They could have imposed on her an apprenticeship in any other field and the results would have been the same. Since she had been very small she had been troubled by Fernanda’s strictness, her custom of deciding in favor of extremes; and she would have been capable of a much more difficult sacrifice than the clavichord lessons merely not to run up against her intransigence. During the graduation ceremonies she had the impression that the parchment with Gothic letters and illuminated capitals was freeing her from a compromise that she had accepted not so much out of obedience as out of convenience, and she thought that from then on not even the insistent Fernanda would worry any more about an instrument that even the nuns looked upon as a museum fossil. During the first years she thought that her calculations were mistaken because after she had put half the town to sleep, not only in the parlor but also at all charitable functions, school ceremonies, and patriotic celebrations that took place in Macondo, her mother still invited to the house every newcomer whom she thought capable of appreciating her daughter’s virtues. Only after the death of Amaranta, when the family shut itself up again in a period of mourning, was Meme able to lock the clavichord and forget the key in some dresser drawer without Fernanda’s being annoyed on finding out when and through whose fault it had been lost. Meme bore up under the exhibitions with the same stoicism that she had dedicated to her apprenticeship. It was the price of her freedom. Fernanda was so pleased with her docility and so proud of the admiration that her art inspired that she was never against the house being fall of girl friends, her spending the afternoon in the groves, and going to the movies with Aureliano Segundo or some muted lady as long as the film was approved by Father Antonio Isabel from the pulpit. During those moments of relaxation Meme’s real tastes were revealed. Her happiness lay at the other extreme from discipline, in noisy parties, in gossip about lovers, in prolonged sessions with her girl friends, where they learned to smoke and talked about male business, and where they once got their hands on some cane liquor and ended up naked, measuring and comparing the parts of their bodies. Meme would never forget that night when she arrived home chewing licorice lozenges, and without noticing their consternation, sat down at the table where Fernanda and Amaranta were eating dinner without saying a word to each other. She had spent two tremendous hours in the bedroom of a girl friend, weeping with laughter and fear, and beyond an crises she had found the rare feeling of. bravery that she needed in order to run away from school and tell her mother in one way or another that she could use the clavichord as an enema. Sitting at the head of the table, drinking a chicken broth that landed in her stomach like an elixir of resurrection, Meme then saw Fernanda and Amaranta wrapped in an accusatory halo of reality. She had to make a great effort not to throw at them their prissiness, their poverty of spirit their delusions of grandeur. From the time of her second vacation she had known that her father was living at home only in order to keep up appearances, and knowing Fernanda as she did and having arranged later to meet Petra Cotes, she thought that her father was right. She also would have preferred being the daughter of the concubine. In the haziness of the alcohol Meme thought with pleasure about the scandal that would have taken place if she were to express her thoughts at that moment, and the intimate satisfaction of her roguishness was so intense that Fernanda noticed it.