One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 20


   “Collons,?he would curse. “I shit on Canon Twenty-seven of the Synod of London.?
   Germán and Aureliano took care of him. They helped him like a child, fastening his tickets and immigration documents to his pockets with safety pins, making him a detailed list of what he must do from the time he left Macondo until he landed in Barcelona, but nonetheless he threw away a pair of pants with half of his money in it without realizing it. The night before the trip, after nailing up the boxes and putting his clothing into the same suitcase that he had brought when he first came, he narrowed his clam eyes, pointed with a kind of impudent benediction at the stacks of books with which he had endured during his exile, and said to his friends:
   “All that shit there I leave to you people!?
   Three months later they received in a large envelope twenty-nine letters and more than fifty pictures that he had accumulated during the leisure of the high seas. Although he did not date them, the order in which he had written the letters was obvious. In the first ones, with his customary good humor, he spoke about the difficulties of the crossing, the urge he had to throw the cargo officer overboard when he would not let him keep the three boxes in his cabin, the clear imbecility of a lady who was terrified at the number thirteen, not out of superstition but because she thought it was a number that had no end, and the bet that he had won during the first dinner because he had recognized in the drinking water on board the taste of the nighttime beets by the springs of Lérida. With the passage of the days, however, the reality of life on board mattered less and less to him and even the most recent and trivial happenings seemed worthy of nostalgia, because as the ship got farther away, his memory began to grow sad. That process of nostalgia was also evident in the pictures. In the first ones he looked happy, with his sport shirt which looked like a hospital jacket and his snowy mane, in an October Caribbean filled with whitecaps. In the last ones he could be seen to be wearing a dark coat and a milk scarf, pale in the face, taciturn from absence on the deck of a mournful ship that had come to be like a sleepwalker on the autumnal seas. Germán and Aureliano answered his letters. He wrote so many during the first months that at that time they felt closer to him than when he had been in Macondo, and they were almost freed from the rancor that he had left behind. At first he told them that everything was just the same, that the pink snails were still in the house where he had been born, that the dry herring still had the same taste on a piece of toast, that the waterfalls in the village still took on a perfumed smell at dusk. They were the notebook pages again, woven with the purple scribbling, in which he dedicated a special paragraph to each one. Nevertheless, and although he himself did not seem to notice it, those letters of recuperation and stimulation were slowly changing into pastoral letters of disenchantment. One winter night while the soup was boiling in the fireplace, he missed the heat of the back of his store, the buzzing of the sun on the dusty almond trees, the whistle of the train during the lethargy of siesta time, just as in Macondo he had missed the winter soup in the fireplace, the cries of the coffee vendor, and the fleeting larks of springtime. Upset by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his marvelous sense of unreality and he ended up recommending to all of them that they leave Macondo, that they forget everything he had taught them about the world and the human heart, that they shit on Horace, and that wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.