One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 20


   ?lvaro was the first to take the advice to abandon Macondo. He sold everything, even the tame jaguar that teased passersby from the courtyard of his house, and he bought an eternal ticket on a train that never stopped traveling. In the postcards that he sent from the way stations he would describe with shouts the instantaneous images that he had seen from the window of his coach, and it was as if he were tearing up and throwing into oblivion some long, evanescent poem: the chimerical Negroes in the cotton fields of Louisiana, the winged horses in the bluegrass of Kentucky, the Greek lovers in the infernal sunsets of Arizona, the girl in the red sweater painting watercolors by a lake in Michigan who waved at him with her brushes, not to say farewell but out of hope, because she did not know that she was watching a train with no return passing by. Then Alfonso and Germán left one Saturday with the idea of coming back on Monday, but nothing more was ever heard of them. A year after the departure of the wise Catalonian the only one left in Macondo was Gabriel, still adrift at the mercy of Nigromanta’s chancy charity and answering the questions of a contest in a French magazine in which the first prize was a trip to Paris. Aureliano, who was the one who subscribed to it, helped him fill in the answers, sometimes in his house but most of the time among the ceramic bottles and atmosphere of valerian in the only pharmacy left in Macondo, where Mercedes, Gabriel’s stealthy girl friend, lived. It was the last that remained of a past whose annihilation had not taken place because it was still in a process of annihilation, consuming itself from within, ending at every moment but never ending its ending. The town had reached such extremes of inactivity that when Gabriel won the contest and left for Paris with two changes of clothing, a pair of shoes, and the complete works of Rabelais, he had to signal the engineer to stop the train and pick him up. The old Street of the Turks was at that time an abandoned corner where the last Arabs were letting themselves be dragged off to death with the age-old custom of sitting in their doorways, although it had been many years since they had sold the last yard of diagonal cloth, and in the shadowy showcases only the decapitated manikins remained. The banana company’s city, which Patricia Brown may have tried to evoke for her grandchildren during the nights of intolerance and dill pickles in Prattville, Alabama, was a plain of wild grass. The ancient priest who had taken Father Angel’s place and whose name no one had bothered to find out awaited God’s mercy stretched out casually in a hammock, tortured by arthritis and the insomnia of doubt while the lizards and rats fought over the inheritance of the nearby church. In that Macondo forgotten even by the birds, where the dust and the heat had become so strong that it was difficult to breathe, secluded by solitude and love and by the solitude of love in a house where it was almost impossible to sleep because of the noise of the red ants, Aureliano, and Amaranta ?rsula were the only happy beings, and the most happy on the face of the earth.