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Chapter 8

SITTNG IN THE WICKER ROCKING chair with her interrupted work in her lap, Amaranta watched Aureliano, José , his chin covered with foam, stropping his razor to give himself his first shave. His blackheads bled and he cut his upper lip as he tried to shape a mustache blond fuzz when it was all over he looked the same as before, but the laborious process gave Amaranta the feeling that she had begun to grow old at that moment.
"You look just like Aureliano when he was your age," she said. "You're a man now."
He had been for a long time, ever since that distant day when Amaranta thought he was still a child and continued getting undressed in front of him in the bathroom as she had always done, as she had been used to doing ever since Pilar Ternera had turned him over to her to finish his upbringing. The first time that he saw her the only thing that drew his attention was the deep depression between her breasts. He was so innocent that he asked her what had happened to her and Amaranta pretended to dig into her breasts with the tips of her fingers and answered: "They gave me some terrible cuts." Some time later, when she had recovered from Pietro Crespi's suicide and would bathe with Aureliano José again, he no longer paid attention to the depression but felt a strange trembling at the sight of the splendid breasts with their brown nipples. He kept on examining her, discovering the miracle of her intimacy inch by inch, and he felt his skin tingle as he contemplated the way her skin tingled when it touched the water. Ever since he was a small child he had the custom of leaving his hammock and waking up in Amaranta's bed, because contact with her was a way of overcoming his fear of the dark. But since that day when he became aware of his own nakedness, it was not fear of the dark that drove him to crawl in under her mosquito netting but an urge to feel Amaranta's warm breathing at dawn. Early one morning during the time when she refused Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, Aureli-ano José awoke with the feeling that he could not breathe. He felt Amaranta's fingers searching across his stomach like warm and anxious little caterpillars. Pretending to sleep, he changed his position to make it easier, and then he felt the hand without the black bandage diving like a blind shellfish into the algae of his anxiety. Although they seemed to ignore what both of them knew each one knew that the other knew, from that night on they were yoked together in an inviolable complicity. Aureli-ano José could not get to sleep until he heard the twelve-o'clock waltz on the parlor dock, and the mature maiden whose skin was beginning to grow sad did not have a moments' rest until she felt slip in under her mosquito netting that sleepwalker whom she had raised, not thinking that he would be a palliative for her solitude. Later they not only slept together, naked, exchanging exhausting caresses, but they would also chase each other into the corners of the house and shut themselves up in the bedrooms at any hour of the day in a permanent state of unrelieved excitement. They were almost discovered by úrsula one afternoon when she went into the granary as they were starting to kiss. "Do you love your aunt a lot?" she asked Aureli-ano José in an innocent way. He answered that he did. "That's good of you," úrsula concluded and finished measuring the flour for the bread and returned to the kitchen. That episode drew Amaranta out of her delirium. She realized that she had gone too far, that she was no longer playing kissing games with a child, but was floundering about in an autumnal passion, one that was dangerous and had no future, and she cut it off with one stroke. Aureli-ano José, who was then finishing his military training, finally woke up to reality and went to sleep in the barracks. On Saturdays he would go the soldiers to Catarino's store. He was seeking consolation for his abrupt solitude, for his premature adolescence with women who smelled of dead flowers, whom he idealized in the darkness changed into Amaranta by means of the anxious efforts of his imagination.
A short time later contradictory news of the war began to come in. While the government itself admitted the progress of the rebellion, the officers in Macondo had confidential reports of the imminence of a negotiated peace. Toward the first of April a special emissary identified himself to Colonel Gerineldo Márquez. He confirmed the fact to him that the leaders of the party had indeed established contact with the rebel leaders in the interior and were on the verge of arranging an armistice in exchange for three cabinet posts for the Liberals, a minority representation in the congress, and a general amnesty for rebels who laid down their arms. The emissary brought a highly confidential order from Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, who was not in agreement with the terms of the armistice. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez was to choose five of his best men and prepare to leave the country with them. The order would be carried out with the strictest secrecy. One week before the agreement was announced, and in the midst of a storm of contradictory rumors, Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía ten trusted officers, among them Colonel Roque Carnicero, stealthily arrived in Macondo after midnight, dismissed the garrison, buried their weapons, and destroyed their records. By dawn they had left town, along with Colonel Gerineldo Márquez and his five officers. It was such a quick and secret operation that úrsula did not find out about it until the last moment, when someone tapped on her bedroom window and whispered, "If you want to see Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, come to the door right now." úrsula Jumped out of bed and went to the door in her night-gown and she was just able to see the horsemen who were leaving town gallop off in a mute cloud of dust. Only on the following day did she discover that Aureli-ano José had gone with his father.
Ten days after a joint communiqué by the government and the opposition announced the end of the war, there was news of the first armed uprising of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía on the western border. His small and poorly armed force was scattered in less than a week. But during that year, while Liberals and Conservatives tried to make the country believe in reconciliation, he attempted seven other revolts. One night he bombarded Riohacha from a schooner and the garrison dragged out of bed and shot the fourteen best-known Liberals in the town as a reprisal. For more than two weeks he held a customs post on the border and from there sent the nation a call to general war. Another of his expectations was lost for three months in the jungle in a mad attempt to cross more than a thousand miles of virgin territory in order to proclaim war on the outskirts of the capital. On one occasion he was lea than fifteen miles away from Macondo and was obliged by government patrols to hide in the mountains, very close to the enchanted region where his father had found the fossil of a Spanish galleon many years before.
Visitación died around that time. She had the pleasure of dying a natural death after having renounced a throne out of fear insomnia, and her last wish was that they should dig up the wages she had saved for more than twenty years under her bed and send the money to Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía so that he could go on with the war. But úrsula did not bother to dig it up because it was rumored in those days that Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía had been killed in a landing near the provincial capital. The official announcement-the fourth in less than two years-was considered true for almost six months because nothing further was heard of him. Suddenly, when úrsula and Amaranta had added new mourning to the past period, unexpected news arrived. Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía was alive, but apparently he had stopped harassing the government of his country and had joined with the victorious federalism of other republics of the Caribbean. He would show up under different names farther and farther away from his own country. Later it would be learned that the idea that was working on at the time was the unification of the federalist forms of Central America in order to wipe out conservative regimes from Alaska to Patagonia. The first direct news that úrsula received from him, several years after his departure, was a wrinkled and faded letter that had arrived, passing through various hands, from Santiago, Cuba.
"We've lost him forever," úrsula exclaimed on reading it. "If he follows this path he'll spend Christmas at the ends of the earth."
The person to whom she said it, who was the first to whom she showed the letter, was the Conservative general José Raquel Moncada, mayor of Macondo since the end of the war. "This Aureli-ano," General Moncada commented, "what a pity that he's not a Conservative." He really admired him. Like many Conservative civilians, José Raquel Moncada had waged war in defense of his party and had earned the title of general on the field of battle, even though he was not a military man by profession. On the contrary, like so many of his fellow party members, he was an antimilitarist. He considered military men unprincipled loafers, ambitious plotters, experts in facing down civilians in order to prosper during times of disorder. Intelligent, pleasant, ruddy-faced, a man who liked to eat and watch cockfights, he had been at one time the most feared adversary of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía. He succeeded in imposing his authority over the career officers in a wide sector along the coast. One time when he was forced by strategic circumstances to abandon a strong-hold to the forces of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía, he left two letters for him. In one of them quite long, he invited him to join in a campaign to make war more humane. The other letter was for his wife, who lived in Liberal territory, and he left it with a plea to see that it reached its destination. From then on, even in the bloodiest periods of the war, the two commanders would arrange truces to exchange prisoners. They were pauses with a certain festive atmosphere, which General Moncada took advantage of to teach Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía how to play chess. They became great friends. They even came to think about the possibility of coordinating the popular elements of both parties, doing away with the influence of the military men and professional politicians, and setting up a humanitarian regime that would take the best from each doctrine. When the war was over, while Colonel Aureli-ano, Buendía was sneaking about through the narrow trails of permanent sub. version, General Moncada was named magistrate of Macondo. He wore civilian clothes, replaced the soldiers with unarmed policemen, enforced the amnesty laws, and helped a few families of Liberals who had been killed in the war. He succeeded in having Macondo raised to the status a municipality and he was therefore its first mayor, and he created an atmosphere confidence that made people think of the war as an absurd nightmare of the past. Father Nicanor, consumed by hepatic fever, was replaced by Father Coronel, whom they called "The Pup," a veteran of the first federalist war. Bruno Crespi, who was married to Amparo Mos. cote, and whose shop of toys and musical instruments continued to prosper, built a theater which Spanish companies included in their Itineraries. It was a vast open-air hall with wooden benches, a velvet curtain with Greek masks, and three box offices in the shape of lions' heads, through whose mouths the tickets were sold. It was also about that time that the school was rebuilt. It was put under the charge Don Melchor Escalona, an old teacher brought from the swamp, who made his lazy students walk on their knees in the lime-coated courtyard and made the students who talked in class eat hot chili with the approval of their parents. Aureli-ano Segundo and José Arcadio Segundo, the willful twins of Santa Sofía de la Piedad, were the first to sit in the classroom, with their slates, their chalk, and their aluminum jugs their names on them. Remedios, who inherited her mother's pure beauty, began to be known as Remedios the Beauty. In spite of time, of the superimposed Periods of mourning, and her accumulated afflictions, úrsula resisted growing old. Aided by Santa Sofía de la Piedad, she gave a new drive to her pastry business and in a few years not only recovered the fortune that her son had spent in the war, but she once more stuffed with pure gold the gourds buried in the bedroom. "As long as God gives me life," she would say, "there will always be money in this madhouse." That was how things were when Aureli-ano José deserted the federal troops in Nicaragua, signed on as a crewman on a German ship, and appeared in the kitchen of the house, sturdy as a horse, as dark and long-haired as an Indian, and with a secret determination to marry Amaranta.
When Amaranta, saw him come in, even though he said nothing she knew immediately why he had come back. At the table they did not dare look each other in the face. But two weeks after his return, in the presence úrsula, he set his eyes on hers and said to her, "I always thought a lot about you." Amaranta avoided him. She guarded against chance meetings. She tried not to become separated from Remedios the Beauty. She was ashamed of the blush that covered her cheeks on the day her nephew asked her how long she intended wearing the black bandage on her hand, for she interpreted it as an allusion to her virginity. When he arrived, she barred the door of her bedroom, but she heard his peaceful snoring in the next room for so many nights that she forgot about the precaution. Early one morning, almost two months after his return, she heard him come into the bedroom. Then, instead of fleeing, instead of shouting as she had thought she would, she let herself be saturated with a soft feeling of relaxation. She felt him slip in under the mosquito netting as he had done when he was a child, as he had always done, and she could not repress her cold sweat and the chattering of her teeth when she realized that he was completely naked. "Go away," she whispered, suffocating with curiosity. "Go away or I'll scream." But Aureli-ano José knew then what he had to do, because he was no longer a child but a barracks animal. Starting with that night the dull, inconsequential battles began again and would go on until dawn. "I'm your aunt," Amaranta murmured, spent. "It's almost as if I were your mother, not just because of my age but because the only thing I didn't do for you was nurse you." Aureli-ano would escape at dawn and come back early in the morning on the next day, each time more excited by the proof that she had not barred the door. He had nit stopped desiring her for a single instant. He found her in the dark bedrooms of captured towns, especially in the most abject ones, and he would make her materialize in the smell of dry blood on the bandages of the wounded, in the instantaneous terror of the danger of death, at all times and in all places. He had fled from her in an attempt to wipe out her memory, not only through distance but by means of a muddled fury that his companions at arms took to be boldness, but the more her image wallowed in the dunghill of the war, the more the war resembled Amaranta. That was how he suffered in exile, looking for a way of killing her with, his own death, until he heard some old man tell the tale of the man who had married his aunt, who was also his cousin, and whose son ended up being his own grandfather.

"Can a person marry his own aunt?" he asked, startled.
"He not only can do that, a soldier answered him. "but we're fighting this war against the priests so that a person can marry his own mother."
"It's not just that," Amaranta retorted. "Any children will be born with the tail a pig."
Aureli-ano José was deaf to all arguments.
"I don't care if they're born as armadillos," he begged.
Early one morning, vanquished by the unbearable pain of repressed virility, he went to Catarino's. He found a woman with flaccid breasts, affectionate and cheap, who calmed his stomach for some time. He tried to apply the treatment of disdain to Amaranta. He would see her on the porch working at the sewing machine, which she had learned to operate with admirable skill, and he would not even speak to her. Amaranta felt freed of a reef, and she herself did not understand why she started thinking again at that time about Colonel Gerineldo Márquez, why she remembered with such nostalgia the afternoons of Chinese checkers, and why she even desired him as the man in her bedroom. Aureli-ano, José did not realize how much ground he had lost on, the night he could no longer bear the farce of indifference and went back to Amaranta's room. She rejected him with an inflexible and unmistakable determination, and she barred the door of her bedroom forever.
A few months after the return of Aureli-ano José an exuberant woman perfumed jasmine appeared at the house with a boy of five. She stated that he was the son of Colonel Aureli-ano Buendía and that she had brought him to úrsula to be baptized. No one doubted the origins of that nameless child: he looked exactly like the colonel at the time he was taken to see ice for the first time. The woman said that he had been born with his eyes open, looking at people with the judgment of an adu............

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