Siddhartha listened. He was now completely and utterly immersed in his listening, utterly empty, utterly receptive; he felt he had now succeeded in learning how to listen. He had heard all these things often now, these many voices in the river; today it sounded new. Already he could no longer distinguish the many voices, could not distinguish the gay from the weeping, the childish from the virile; they all belonged together, the yearning laments and the wise man’s laughter, the cry of anger and the moans of the dying; they were all one, all of them interlinked and interwoven, bound together in a thousand ways. And all of this together—all the voices, all the goals, all the longing, all the suffering, all the pleasure, everything good and everything bad—all of it together was the world. All of it together was the river of occurrences, the music of life. And when Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to this thousand-voiced song, when he listened neither for the sorrow nor for the laughter, when he did not attach his soul to any one voice and enter into it with his ego but rather heard all of them, heard the whole, the oneness—then the great song of the thousand voices consisted only of a single word: Om, perfection.
I notice that my experiment with the red cement floor has failed. I wanted a floor with a deep, soft shine, like those graceful old houses down South. But here, over the years, the summer heat has leached the color from the cement and the winter cold has caused the surface to contract and shatter into a pattern of hairline cracks.
The apartment is dusty and run-down. Something about the stillness of this hastily abandoned space makes it look like a frozen frame in a moving picture. It seems to contain the geometry of notion, the shape of all that has happened and everything that is still to come. The absence of the person that lived here is so real, so palpable, that it’s almost a presence.
Both described at the same time how it was always March there and always Monday, and then they understood that José Arcadio Buendía was not as crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the truth of the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.
Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.
That night in the hospital I walked in and out of the hospice ward ten or twenty times, and my eyes and hands moved through the necessary tasks. Well into the night and deeper in my brain, it came to me that as hospital workers, we were being paid to trail along behind Death as he escorted frail, wasted bodies over difficult miles, dragging their loved ones along with him. My job was to meet the traveling party at its designated way stations and faithfully provide fresh supplies for the journey. When the weary group disappeared over the horizon, we turned back, knowing that another agonized family would be arriving soon.
The doctors, nurses, and I didn’t cry because the bewildered husbands and stricken daughters were crying enough for all of us. Helpless and impotent against the awesome power of Death, we nonetheless bowed our heads in the pharmacy, injected twenty milliliters of salvation into a bag of tears, blessed it again and again, and then carried it like a baby to the hospice and offered it up. The drug would flow into a passive vein, the family would draw close, and a cup of fluid might be temporarily removed from their ocean of pain.
If fire dwells secretly in snow, how can I escape burning?
It was smaller than I had expected — as places reconstructed from borrowed memories inevitably are — and also duller and dustier. Memories sharpen the past; it is reality that decays.