SITTNG IN THE WICKER ROCKING chair with her interrupted work in her lap, Amaranta watched Aureliano, Jos?, 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 of blond fuzz and 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 Jos?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, Aureliano Jos?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 and what each one knew that the other knew, from that night on they were yoked together in an inviolable complicity. Aureliano Jos?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 ?rsula one afternoon when she went into the granary as they were starting to kiss. “Do you love your aunt a lot??she asked Aureliano Jos?in an innocent way. He answered that he did. “That’s good of you,??rsula 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. Aureliano Jos? who was then finishing his military training, finally woke up to reality and went to sleep in the barracks. On Saturdays he would go with 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 and changed into Amaranta by means of the anxious efforts of his imagination.