At first she thought it was a matter of a passing debility and she secretly took marrow syrup and put honey on her eyes, but quite soon she began to realize that she was irrevocably sinking into the darkness, to a point where she never had a clear notion of the invention of the electric light, for when they put in the first bulbs she was only able to perceive the glow. She did not tell anyone about it because it would have been a public recognition of her uselessness.
She concentrated on a silent schooling in the distances of things and people’s voices, so that she would still be able to see with her memory what the shadows of her cataracts no longer allowed her to.
Later on she was to discover the unforeseen help of odors, which were defined in the shadows with a strength that was much more convincing than that of bulk and color, and which saved her finally from the shame of admitting defeat. In the darkness of the room she was able to thread a needle and sew a buttonhole and she knew when the milk was about to boil.
She knew with so much certainty the location of everything that she herself forgot that she was blind at times.
On one occasion Fernanda had the whole house upset because she had lost her wedding ring, and Úrsula found it on a shelf in the children’s bedroom.
Quite simply, while the others were going carelessly all about, she watched them with her four senses so that they never took her by surprise, and after some time she discovered that every member of the family, without realizing it, repeated the same path every day, the same actions, and almost repeated the same words at the same hour.
Only when they deviated from meticulous routine did they run the risk of losing something. So when she heard Fernanda all upset because she had lost her ring, Úrsula remembered that the only thing different that she had done that day was to put the mattresses out in the sun because Meme had found a bedbug the night before. Since the children had been present at the fumigation, Úrsula figured that Fernanda had put the ring in the only place where they could not reach it: the shelf. Fernanda, on the other hand, looked for it in vain along the paths of her everyday itinerary without knowing that the search for lost things is hindered by routine habits and that is why it is so difficult to find them.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
~ Gabriel García Márquez (1927 – 2014)
Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist
Translated by Gregory Rabassa
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