COLONEL GERINELDO M?RQUEZ was the first to perceive the emptiness of the war. In his position as civil and military leader of Macondo he would have telegraphic conversations twice a week with Colonel Aureliano Buendía. At first those exchanges would determine the course of a flesh-and-blood war, the perfectly defined outlines of which told them at any moment the exact spot -where it was and the prediction of its future direction. Although he never let himself be pulled into the area of confidences, not even by his closest friends, Colonel Aureliano Buendía still had at that time the familiar tone that made it possible to identify him at the other end of the wire. Many times he would prolong the talk beyond the expected limit and let them drift into comments of a domestic nature. Little by little, however, and as the war became more intense and widespread, his image was fading away into a universe of unreality. The characteristics of his speech were more and more uncertain, and they cam together and combined to form words that were gradually losing all meaning. Colonel Gerineldo Márquez limited himself then to just listening, burdened by the impression that he was in telegraphic contact with a stranger from another world.
“I understand, Aureliano,?he would conclude on the key. “Long live the Liberal party!?
He finally lost all contact with the war. What in other times had been a real activity, an irresistible passion of his youth, became a remote point of reference for him: an emptiness. His only refuge was Amaranta’s sewing room. He would visit her every afternoon. He liked to watch her hands as she curled frothy petticoat cloth in the machine that was kept in motion by Remedios the Beauty. They spent many hours without speaking, content with their reciprocal company, but while Amaranta was inwardly pleased in keeping the fire of his devotion alive, he was unaware of the secret designs of that indecipherable heart. When the news of his return reached her, Amaranta had been smothered by anxiety. But when she saw him enter the house in the middle of Colonel Aureliano Buendía’s noisy escort and she saw how he had been mistreated by the rigors of exile, made old by age and oblivion, dirty with sweat and dust, smelling like a herd, ugly, with his left arm in a sling, she felt faint with disillusionment. “My God,?she thought. “This wasn’t the person I was waiting for.?On the following day, however, he came back to the house shaved and clean, with his mustache perfumed with lavender water and without the bloody sling. He brought her a prayerbook bound in mother-of-pearl.