Under the Volcano
You content yourself with whatever comes your way and are even grateful that something, or, above all, someone does come your way, even if they’re only diluted versions of what has been suppressed or interrupted or of those who you miss: it’s hard, very hard indeed to replace the missing figures from our life, and you choose a few or none at all, and it takes an effort of will to cover the vacancies, and how painful it is to accept any reduction in the cast of characters without whom we cannot survive, we can barely sustain ourselves, and yet if we don’t die or, at least, not very quickly, it is always reducing down, you don’t even have to reach old age or maturity, all it takes is to have behind you some dead beloved person who ceased to be beloved and became instead a hated omission, our most loathed erasure, or for us to become that for someone else who turned against us or expelled us from their time, removed us from their side and suddenly refused to acknowledge us, a shrug of the shoulders when tomorrow they see our face or when they hear our name which, only the day before yesterday, their lips still softly whispered. Without actually saying as much, without formulating the idea in our minds, we understand how difficult this business of replacement is, just as, at the same time, we all offer ourselves up to occupy vicariously the empty places that others assign to us, because we understand and are part of the universal, continual, substitutional mechanism or movement of resignation and decline, or, sometimes, of mere caprice, and which, being everyone’s lot, is also ours; and we accept our condition as poor imitations and accept that we live ever more surrounded by them ourselves. Who knows who is replacing us and whom we are replacing, we only know that we are someone’s replacement and that we ourselves are always being replaced, at all times and in all circumstances and in any endeavour and everywhere, in love and in friendship, in work and in influence, in domination, and in the hatred that will also tire of us tomorrow, or the day after or the next or the next. All of you and all of us are just like snow on somebody’s shoulder, slippery and docile, and the snow always stops. Neither you nor we are like a drop of blood or a bloodstain, with its resistant rim that sticks so obstinately to the porcelain or to the floor, making it harder for them to be denied or glossed over or forgotten; it’s their inadequate, ingenuous way of saying “I was here” or “I’m still here, therefore I must have been here before”. No, none of you, none of us, is like blood, besides, blood, too, ultimately loses its battle or its strength or its defiance, and, in the end, leaves no trace. It simply took longer to erase, and made the drive to annihilation work harder too.
Javier Marías, Your Face Tomorrow