I’m not sure about my reasons for recounting the story of Ricardo Morales after so many years. I can say that what happened to him has always aroused an obscure fascination in me, as if the man’s fate, a life destroyed by tragedy and grief, provided me with a chance to reflect on my own worst fears. I’ve often caught myself feeling a certain guilty joy at the disasters of others, as if the fact that horrible things happened to other people meant that my own life would be exempt from such tragedies, as if I’d get a kind of safe-conduct based on some obtuse law of probability: If such and such a catastrophe befalls Joe Blow, then it’s unlikely that it will also strike Joe’s acquaintances, among whom I count myself. It’s not as though I can boast of a life filled with success, but when I compare my misfortunes with what Morales suffered, I come out well ahead. In any case, it’s not my story I want to tell, it’s Morales’s story, or Isidoro Gómez’s, which is the same story but seen from the other side, or seen upside down, or something like that.
Although the morbid interest my subject arouses in me isn’t the only reason why I’m writing these pages, it carries some weight and plays some part. But mostly, I suppose, I’m telling the story because I have time to tell it. A lot of time, too much time, so much time that the daily trifles whose sum is my life quickly dissolve into the monotonous nothingness that surrounds me. Being retired is worse than I’d imagined. I should have known it would be. Not because of anything I knew about retirement, but because things we fear generally turn out
worse when they happen than when we imagined them.