Editor’s note: Tasqui Guayasamin’s short story won third place in The Kiosk’s Fall 2023 Fiction Story Contest.
In a city known for its dreamy landscapes and perpetual spring-like climate, lived a young man of slender build, still immersed in the school’s classrooms. Although his innate shyness limited his friendships, he found his greatest delight in reading. During family gatherings, he sought refuge in a corner filled with literary treasures, where his imagination soared freely through the pages of books and magazines, transporting him to distant worlds, exploring geography, animals, history, and the richness of universal culture.
Likewise, he enjoyed long walks that provided the necessary space for meditation. Almost daily, he embarked on journeys that extended for hours under the warm sun and the mild climate of the city. Upon returning home, he greeted his hardworking parents and his younger siblings who spent their cheerful afternoons playing. However, unlike his siblings, the young man preferred the tranquility of his home, as when twilight descended, he was assailed by an inexplicable concern.
That twilight, that hour when the day faded and night timidly emerged, triggered a mixture of inexplicable emotions in him. Each evening, as he left school, he walked energetically but kept his distance from an imposing gate that sent shivers down his spine. Only the proximity to that place filled him with overwhelming fear. The gate bore a metal sign that read “San Diego Cemetery.” In the distance, he could feel the enigmatic energy emanating from that place. Perhaps he associated his fear of twilight with loneliness, pain, cold, suffering, and the claustrophobia he imagined those resting there experienced in the eternal darkness of their abodes.
However, time continued to march on, and he went on with his daily routine. Except for one particular Friday when his schoolteachers announced a meeting that ended his classes early. On that day, the young man would have more time to roam, think, and meditate. So, he embarked on his usual walk, and suddenly, he was enveloped by the fragrant aroma of flowers being sold on the street. It was a perfume that mixed roses, carnations, lilies, daffodils, chrysanthemums, orchids; the scent symbolized farewells, a final tribute to those we would never see again.
This scent, evoking mourning, brought to his mind something he had been avoiding: the profound terror he felt. Those feelings he had kept at bay, elusive but persistent, those he had refused to confront. The young man, slender and shy, knew that this was the moment. He decided to cross the imposing gate, to venture where he sensed an energy imbued with melancholy, sadness, and solitude.
Fear gripped him as he crossed the threshold. His eyes welled with tears, his face grew pale, his head remained bowed, his body trembled, his hands perspired, and his heart beat frenetically. But there he was, inside that place that had filled him with so much dread. His mind conjured images of hands, faces, bodies, and clothing in various states of decay. The sensation of claustrophobia intensified his senses, and he longed to run away. Before fleeing, he resolved to find his grandmother’s grave, which further heightened his fear as he recalled the tragic way in which she had passed away.
At that precise moment, a voice pronounced his name. Raising his gaze, he found his cousin, who asked with sweetness and surprise in her voice, “What are you doing here alone?” The young man, in his state of nervousness, replied, “I wanted to discover what it feels like to be here alone, to overcome the fear that grips me.” His cousin, taking his hand tenderly, said, “Don’t fear the deceased; often, it’s the living we should fear. They rest here, and they can’t harm you. Don’t be afraid to be in this place.” With these words, the fear that had tormented him began to dissipate, transforming into a mixture of feelings and thoughts. This time, the young man felt respect and profound love for the bonds that still connected him to his departed loved ones.
This brief conversation was transformative, allowing him to deeply reflect on his fear of the unknown. From that day on, a new chapter in the young student’s life began. The fear of crossing the cemetery gate turned into moments of introspection. This space, where family and friends visited, bringing with them emotions and memories, became a place of nostalgia and respect for the sentiments that remain.The young student learned that, upon passing through that grand gate, a moment of introspection begins, in which we all can contemplate life, the time we still have to walk, breathe, think, and change those things that fill us with fear, sadness, and concern. Today, that young student reflects on the fact that we have the ability to leave a legacy of love, generosity, and gratitude by building happy memories that will return whenever our loved ones decide to visit us in that place that now gives the young student a profound sense of peace every time he visits the San Diego Cemetery to pay his respects to his departed loved ones.