Ya Vienen: Chapter One | Part Two
Day One — Sunday
I grabbed the bat beside my dresser; meant for moments just like this. I never thought I would actually need to use it.
I pressed my ear against the cheap wooden door. I didn’t hear anything. Had they left? Were they hiding? Was I still dreaming?
Mustering up some semblance of bravery, I slowly turned the doorknob. I pulled the door towards me as slowly as I could. If I was going to attract attention, I wanted to lock myself in as soon as possible.
I strained to see through the tiny snippet of darkness I had made. I took a deep breath while opening enough of the door for me to exit quietly. I closed my eyes and took what I told myself was my last deep breath. I advanced forward. It was still dark enough for me to hide if I needed to. But that meant it was dark enough for someone else to hide. With this in mind, I crept slowly towards the dancing slivers of my balcony’s blinds, bat at the ready. I slowly knelt, praying I wouldn’t see anyone hiding under my dinner table. No one was there. I crawled towards the balcony. The door was closed.
I had to decide: was I going to risk walking into the hallway that lead to my office, or was I going to risk walking past the hallway to check the kitchen? Neither seemed particularly compelling. Banking my chances on this someone being in a room, I made my way towards the kitchen. I turned the corner at the countertops and was temporarily relieved to see no one. I grabbed a knife trying not to think about its possible fate. I slowly turned towards my front door and once again, grabbed at the knob. It was locked.
With anxiety growing, I pressed myself against the wall that lead to the hallway. I looked around the corner. Darkness. No light shone under the office door. The guest bathroom was dark.
I decided to check the office first. I walked consciously, trying to remember where that creak in the floor was. Hands shaking, turning yet another knob, I was overcome with adrenaline. Without any consideration for my own safety, I ran into the room wailing the bat in one hand and the knife in the other. I spun around. The room was empty. I checked under the desk and inside the closet. Still no one. I rushed towards the bathroom and nearly pulled the curtain rod off the shower. It was empty. I turned. Could they be hiding? But, there was no room behind the door.
Then it came to me. The balcony.
Summoning the last of my courage, I made a beeline straight to the balcony and pulled on the handle. With a sharp pain striking my shoulder, I realized this door was also locked. Grabbing at the ache I ran to check all the windows. They too were locked. Every possible and impossible entrance into my apartment was latched tight.
Feeling a mixture of relief and embarrassment, I flipped every switch I ran into. I walked sheepishly to my living room. I immediately sat down and set my weapons beside my feet. My head fell into my still shaking hands.
“What’s wrong with me?”, I said, voice quivering
“It was probably just my neighbor coming home shit faced again. Pinche borracho! Siempre handa borracho!”
I didn’t really hate any of my neighbors, but I desperately needed someone real to blame for that very recognizable and clear sound. My mind raced through everything even mildly annoying whatshisface has ever done. I settled on the idea of it being him. I even started to imagine him staggering up the stairs. With every accusation I could make, my anxiety lifted. The embarrassment did not.
After a few more deep breaths I coerced my head back up. I wiped away tears I didn’t realize had fallen. As my blurry vision dissipated my heart came to a halting stop. On my coffee table were two steaming mugs. I trembled as I brought one close. I could see the tiny clippings of dried leaves floating in its green water. As I grabbed for the second mug I noticed a pink stain. Remnants of fuchsia lipstick. A color that I did not own. When I looked down into the steaming caramel-colored liquid, I noticed tiny black blobs, swaying ever so slightly. A few began to tremble. I dropped the mug, leaving it to shatter on the table below. As the coffee made its way across the now cracked glass, I realized the mug was littered with dead flies.
I gagged; rushing to my bathroom only to dry heave over my sink. I splashed myself with water. It didn’t provide the calming effects movies and tv shows had led me to believe.
I was too mentally exhausted to try and make sense of what I just saw. What logical answer could I give myself? Even if I did somehow manage to make two hot drinks while sleepwalking, where did I get the lipstick? Where did the flies come from? Why were they only in that mug?
I didn’t want to think anymore, but I didn’t want to go back to bed either. “Conflicted” wasn’t a strong enough word to describe how I was feeling.
I decided to stay up. I grabbed my phone hoping to soothe myself with some light-hearted videos. That’s when I noticed the barrage of missed calls and voicemails splayed across my screen.
10:53 PM Mobile
Tia Victoria 4
10:48 PM Home
I didn’t bother listening to any of the voicemails or reading any texts. I called mi ‘ama right away. She answered on the first ring.
“Mija…” I didn’t need to hear anymore. I already knew.
“Mija, my sister…tu Tia Valéria, she’s dead.” She began to weep in the way Latinx mother’s do when they want to deflect pity.
“Mami, what happened?!”
“No lo sabemos. The coroner’s office called. They needed me to i-i-identify…” That Stoic Madre facade dissolved and she broke. “…MY SISTER!”
She began crying harder than I have ever heard her cry. There was so much pain in every sob that I felt my own pain sink down my throat. All I could do was cry with her until she could regain her composure.
“They said she had been dead for a few days. That her neighbor, la viejita supongo, called the police when, when they could smell something bad coming from her house.”
“When did this happen? Why didn’t they call you sooner?”
“They said the police got there a few hours ago. They found her in her garden, en el piso.”
I honestly can’t say how the better part of that conversation went. The rest of the details didn’t matter to me. All I could think about was my Tia Valéria’s body laying dead, alone, for days. Completely unnoticed.
My Tia wasn’t sick. She wasn’t old. She wasn’t frail. She was the first and last person on the dance floor at parties. She was the only one of her sisters ready to take a shot with my primas and me. Reminding us that she was the cool tia. We’d always laugh. It was a silly reference, but it was true. We all looked at Tia Valéria like she was a friend.
But now she was gone and in one phone call, she became an ancestor.