Here I am, standing outside an old building trying to open its door with a key they just gave me. It seems like yesterday that I felt my father’s cold hands clutching mine. In my head, the certainty that he was dead. In my heart, sadness and denial.
A long list of relatives waited impatiently for this moment to happen. For many, it was about greed or paying off debts—for me, just the anguish of having to reinvent myself without his presence.
We left the notary in silence. Everyone was upset at my father’s decision to give me the building on Corregidora Street. And yes, my father was a lot of things but he was always fair. It wasn’t the most valuable property and certainly not the only one. Nonetheless, the honor of receiving that historical building, which many wanted was now mine. It was my grandfather’s first hardware store.
The key told a story of just how old the building was. My father never wanted anyone to go inside it and certainly we were to never remodel it for a new business. It was to stay frozen in time but I never understood why.
I forced the lock until the door finally opened. I was uncertain if I should enter. I stopped in my tracks and remembered his last words:
“The building on Corregidora is yours; I trust you’ll be able to communicate with him and control him. At the beginning, you’ll have a lot of doubts and will want to get away, but don’t do it. Discover him, calm him and help him get closure. I’ll be there to help you,” he said before dying.
I walked slowly, observing the place, trying to ignore the prickling chill on my spine. I noticed a dark, strange, and unquestionably overwhelming sensation impossible to explain.
What happened in this place? Everything was still in its place. Shelves filled with tools, nails, screws; everything perfectly arranged.
A dusty counter with a vase lay with a dry branch as if it once were a rose. An incomplete invoice inside a typewriter next to several envelops, waiting to be mailed. Suddenly, I overheard a loud and shuddering noise behind me. The vase broke into a million pieces when it hit the floor. An envelope rest next to it with a not that read: For Michelle.
I wanted to run but I knew I had to stay. It was my duty and if I didn’t stay, guilt and doubt would follow me all my life. The letter read:
My dearest Michelle,
Thanks for being here. I knew you were the only family member who would respect my wishes. Surely you have many questions, why is everything in its place? Why has no one wanted to come back here? And the answer is very simple; this place is where my brother died when he was six. We were all helping in the hardware store the day it happened. We never found an explanation; we just know that Julian fell from the second floor banister and landed right in front of the counter where my mom was finishing some invoices. He died immediately. My parents never wanted to come back here, that loss was too hard for them. I come and visit him every once in a while. As the years go by, he’s become more aggressive and violent. I’ve tried everything to make him rest in peace without success. Please help him find the way.
As I finished reading letter, I felt something strange, as if a soul walked through me. The bathroom door was slightly ajar, and I could see a pair of intense eyes in the darkness.
“My name’s Michelle, and I want to help you,” I whispered.
I immediately covered my ears as the door slammed shut. My heart stopped. The building trembled. I tried to breath, as I stood motionless. Suddenly, the door creaked again as it opened.
A presence ran in front of me. Tears fell on my cheek as I saw a shadow behind the shelves, a gray shape that resembled that of a kid. As I tried getting near him, he quickly disappeared and I heard the warehouse door open and close forcefully.
I followed without thinking twice. I opened the door and tried turning on the light switch but an intense release of electricity burned the bulb instantly. I went deeper into the darkness,
“Julian, don’t be afraid. I’m here to help you get out of here,” I said.
“Get out of here! No one can help me,” shouted the voice.
I went back to the counter and grabbed a rosary hanging from the famous Balestrier Hardware sign and held it in my hands. I couldn’t think of nothing else to do, so I started praying.
“Our father who art in Heaven”, I began. Everything started to shake. Things fell from the shelves, boxes of nails, screws. “Hallowed be thy name”. The typewriter slid across the desk and fell to the ground; a chandelier made a loud sound when it fell on the tile.
In my head, I kept praying. One prayer after the other, nonstop, some with my eyes closed, others with my eyes wide open, protecting myself from the falling building. Suddenly the walls started to fall apart. The stairs crumbled. An uncontrollable force would not let me stop praying.
Suddenly I felt my father’s heavy and unmistakable hand on my shoulder. I couldn’t see him but he was there with me, keeping me company during this mission.
The last chunk of ceiling fell, an unexpected silence surrounded us leaving a perfect hole in the middle of the building that let rays of sunshine in so bright I knew I would never see again. Two nearly transparent silhouettes that of a man and a child floated away. I felt a sense of gratitude, farewell and peace.
I could never share this story with anyone else. For me, it will remain forever silent within my heart. For the rest of the world, what happened the morning of September 19, 1985, was a devastating earthquake that destroyed thousands of lives and buildings in downtown Mexico City, but somehow I mysteriously was left unharmed.