Stories For Liberation: For Me The World Stopped

(Painting/"For Me The World Stopped"/Gwynne Duncan)

When I was 7 years old, I was a very happy and smiley little girl. I liked to play a lot, especially when my two older cousins would come over to my house to visit. One day, I remember it was summer, the breeze felt fresh, and you could hear the ocean’s waves crashing on the shore. One of my cousins came to visit. His name was Vladimir, and he was 16. We started to play and laugh nonstop. I liked playing with him because he was like the brother I never had, and I admired him.

A month after this visit, on January 27, 2010, my mom received a call. We were having lunch at the time, and as soon as my mom answered, her face got serious and her eyes filled with tears. I only looked at her attentively and scared. I only hoped that it wasn’t anything bad. When my mom finished the call, she began to cry with all her strength, and I also started to cry from seeing her suffering. I asked her what was happening. Why was she crying? What was going on?

She couldn’t speak because the tears wouldn’t let her. About a half-hour passed until my mom could say something to me: “They killed Vladimir.”

When I heard this, for me the world stopped, and I was paralyzed. I began to cry more and more and screamed, “Why has this happened?!” I wanted it all to be a lie, for it all to be a nightmare, and I wanted to wake up. I asked my mom if it was a lie and she said, “No, darling, it’s all real.”

When I heard this I cried more than before because I couldn’t believe it. Time passed, and I was calmer, but I kept thinking about everything we’d been through together, when we’d play, when we’d laugh, and the stories he told me. I was gone. I found myself in a world where none of this tragedy had occurred. I was in the past, and I wanted it to be my present.

Some time later, my mom said, “Get ready, change your clothes and shoes.”

I did just that, and then we left to wait for the bus. When we got on the bus, I sat by the window, put my forehead on the glass and just looked at the trees passing by. I was thinking that none of this had happened. I heard my mom talking to me, but didn’t pay her attention. And then, I felt someone taking my hand. I turned to look and it was my mom telling me we had to get off the bus.

We took another bus and then arrived at Conchagua, where my grandma lives. She was going to lead my cousin’s funeral. I went inside the house and saw the coffin in the center. I turned my gaze and saw my grandma, my aunt, my cousin’s mom, and my mom approaching them. They were all crying and I was, too.

I wanted to see my cousin, but they didn’t let me because he wasn’t dressed yet. They told me to leave, since the funeral home would proceed with curing the body and dressing him. I left and sat down. I saw my other cousins, and they approached me. I started to cry more and more. They were also crying and tried to calm me down. Later, I heard the church bells ring, announcing someone had died.

Not many minutes had passed when people started arriving and asking what had happened. They were told, “They killed Victoria’s grandson, Vladimir.”

People began discussing and talking about what they were told. They were saying, “Why’d they kill him? He was such a good boy and didn’t do anything to anyone.” In turn, I only listened and analyzed, but never came to a conclusion. I sat and observed the city surrounded by the sea, with birds in the sky and beautiful clouds crossing the sky.

My grandma lived on the high plane of Conchagua surrounded by trees. I liked to go often with her because in that place I found peace and tranquility. But that day, I only found sadness, pain, and bad vibes. I felt absent from life at that moment, destroyed because of everything happening. Hours later, many people had already arrived. I went inside the house and could finally see my cousin.

I looked at him attentively, and with tears in my eyes, saw that his face was different from what I knew. I walked away and approached my mom to ask, “Mom, how did my cousin die?”

She just looked at me with a great sadness in her eyes.

“They shot him many times and also beat him a lot with bats,” she said between tears.

I only looked down and left. Outside, they were giving out coffee and bread to everyone. I took one because I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning. I sat and saw people talking and my aunts crying quietly as they helped to hand things out.

The sky was pretty, but the air felt heavy. That night lasted an eternity for me. The next morning, I woke up with swollen eyes from having cried so much. I ate breakfast, went to shower, and changed clothes because the burial was in the afternoon.

It all happened so fast. We were approaching the cemetery when we saw something suspicious. We were being followed by some same strange men, but we didn’t pay much attention since there were so many people. We entered the cemetery and headed to where the burial site was. We said our final goodbye and left. On our way out, those men were still there, still watching us, more so my aunt, the mother of my cousin, the one we had just buried.