This is an excerpt from a story I’m currently working on, unrelated to my previous fantasy work. It’s the first story I’ll have done which takes place in Buenos Aires, where I’ve been living since September. The setting is completely real, and I’ve tried to describe it as well as possible based on my perception of the place, a large cemetery in the Recoleta barrio of Buenos Aires. The story does not have a final name, so for now I will call it ‘Cristobal and the Cemetery’.
Cristobal and the Cemetery
In Buenos Aires, sleeping in an old broken tomb is safer than sleeping on the sidewalk. The dead never give grief to the homeless, but the same cannot be said of the living. This was a lesson Cristobal knew very well. He’d become homeless when he was twenty-five years old, in the economic crisis of 2001. He’d been on his way to a promising career as a tango instructor, a bold and handsome young man who loved the best wines and drew the loveliest women, until the crisis. Now, he spent his days walking through the busiest barrios, as barefoot as a mendicant, a dirty beggar. At night he slept in the cemetery in Recoleta.
Tonight was a hot summer night in January, and the moon was full overhead as Cristobal climbed the wall surrounding the cemetery. From the outside, the spires and statues on the mausoleums gave the impression that the necropolis was a city within the city, cut off from the land of the living by a great concrete wall. Cristobal was an unlawful immigrant into the land of the dead. There were no living souls around to hear him drop onto the tiled ground. As always, he crossed himself the moment he was inside.
Cristobal walked along the paths between the dead houses. He passed towering edifices covered in Masonic symbols, brick tombs crumbling from centuries of wind and rain, and the small modest structures whose doors were broken glass panes through which Cristobal could see the exposed wooden caskets inside. He used one of these small tombs as his bedroom, the tomb of a man called José de Oromi. When he reached the tomb, he carefully ducked through the broken door and stepped into the small space. He had several possessions here: a piece of cast-away rug to sleep on, some plastic bags, old Styrofoam cups, cracked plastic trays from restaurants. The casket of José de Oromi rested on a stone slab below a shelf which bore statues of Jesus and Mary. Cristobal smoothed out his piece of rug and sat down. From his coat he drew out a bottle of wine, bought at a kiosco for fifteen pesos. It was the cheapest alcohol Buenos Aires had to offer. Cristobal untwisted the metal lid. Then, leaning against the old wooden casket, he praised José de Oromi for his hospitality, and drank.