The Last Time
The last time Pierre saw his Tio Ignacio (his uncle), it was a cloudy September Friday filled with warm air. It was about a fifty-fifty chance it was going to rain. It didn’t matter, seeing as Pierre was only visiting his Tio’s tiny apartment. There was no backyard or anything that rain could touch or least make things go into a slippery situation. He had just finished another day at work as a substitute high school teacher where it had been a long day. His Tio had asked him to pop in straight after work. It wasn’t unusual for Pierre to go over to his Tio’s apartment, but it seemed quite urgent from the message he had received earlier that day.
Pierre’s Tio lived in a complex of apartments made of old brick, unlike the other apartments around him that seemed to be rebuilt to suit the needs of the modern world. It was always odd to Pierre that his Tio didn’t move away to a fancier home, since the complex was quite old and always seemed to smell like it was about to rain. That smell of dirt being sprayed by the first drops of rain, that seemed to be everywhere, even inside the apartment. In fact, this topic would always come up in conversation with Tio saying “This place reminds me of home and I wouldn’t want to leave”
Yet no matter the faults of the complex, Pierre always felt at home in that apartment. Something about it always made him feel at peace. Whether it be the variety of clocks that ticked in unison, the variety old photos of family and Pablo Neruda, or the collection of Salvador Dali posters that were collected throughout the years.
Pierre knocked on the door “Hello?”
“Come in Pedro Mio” Roughly translated as My Pierre or My Peter in Spanish. It was a term of endearment that his Tio had used for a long time and it was something that made Pierre turn red of embarrassment quite regularly.
“The door is open” called out Tio
Pierre opened the door to find his Tio in the kitchen filling two cups with water to make tea. This was a basic custom between Pierre and his Tio. According to his Tio, this was something that his Tio’s did in Chile to bring up topics for conversations. Though sometimes, it was just about having a nice warm cup of tea.
However, there was something serious in Tio’s face that made Pierre ask “Que paso? What’s the matter?”
“Why?” Tio replied
“Because look like you been given some bad news, like…” It then dawned on Pierre. He remembered that his Tio had to go for some tests the previous week. He had been sick for a while with a combination of headaches and dizziness, but the doctors were not sure exactly what was wrong with him.
“Let’s sit out in the Veranda. Yes?” Pierre followed Tio towards the Veranda, unsure what to expect.
It was strange, Tio usually responded to everything that Pierre asked in a most direct and to the point manner. In other words, something was wrong.
Tio directed Pierre to a set of outdoor chairs and a table out on the covered Veranda. It was as close to being outside without the suffering the possible repercussions of the rain. So evenit did rain, the pair could stay out and enjoy their tea whilst dealing with the rain.
Tio sat on the seat on the left-hand side of the table, whilst admiring the mountain view. Pierre sat on the right, hoping that his Tio would tell him of what was going on.
There was a brief silence they shared, whilst sipping on their tea. Tio took a deep breath as if he was about to sing and turned to Pierre “It won’t be long now”
“Not long for what?” Replied Pierre, secretly scared to know what Tio meant.
“The rain Pedro Mio”
It wasn’t exactly what Pierre thought what Tio would say, but Tio was sort of on the right track as there were indeed some rumblings in the grey sky. Yet Pierre thought to there was more to it than just the rain.
“What’s going on Tio?” Pierre asked calmly.
Tio then took another sip of tea, placed his cup back on the table and turned to Pierre with a face filled with emotions.
“It’s not too long now for me. I umm…” Tio then took a deep breath as he didn’t want to mumble his own words or, so it seemed from Pierre’s point of view. He could tell from Tio’s sad face that something big was coming. It was as if all hope disappeared.
Pierre figured almost immediately what his Tio Ignacio was about to say, but didn’t want it to be true.
“I’m dying” Tio Ignacio said in a devastated voice. “Dr Brown found out what has been causing my headaches and all my troubles. At first, she thought it was my blood pressure as it’s not been too good, but then the doctor suggested I have a MRI as the headaches were more painful. She found that I... I have a brain tumour”
“I... umm...I…” Pierre was lost for words. His heart sunk like lead by the news. It was if someone told him a million times over that Santa Claus was not a real person. He then saw that Tio was just as distressed by the situation and had burst into tears.
Pierre then rushed to give his Tio a big hug as they both started to cry in despair. It wasn’t a loud cry that they shared, but it was a very painful one at the very least.
Pierre then let go of his Tio so that they could have some breathing space.
“There must be something that can be done. Can’t they operate on it?” Asked Pierre while trying to hold it together, but then how is someone meant to compose themselves after hearing such bad and life changing news.
“No. The tumour is inoperable. It can’t be taken out because of where it is.”
“But then, what are you going to do, and have you told everyone else?” Pierre asked concerningly.
“There’s nothing to be done but wait. I’m telling everyone on Sunday”
“But how much time do you have I mean…”
“I have just enough time to make sure that everyone safe and that all the things are sorted, but like I said there is nothing to be done”
What else could be done? If nothing else can be done, then why am I here? These were the questions that Pierre had in his head whilst trying to deal with everything that was just said to him. It wasn’t like he had a miracle cure for his Tio in his pocket, but he didn’t know what to do or think. He held it together as much as he could. Could you even imagine being told such devastating news?
They hugged for quite a long time for what seemed like an hour. Both shared the sadness in the news. Pierre more so, because he relied on his Tio for a lot of guidance and advice on life. Ever since he could remember, his Tio was always reliable. It was hard for him to imagine for Tio not to around and unfortunately it was going to get more real for him to handle.
There was another moment of shared moment of silence, where all the tears were starting to dry up, but neither Pierre or Tio were able to say a word to each other.
“So...so…”, Pierre contemplated
“So, is that all you wanted to share?” Pierre asked, though he thought it sounded like something he shouldn’t have said.
Tio understood what Pierre was trying to say, regardless of what had been said.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t know…”
“It’s ok Pedro. It’s ok” reassured Tio. “But now that you are talking about sharing, there are a couple of things I wanted to give you, but they’re not just for you. Wait here and finish your tea”
The tea was almost cold, given that Pierre was trying to console and be there for his Tio, so it was nearly forgotten about. Pierre finished his cup of cold tea while being both eager and scared of what his Tio was about to bring him. “I hope it’s not a will” he thought.
When it came to things relating to the issue of death, Pierre always felt uneasy. Even if it wasn’t about him. He just didn’t like things being so final, which made things worse when Tio came back with what looked like a metal shoe box.
“What is this?”
“This is all of me” Tio replied. Pierre didn’t know what to think at first. “You don’t understand Pedro”
“I’m trying to, but I’m hoping that I don’t”
Tio to reassure Pierre “it’s all me inside. Everything about me and everything you need to know.”
Pierre took the box and tried to open it, but before he could do anything, Tio stopped him.
“Wait. It’s not for now”
“Not for now?”
“No. Not until I’m gone. You must not open this until I’m gone”
“Why?” Pierre thought aloud.
“Because I want you to have something to remind you of me. All of me. So, this is all of me”
“Can you at least tell me what is in there?”
“No. You will find out for yourself. But in the meantime, I have something else for you”
What else could there be, thought Pierre to himself. Tio presented an envelope with no writing. Pierre wanted to open it but then looked at Tio before he could open it.
“It’s ok. You can open that, just not the box”
He opened the envelope to reveal a piece of folded paper. Curious about what it could be about, Pierre carefully unfolded the piece of paper.
The paper was a print out from a bank, which was odd for Pierre to see. He looked closed at the printout and could see that it was for a transaction. It read,
TRANSFER OF FUNDS
To: Pierre M Louis
It took a while for Pierre to thoroughly read through all the print out. He read it carefully three times. He then paused out, perhaps out of shock or surprise. “This can’t be real” he thought to himself. “Tio...is this actually...for me”
“Yes. This is all for you”
“But...how...why...that’s a lot of money” said Pierre nervously.
“Well let me answer your first question. As you know I’m always trying to save money here and there. This is how much I’ve saved, well some of it at least”
Pierre look at his Tio in a complete state of confusion and surprise. His Tio was very much a saver of money and always looking for a way to save it, but never would Pierre have thought he was saving that much money.
“As for why, well I wanted to give you something that you could use. Something to help with getting on top of things. I wanted to give this to you now before anything happens to me”
Pierre was left in a shock. He didn’t know whether to hug Tio again as a thank you or cry because of the reason behind the money. Don’t get him wrong, he really needed the money to set him up or rather to get him back on track, but it really made things real. He knew that this was perhaps the last big gift that his Tio would ever give him. He started to panic
“Pedro, it’s ok”
Tio hugged Pierre to try and calm him down. “It’s ok Pedro. You don’t need to say anything. I know this is not what you were expecting, but I am dying. It was going to happen eventually.” This was probably a bad way of calming Pierre down or any person really, but it was that logic that calmed him.
It started to rain when Tio said “Come on and smell the Petrichor Pedro Mio”
“It’s the smell of fresh rain. The smell of life being born...I’m going to miss that smell”.
It was then that Pierre remembered “Tio, you lost your sense of smell at 15. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh...I completely forgot about that”, laughed Tio.
The pair stood out in the balcony, enjoying the sound of the rain for about half an hour. Pierre mostly looked at his Tio’s face who was entranced by the rain, by the way it was just hit the world around. There was a sense of happiness and peace on Tio’s face, which Pierre did not understand. “Was Tio really prepared for everything that he could be happy” he contemplated to himself. If Tio was ready, perhaps he should be too.
The rain started to subside and once again there was silence between the two relatives. What more could be said that hadn’t already been said? It was going to be awkward until someone said something. Pierre then checked the time on his watch and was nearly six o’clock
“Tio, I just remembered I have a party to go to and I have to get home to change”.
There was a smile on Tio’s face “Go Pedro Mio. Have fun. I might be dying, but you have the rest of your life to look forward to”
“Are you…” Pierre was going to say if Tio was going to be ok, but then he thought that it didn’t make sense. How was Tio ever going to be ok?
“I will be fine for now. I will see you on Sunday”
Pierre nodded as he headed towards the door.
“Don’t forget the box Pedro and remember, not until I’m gone”
Pierre gave his Tio a big hug. He didn’t want to let him go, but he had to get home whilst the rain had stopped. “I will see you on Sunday Tio”
“Adios Pedro Mio. I will see you on Sunday”
Pierre carried the small metal box to his car. He kept thinking about what could possibly be in the box that he couldn’t open. “Not until I’m gone” Pierre heard in his head. No matter what was in there it had the same smell of rain as if it were fresh from the rain. He was still quite unsure whether he was doing the right thing by leaving Tio, but he knew he would see his Tio on Sunday...or so he thought.
As soon as Pierre got home he made sure to put the box in a safe place. The metal box would have stayed closed and hidden away in Pierre’s room where no one else could find it and where he couldn’t open it. He would then change his clothes, head out and party the night away with his friends.
Unfortunately for Pierre, it wouldn’t be too long until that box would need to be open. Plans for Sunday weren’t going to happen for either of them.
On the following Saturday night, Tio invited his neighbour Mrs. Morello for a coffee as she was around the same age as Tio and often felt lonely during the weekends. It was about seven o’clock at night that Tio had experienced a quick sharp headache. The next thing Mrs. Morello knew was that Tio collapsed on the floor and bleeding. The ambulance was called and Tio was rushed to hospital. He pronounced dead on arrival. He was 70 years old.
Time to Open The Box
Wednesday morning 10 o’clock…
“Death comes to all of us in the end, but we are part of something much bigger at play” This was the kind of words been uttered by the priest at Pierre’s Tio’s funeral. It wasn’t exactly the most uplifting thing to be said. Nor did it grant as much comfort to those in mourning. Yet mourners there were many. There were most of the family, including Pierre’s mum and aunt who were his Tio’s sisters and had sat very close to each other and holding hands in sadness. There were friends of Tio’s, some Pierre knew from passing conversations. Others not so much or had only heard about from his Tio. Yet the funeral was filled with everyone who had known Tio for many years.
Either way it was a full house filled with nothing more than the people that Tio had the pleasure of being part of their lives.
Somehow for Pierre it all felt wrong. For instance, for a funeral it was very sunny and warm. The funeral in general was something that Tio wouldn’t have wanted or so Pierre thought. It was all too serious for Pierre to comprehend. Though to be honest, it still didn’t feel real to Pierre. None of what was going on felt real.
It was like as if it were part of one elaborate dream, telling him that it was important or showing him some life lesson that needed to be learned slowly. “Wake up” he muttered to himself.
Pierre even pinched himself a little and then a lot thinking that he would wake up and everything would be alright.
“Wake up” he muttered again.
His heart began to beat faster and faster. It was as if he had a sudden realisation that it was not a dream and that terrified him. He started to feel out of breath like everything started to close in on him.
He could feel people around him, staring at him like he was a spectacle. Pierre could barely hold on it any further. His feelings felt like they were all going to explode within the confines of the funeral home. He needed to get out and fast before it all went haywire.
“I’M SORRY” he yelled out accidentally as he popped out of his seat. Without realising it he had said it out loud. This made everyone turn towards him and stair in his direction. He could feel everyone’s eyes on him as if they were to say “You’re at funeral. Your feelings don’t count” or so it felt like in Pierre’s head. He then rushed out of the funeral home in the same time it took to yell “I’m sorry”. He was glad to get some air, but he needed to get out of the area before he made himself a further spectacle than necessary.
As Pierre left the funeral home, he accidentally bumped into someone. A woman not as old as the rest of the family. She seemed to look familiar and had flowing brown hair, but Pierre couldn’t put his finger on the familiarity. He didn't want to stay longer than he wanted to, so he forgot about her and left.
Pierre headed towards his car, trying to keep it together by taking some deep breathes. As he was about to open the car door, his phone vibrated. It was a message from his dad,
DAD: Hey. You okay? Come back inside. We all need to be here.
Pierre didn’t want to go back in there. If he did go back, he wouldn’t be able to keep it together. He felt he needed to be strong as that’s what was generally expected from all males in his family. He needed to get away and fast. Pierre responded.
Dad, I can’t go back in there. I just can’t. If I go back, it’s going to happen again. I need to go home. I’ll meet everyone later.
He was half expecting his dad to come out and get him or start an argument of some sorts. He didn’t get in the car just in case. His phone vibrated with another message from his dad.
DAD: OK. We will leave you alone. Just message me when you’re ready.
That was a little unexpected for Pierre. He was sure his dad had more to say. Perhaps he didn’t want to yell at Pierre at a funeral. Perhaps he didn’t want to embarrass Pierre as much as he already felt at that point. No matter the reason, Pierre used the opportunity to get away from everything and from everyone. He got into the driver’s seat and drove away from the funeral home.
Within 10 minutes he was home and only slightly calmer than at the funeral. He didn’t say a word. His neighbours nodded at Pierre as if they were saying “I hope that you’re ok”. He nodded back in reply, but still not saying a word. He unlocked the front door, entered his house and closed to door accordingly. He then walked to his room making sure his windows were all shut.
Pierre sat on his bed, still taking deep breathes so he could collect himself. He didn’t know what he should do next. “Should I have a cup of tea? “he asked himself.
“I should make tea. Yes” he told himself. It made sense to him. Usually after a cup of tea, he knew what to do next. It was the basic way for him to process in stressful situations. It was also a way he managed his anxiety disorder. By having a cup of tea, he could organise his thoughts logically.
He went to the kitchen, filled the kettle with water and turned it on. He then picked out his favourite Star Wars mug with Darth Vader all over it. Pierre then picked his favourite tea and placed the teabag into the cup. As he went to get the sugar jar from the top cupboard, he heard a loud BAAANG. It made him jump out of fright.
He didn’t know where the noise could have come from. Pierre checked the living room, but nothing seemed to be out of place. He also checked the bathroom, but still nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps he was imagining things. It would have been excusable given the situation of his Tio’s death. He decided to just forget about it and thought that is was probably nothing.
The kettle stopped boiling so he decided to make his tea. He placed two teaspoons of brown sugar into the mug, poured the boiling water into the mug so it would fill just over half the mug. Pierre then went to the fridge and open it to get the full cream milk. He poured the milk into the mug and filled it until the mug was almost full. He put everything else away in the kitchen, so the tea could cool down just a little.
Pierre then headed back to his room with the intention of having his tea and then perhaps watch some tv to get his mind to focus. When he got to his room, Pierre found that something was on the floor. He turned the light on and realised what exactly was on the floor. It was the metal shoe box that his Tio gave him the week before.
He placed his mug on the bedside table while also keeping an eye on the box. It was slightly open with an envelope sticking out.
“No” Pierre said softly
“No. Not yet”, he said while shaking his head.
It then dawned on him “He did say...not until he’s gone”. He was right, his Tio did say that the box should be open when he was gone.
Pierre contemplated for a bit, he felt very uneasy about the box being on the floor that didn’t want to touch. He tried to think logically.
“Not yet. Tea first. Yes, Tea first”
Pierre sat on his bed and started sipping his tea. He took his time to drink the tea from his Star Wars mug. With each sip, he would stare at the metal box. He kept thinking what could be in the box. He didn’t want to think about it too much, but he couldn’t help it. Pierre was always over thinking every situation, especially when his anxiety came into play.
This was especially true about the metal box that Tio had left him. For all he knew, it could have been a will that only Pierre was trusted with. Perhaps it was some sort of list of revenge that Tio wanted Pierre to take care of. Maybe there was a treasure map. So many ideas came into his head and not all of them logical.
Pierre was getting to his last sip of tea, which meant that a decision had to be made as soon as this was done. He placed his cup on the bedside table while continuing to stare at the box. He continued to stare at the box for what seemed like an eternity while contemplating every decision that could be made. He then turned to a photo of his Tio he had on the bedside table. It was taken on Tio’s birthday where he had the biggest smile Pierre had ever seen.
Pierre turned to the picture and said “If I open this box, will this mean that you are truly gone? If so I don’t want it to be” he then began to get angry and frustrated “Tell me. Tell me now Tio”. Out of anger he threw the framed photo towards the metal box. Unknowingly, by hitting the photo at the box, it caused the box to fully open.
As Pierre tried to control himself, he was left with a blank look on his face. He could clearly see the contents of the box, but wasn’t sure what to do with them.
He picked up the box end placed it on his bed. In the box, there were a few different envelopes that seemed to be grouped with elastic bands and labelled in black ink. There were also a number of photos, most of them in black and white. Finally, there was a USB thumb drive labelled “Viva Chile”. There were so many items, it was hardly understood what or where Pierre needed to start.
Pierre took out all these items and placed them on the bed. He carefully made sure that he didn’t miss anything, so he could go through each of them. Not knowing where to begin he saw that there were a group of six letters, each labelled “Pedro Mio”, which meant that these letters were for him. After a careful examination of the envelopes, he noticed that each of them were numbered from one to six.
There was something else about them. They had that smell. The very same smell of rain. He put them close to his face and smelled them. It was indeed the very same smell. “Petrichor” he said to himself. It was almost as if his Tio’s was in the room or that he was in the apartment.
Pierre sat still on his bed and thought about these envelopes. He wasn’t sure whether to open them or to just leave things as they were. Everything looked so carefully organised, it was a shame to open them or so Pierre thought.
He took out the first envelope labelled “Pedro Mio”, away from the other envelopes that were grouped with the elastic band. He opened the envelope very carefully. Inside there was a piece of paper that was neatly folded. Pierre too the piece of paper out and unfolded it. It was a letter. Neatly typed up and all clearly in English. It read,
July 20th, 2017
If you are reading this, then it means that I am unfortunately no longer living on this earth. It also means that I have given you the box or by some weird coincidence you were able to find it after I died. In any case, I have given you the chance to know all of me.
“He said that to me before he died” Pierre said aloud “he said that this was all of him”. Pierre continued to read the letter
The letters that I’ve labelled for you are for you to read and no one else. Each of these letters have stories that I want you to know. Stories that I’ve had translated into English because I know that you have trouble with some words in Castellano. Each of the letters must be read in order before you move onto the other envelopes and items.
I want you to carefully read these until you can understand me or at least understand parts of me that I’ve been able to write and translate. I hope that you will understand. Hopefully some of the photos will help guide through some of the stories that I’ve written for you.
With the rest of the items I want you to follow these instructions, exactly as they are written.
The envelope labelled “Para la Familia” must be read in front of all the family as this is my last will to them. Everything in the will must be carefully read so that you are able to move on the USB.
Finally, the last letter labelled “Ella” will need to get to the right person, but I will leave that to you to find out what I mean.
Please follow these instructions Pedro Mio. My life won’t depend on it, but it will give me peace of mind, wherever I might be. Hopefully it will give you something to think about as well.
I also wanted to say, being your Tio was one of the best things that I could have done for you and for me. I may not be able to hug you or tell you that everything will be well. I only hope that I can stay in your memory for a very long time. I wish you a very happy life Pedro Mio. Remember to smell for rain
Love your Tio
Pierre carefully read the first letter again and again until he understood what he was meant to do. He felt that he was partially right about the will, but wasn’t entirely sure why his Tio trusted him out of all the nieces and nephews that he had. His older cousins seemed a better choice to be entrusted with something as big as a will. At least that’s what Pierre thought anyway.
It took a while for Pierre to process everything. Not just the items, but the fact that his Tio had left him in charge to look after all the items from the box. There were so many questions that he had. Perhaps most of them could be answered by reading the other letters or “stories” as his Tio put it. Other questions may not be answered and could take years to answer or minutes depending on what Tio wrote.
Either way, it left Pierre a little scared of what he could possibly find in these letters. “What could he tell me that he couldn’t the family?” he thought aloud, “What could I possibly need to understand?”. He kept thinking about the possibilities from reading the letters, whilst putting everything else away back in the metal box.
Pierre then closed the box and moved it to the right-hand side of his bed. He removed the rubber band from the group of envelopes that had his label. In a neat column, Pierre organised each letter according to their number. Picking up the 2nd letter, he noticed that it was a bigger than the first letter. “Perhaps it won’t be simple after all” he said to himself.
Pierre opened the envelope to reveal a set of pages, stapled and neatly folded. It was typed just like the first letter and very legible. Pierre began to read it.
The First Story
July 22nd, 2017
As you know I hardly talk about me in Chile, because of a lot of bad memories of important things that happened to me. But there were also memories that were not so bad. Sometimes we need the good and the bad to helpers know the difference. It was in Chile that I grew to have a number of different memories.
One of these memories that I want to share with you, is something that I find to be a great importance. It’s something I’ve not shared, Even with your auntie’s. That’s because the only know part of the story not all of it.
So, let me take you back, to a time where our family had owned a farm. This phone was a legacy. It was part of the way we live and breathe. I still have the so let me take you back, to a time where our family had owned a farm. This phone was a legacy. It was part of the way we live and breathe. I still have many memories of what it looks like. The farm had spread through many hectares of wheat, Grass and many different animals. I can still remember the freshness of the air, the sounds of typical farm life.
It was located south of the country, where most farms from my memory used to be. It was away the loud noises of the city and away from many people.
I wish that you were born sooner or that different circumstances could have let all of us kept the farm You would have loved it.
The farm felt like it stretched for an eternity, where it was as if nothing else mattered or could matter around me. I felt at peace on that farm, even if it was just used for the family to survive.
I wasn’t born to be a farmer like your abuelo (grandfather). I was born to enjoy the atmosphere of the farm without really enjoying most of the work. The work was mainly done by all the other older cousins and tios in the family. I spent most of my childhood days riding magnificent horses with your mum and aunties. All belonging to our family, but still what a way to grow up in a farm.
I rode my first horse at the age of six. He was a brown-haired stallion called “Rodrigo”. He was the most beautiful horse out of all of the nine horses that the family owned. In fact, Rodrigo is part of the story I’m about to tell you.
If you take a look at the pile of photos I have left you, you should be able to an old photo of me at 15, riding on Rodrigo.
Pierre put the letter down for a second and checked the photos for the exact image that his Tio described. It the third photo in the pile. He picked it up and noticed straight away at the age of the photo. The paper of the photo had aged somewhat, but not the image entirely. It was exactly how his Tio described the photo. It was indeed his Tio riding a horse, though the horse appeared to be blacker than brown. This was perhaps the fact that colour photography wasn’t a thing at the time.
Pierre then turned the photo around to reveal some old writing. It was surprisingly still legible given the age of the photo. It read “Rodrigo con migo”, which translated to mean Rodrigo. Underneath, the photo was dated “Junio 10, 1962”.
“Junio? Oh June. June 10th, 1962. He would have been fifteen” Pierre thought aloud with amazement.
There was something else that Pierre had also noticed in the photo itself. His Tio sort of looked like Pierre when he was fifteen. “That’s a little spooky” said Pierre scarily.