Gael was ready. He had been waiting all month for this night. The party, he thought to himself. It was a Halloween party. He looked into the mirror and forced a smiled. Just a few weeks earlier he and his long time girl friend Vida had broken off the relationship. It was her decision, and he was crushed. This night would be a great opportunity to finally get out of his depression and maybe, just maybe he would enjoy himself and get Vida out of his mind. His friends constantly texted and called him until they finally convinced him. He sighed and continued putting on his face paint. A few days from now would be Dia De Los Muertos, and in honor of the holiday and the tradition of his famila, he was going to be a muerto- a dead man-tonight. His face resembled a real skull. He had many years of practice transforming into one of the dead, so he wanted it perfect. And it was.
Later that evening, Gael found he was actually having a good time. He was smiling and talking. Everyone loved his make-up and outfit. The intricacies, outlines, the arte on his face, everything was brilliant. Vida who? He kept repeating. He even won a best costume contest. He was glad he came. Then the night became even better as he noticed from across the room a beautiful girl eyeing him. She had a matching costume. A muerta. Dead woman. He was smitten. Gael waved and walked over to her.
“Hey. I’m Gael. Uh, Gael Ortiz. Great party, right?”
“It really is! That make-up is perfect. It looks so real!” she said to him smiling.
“How cool is it that we’re both dressed as muertos? Yours is…I mean you should’ve won the contest!” he smirked. He stared at the intricate work on her face. “It’s really something…and that dress! Authentic would be selling you short!”
She laughed and stared into his eyes. “Thank you! Oh, I’m Araceli Santa Anna! Nice to meet you!” she shouted over the noise.
He looked at her beautiful black hair and in it was an even more stunning blood red rose.
“Hey, Araceli, you…you wanna go outside to…talk? It’s-“
“Loud?” she interuppted, laughing. “Let’s.”
Gael allowed her to go in front of him and they found a quiet spot in the back porch.
“So, Araceli. I know it’s probably the make-up but…I don’t recognize you. Where you from?” Relax Gael, he thought to himself. “I mean…your name is beautiful.” Gael put his hand to his neck.
She smiled and put her head down, the make-up hiding her flushed cheeks.
“Thank you, Gael. It’s so beautiful out here isn’t it?” she said ignoring Gaels question.
He didn’t care. It didn’t matter where she was from. It only mattered that he had met her, tonight.
“It is, Araceli. Your dress is beautiful.” He walked closer to her and looked into her eyes. She turned away.
“My mother made it a long time ago.”
“A long time-“ he began to ask.
“I mean, well she made it for me a long time ago and…now I fit into it.”
“Oh,” he whispered.
“My family will be here visiting for Dia de los muertos. Hey!” she yelled chain the subject. “It’s Halloween! Let’s go to the cemetary!”
He looked puzzled and realized that yes, it was Halloween.
“Cool. A couple of muertos prowling in the night!” he shouted.
“It’ll be una noche de los muertos!” she smiled back.
“De veras!*” he nodded.
They walked hand in hand a few blocks, passng trick-or-treaters young and old. They were met with oohs and ahhs and thumbs up. They seemed to be a perfect match, especially this night. For the first time in a long time, Gael was happy. Vida had indeed left his mind.
They arrived at the gates of the cemetary and looked at each other.
“It’s something isn’t it?” he asked.
“What, the cemetary? Or…”
“Well, yes, but everything. Halloween, dia de los muertos. Everything.”
“Definitely, Gael,” she whispered, squeezing his hand. “Hey!” she yelled suddenly. “Hide-and-go-seek!” she shouted as she ran away from him.
He was surprised and slightly hesistant but gathered the courage. Why ruin this night? He asked himself.
He let her get a small headstart and covered his eyes.
Then he felt a drop on his hand. And another. And another. Then a lot.
It started to rain.
“Aw, man. Araceli!” he shouted. The night was now darker because of the rain. His heart started beating faster and faster as he searched for her. He rubbed his eyes as his make-up started to melt. He couldn’t see that well through the paint and rain and tripped over a headstone.
“Dammit,” he grunted. “Araceli!” he yelled frantic now. Then he heard footsteps sloshing in the rain coming closer and closer.
“Hey!” It was Araceli.
Gael sighed a sigh of relief.
“The rain made it even better don’t you think? You couldn’t find me!” Araceli was overjoyed, her excitement showing in every word.
“If you say so.” He started getting up and noticed the tombstone in front of him. He frowned but laughed all at once.
“Look at that!” he shouted. “The name on this marker says Araceli. I can’t read the last name. Here, come help me clean it off.” He hadn’t looked up at her until then.
His mouth dropped and he jumped up, backing away slowly.
“Gael? What’s wrong?”
“You’re make up!” he screamed. His face was pale through th streaks of make-up. “You’re make-up. It didn’t come off!”
Araceli put her head down.
“Of course not. It’s…it’s not…it’s not make-up,” she said sounding sad and ashamed now.
Gael started shaking and couldn’t speak.
She stepped towards him and her eyes caught the moonlight.
Araceli became blurry as Gael fainted and fell in the mud.
A few moments later, he awoke with Araceli kneeling over him.
“What are you?”
“I’m dead,” she said softly. I’m dead, Gael. Muerta.”
His eyes shot open and he slowly turned his head towards the gravestone, now washed clean. It read:
Here Lies Araceli Catrina Santa Anna. Beloved Daughter and Sister
“Una Vida Corta Pero Hermosa.**”
Gael gulped and in his stupor whispered these words,” “Primera Vida y ahora…la muerta***.”
*truly or, for real
**A short but beautiful life
*** First Vida(life)…now, death.
UnaNoche Con Los Muertos. A Night With The Dead. Happy Days.