This month we feature up-and-coming local writer Alejandro Alafro, and his story “Tornadoes”
You can call him Javier. My best friend always wanted to be called that—especially after seeing a cartoon where the main character shared that name. When you have a best friend you expect that they’ll be the first one to say hi once you get out of school. Someone who you can share your problems with. Someone who after they leave, you realize you are alone.
A day before meeting him, I watched an engaging documentary. There are many films about tornadoes, and this was one such film—but it left me so impressed that I wanted to see one. The next day at school was gym class; at the appointed time I walked outside to the field where we met. As we did jumping jacks, the wind swept through and turned the dirt we were kicking up into a dust devil. Drawing on the documentary of the previous day, I knew that I was seeing a tornado. My classmates scattered, abandoning me to die as the tornado rose past the height of the school.
Trapped in the center of the storm, I screamed like a crazy man. I tried to flee, but found myself unable. I ran in the exact trajectory of the tornado. Seeking safety, I moved towards the small patch of grass, but the tornado roared on in my direction. Javier appeared and pulled me out. As I stood up I looked at him, and him at me, for the first time. He saved my life—although he just pulled me out of a dust devil.
Looking back, I find it hard to believe that a mute like Javier would be brave enough to risk his life to save a stranger. The overcritical nature of youth saddens me—my peers sought out and attacked any defect. Javier’s muteness drew their malice, but he became my best friend—we’d run around and joke from one part of the schoolyard to another.
One day we raced to see who could get to the top of the steps fastest. I wanted to win and sprinted. Watching my feet and not in front of me, I ran into the biggest bully at school. I stood up and was scared, and felt his first punch hit me in the head. Javier pulled a pear out of his backpack and threw it at the bully. The pear connected, giving me enough time to run down the stairs and for Javier to escape down the railing. We ran without direction, and in a moment there were ten chasing after us. Finally, they trapped us in the corner of the field where the tornado first brought us together. I never received a worse beating.
After they left we looked at each other. Javier took some paper out of his bag and wrote “I won.” I started to laugh, and we continued laughing as we saw our dirty beaten faces. I didn’t mind the bruises because everything happens for a reason. Javier’s real name is Ildar Aldrair and he died May 1st, 2010 from throat cancer. For being mute they called him “failure”, “stupid” and “useless”—but I know that none of that is true because he walked through tornadoes and saved my life.