Aurelio the Temerarious

On a cold and rainy April morning, Aurelio Fernandez took the solemn decision to become a temerarious man.
This sudden judgment which meant a radical change from what had been his existence until that date was due to a woman. Although to be precise its actual cause was nothing more than her reflection.
Psychologists say that most phobias arise from traumatic experiences suffered by people during childhood. However, in Aurelio’s case neither he nor any of his relatives or few friends remembered him suffering any of these sorts of traumas. After all, since he was very little Aurelio had always been afraid of everything.
That omnipresent fear did not take too much time to affect his life. The incapacity for doing any action that implied some degree of risk, like riding a bicycle, skateboarding, jumping off a diving board or climbing on top of a roof isolated him; and from a very early stage placed him inside the group of the misfits, the alienated and the cowards.
As years passed, Aurelio’s fears became deeper and more paralyzing, and with the arrival of adolescence and its consequent hormonal changes, the terror of having to socialize with the opposite sex was added to his list of insecurities. Such ominous dread appeared during the few parties he managed to get himself invited to and led to a series of awkward encounters, uncomfortable silences and embarrassing rejections that turned him into a numb moving object, a piece of living furniture, a shy and insignificant boy who because of the unavoidability of time, grew up to become a feeble young man.
While the contact with females was making his former pusillanimous friends start overcoming their fears and adapting to the outside world, loneliness became the closest and eventually only real companion of Aurelio. His became a story of emotionless post-school afternoons and slow-paced weekends; filled with family dinners and extensive television watching. Despite the fact that a small fraction of his mates, those who saw the kindness, the intelligence and the hidden talent behind the wall of wrecked nerves, remained faithful to the bonds forged in their increasingly more remote and spineless childhoods; the turns that life takes, for those who decided to live it, inevitably began to drive them away from their frightened comrade.
After finishing high school Aurelio started university. Contrary to what he expected, this vast and more independent world did not bring with it any change. His fears remained intact and even, if possible, were increased, or at least attached more to his self, making him turn once again into the zero on the left he had always been. In this fashion, many days, many weeks and many months passed.
Having already cursed more than half of his career, while waiting for the beginning of a class he was shaken by a vision that forever altered his existence. Despite expecting a lesson on social studies, physical optics blended with a large dose of chemistry was what nature chose to teach him. Into the adjacent classroom entered a divine and luminous creature, a ravishing being that compiled in a female body all the meanings Aurelio had ever known of beauty, and whose image, thanks to the erratic bouncing of millions of light particles, cheated the concrete wall that separated it from the mesmerized eyes of its admirer, and reflected in one of the little rectangular windows that surrounded the entrance door of Aurelio’s classroom.
On that Tuesday in February, Aurelio’s pulsations rose up to a beat that his mind had previously never allowed. A faint but nevertheless alarming feeling of numbness took over his left arm while an electric shock ran through his spine and nested in his loins, generating that overly clichéd sensation of revolting butterflies, which actually felt more like a roaring yawn from an inner beast waking up after a millenary hibernation.
During the two-hour length of the class, not a single minute passed in which his gaze spent apart from the Plexiglas that reflected the one who since then would become the object of his idolatry.
The next week, Aurelio returned to the same classroom and sat on the same chair he had done seven days before; and for several minutes, which seemed like hours, waited for her arrival. As the minute hands of the clock hanging above the acrylic board shook ever closer to the beginning of the lesson, Aurelio’s right leg similarly began to shake and hit the wooden desk from below, causing a general nuisance in the students sitting beside him. When the teacher finally started the class his anxiety became uncertainty, an uncertainty that even made him doubt the very existence of the woman. During the previous days he had wandered endlessly around the whole campus looking for her, with no other result than a couple of blisters in his untrained delicate feet.
However, as Aurelio’s despair took a hold of his slender, weak frame; tears began to accumulate in his swollen green eyes. But a sudden noise coming from the adjacent classroom would launch him from his current hole in the ground to an old familiar level, high above the stratosphere. As if in a holy apparition, the window by the door once again unveiled the image of his beloved; who, after apologizing for her late arrival, sat on the same desk she had the week before.
Since then, the same routine repeated every Tuesday. He located himself at the same place and so did she, and for a couple of hours the anxious young man’s thoughts elevated him to a distant world, a world in which he was happy, happy by her side. As soon as the class ended, he was pulled downwards to his overwhelming world of imagined fears. The obsession for her presence made him count the minutes that remained until his next encounter with the window.
The fact that she kept sitting in the same spot week after week, led Aurelio to believe that the reflection worked in the same way next door, and therefore she was also contemplating him. Even, in more than one occasion he had the impression, almost the certainty, that their eyes met, as strange as this may sound when they both faced the same direction. However, such suspicion could never be confirmed for every time he intended to go to meet her, like he who stares directly at the sun, was not able to maintain the gaze for more than a split of a second, to later turn his head down and give an involuntary bow to the gutlessness that had continuously dictated his every action.
Only then Aurelio became aware that, instead of being an intrinsic and unavoidable component of his personality, fear was an enemy he needed to face. A curse he had cast on himself so long ago it had completely furthered him away from the real notion of happiness. A happiness that he had always believed to be a self centred desire for a level of complacency, peace of mind and comfort. But now he knew that real joy was not to be found within his private lethargic universe. It was waiting for him beside the woman with whose reflection he had fallen in love. The problem was, he had no idea how to get there.
After countless hours of deep reflection, that rainy April morning finally came, bringing with it an epiphany. He pledged to cut from the root the fearful past of Aurelio Fernandez and rebirth as a new person, one with enough courage to win the love of the woman in the window.
At first Aurelio thought about moving slowly and steadily towards temerity, but soon changed his mind, as he realized that just as fate had brought her to his life in such a swift way, it could also take her away in the same fashion. Besides, as contradictory as it may seem bearing in mind his chronic cowardice, Aurelio was a strong believer in the effectiveness of shock therapy.
Therefore, he gathered his few close friends and asked them about what they thought would be the best action to drive his fears away, and after comparing their answers with his own thoughts, he decided to leap from an airplane.
Ever since he watched a World War II movie in which a platoon of soldiers threw themselves down into the deepest end of enemy lines, Aurelio had felt great admiration towards paratroopers. This fascination with such intrepid characters, which represented everything he could not be, became a recurrent childhood role-play. Entire afternoons would be spent simulating these war heroes while playing in his bedroom with his plastic toy soldiers. Despite having been diluted with the passing of time and the confirmation of his fears, this feeling remained latent in his interior, in the same place which lay rest all those other emotions that were violently liberated that day when he first saw her reflection in the window.
The ubiquitous rush that had taken control of Aurelio’s actions was the pinnacle cause for such little passage of time between the decision of jumping and its consummation. April still hadn’t come to end, when he found himself standing by the hatch of the plane at a distance of only three thousand meters in vertical from the end of his nervous past.
The first jump a skydiver makes is usually done tied to an instructor, who is the one in charge of pulling the string and handling the landing. But Aurelio did not want his to be that way. He considered that not being the principal actor in his baptize of valor would denigrate the essence of the whole thing. Besides, his phobia and prejudice-packed personality did not go along with the idea of having another man attached to his back.
That was how, against the better judgment and advice of the friends he had invited to witness his rebirth; and after convincing the sky diving academy by doubling the amount they used to charge for a jump, Aurelio finally managed to face in solitude the vast void that separated him from that terribly immense world, which from the point he was standing looked so dreadfully small.
At first, Aurelio had the firm intention of not letting anything different than his own will intervene during the leap. But at last he accepted that his parachute would be tied up to the plane, so if after some meters of fall it hadn’t been triggered, the rope that joined it to the plane would also open it. Exactly as those of the heroes in that particular war movie he so dearly remembered from his childhood, which was timely brought to mention by one of his oldest friends, who had enough reasons to think that his mate’s nerves could betray him in this crucial moment.
For an instant, Aurelio stood paralyzed gazing at the distant earth that awaited his rebirth. He became overwhelmed by the high anxiety and the speed in which the soil beneath the plane was moving. But finally, with the image of his beloved reflecting in his thoughts as it had done in the little window by the classroom door, he managed to chase the fears away and take that small step into the clouds, which was to be the first and last courageous action of his life.
The few witnesses of the act that were supposed to set a new beginning for Aurelio Fernandez watched from the ground below as a speck of insignificance detached from the plane and pulled rapidly towards the ground by the inclement gravity. Afterwards, a general sense of relief took over them, as they saw the parachute opening in the air and the ever-growing silhouette of his carrier detaining its swift plunge.
At last, Aurelio’s body touched the lush green grass in an awkward manner, causing the hilarity of all the spectators, who joyfully approached the lump of cloth and strings that covered their friend. But in an instant, the initial bliss evaporated, as the mass below the parachute remained immobile.
The following air of confused sadness that took over the concurrence conflicted with the broad and bright smile that in a macabre fashion adorned the lifeless face of Aurelio Fernandez. It was a smile that symbolized a short victory against a longing state of perpetual fear and a subsequent, yet however brief temerarious existence that his weak and inevitably untrained heart could not sustain.

Aurelio the Temerarious

Mauricio Rivera

Carlton, Melbourne, Australia

  • Artist
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