Here We Are, Waiting For You

Lidia Zuin
7 min readMar 5, 2024
Las estaciones clausuradas de la línea A — En El Subre / Archivo General de la Nación


Between a gesture and the next word. Between commas and a full stop.

No prior notice, it just happens. Before your eyes, the world gravitates slower and, still, there is no way you can make sense out of that which simply is.

One moment, you are laughing or almost sneezing, and then, suddenly, a long and heavy shadow grows before your eyes. The sky falls apart over your head, the earth shakes and the rocks slide inevitably towards the ground.

There is no final blow that makes you unconscious. At once, the world shatters and ends.

One moment, you are there, humming a song, complaining about something, telling some story. Now, in a matter of instants, your ribs crack under the weight of the Earth, your nostrils fill with soil, and your last seconds alive are cut shorter by the panic of acknowledging that there is nothing to do.

Your perforated lungs cry for air, but it is blood that fills your bronchi and takes you right to a painful and irreparable end. Realizing this makes your nervous system release adrenaline and your body stiffens on an attempt to fight against what suffocates, buries, and extinguishes you. And though you have used all your strength, nothing changes. Overwhelmed by pain, your body and mind surrender to something that feels like sleep, but you will never wake up again.

This is how things are, despite you.

It's 7 am, and people squeeze inside the coaches.

It doesn't matter if you need to go back home because you forgot something: after you join the queue, you just go. It's in this in-between moment that a thought sparks and soon disappears as the crowd struggles to fit into the train and the hour.

Nothing else matters: you take the chance and smile after the mediocre achievement of being the last one to fit in before the doors close. I will be first. But at what cost? The cost of victory in a competition that I invented for myself.

As you observe the bodies crushing against the window and wait for the next train, you see the tracks appear in the shadow of the platform. Maybe due to a sudden dizziness or gravity itself, you feel attracted to the fall. But throwing yourself there, in the middle of the rush hour? For what, how come?

Nowadays the newspapers don't even feature these occurrences; perhaps to not incentivize or attract attention. Your death would cause delays and the anger of people going to work. But they would still find a way to go to the office and the trains would still run day after day, as your body is removed. Everything stays the same, despite you.

We are dust, history, matter that stays and transforms, energy that transmutes, but, above all, stays.

One day, we are myself, you, and them. We are us and, suddenly, none.

We are scratches on the floor, steps left in the wet concrete, graffiti that wasn't painted over, discarded plastic that doesn't decompose.

Under our feet, layers keep accumulating. Over our heads, emptiness keeps expanding. From the cosmic rays that collide with the Earth, we count the carbon isotopes that measure how much time has passed since "someone" became "something". It's not just about finding a date, or measuring a lifetime: it's about certifying that nothing has stopped, is stopped, or will ever stop, despite you.

Not everyone thinks about that every day, every time. After all, the script is much less simple these days: it's not always the case that life can be summarized as a progression line from school to work, from work to marriage, from marriage to retirement, and from retirement to death. Studying doesn't always mean employment, which doesn't always mean retirement, which doesn't guarantee a family, which doesn't always spare you from loneliness and abandonment. Between certainty and paralysis, we choose to be brave and carry on blindly — inertia.

Between 1880 and 1930, a huge population of Italians emigrated to Argentina. Most were peasants, handymen, cleaners, construction workers, carpenters, and merchants. Half of them, however, used the same port to return to their homeland after rooting immigration policies didn't work. For those who stayed, there was a chance to help the city of Buenos Aires to progress, to build the infrastructure of the capital of a country that would be the home of the biggest Italian population outside of Italy.

There was a purpose: to participate in History while writing your own. Though hard work wasn't always properly rewarded, it was possible to wake up in the morning and watch your family with the feeling that you were doing your best and that, at least, their future would be better.

One day, you leave home and ride your bike to make deliveries. You do that every day, it's been two years. But that day you won't come back. By chance, someone going somewhere, as they always do, lost control of their car — either because the brakes failed or they got a flat tire. You are thrown into the air and disappear as your head reaches the ground.

One day, you are someone and, suddenly, you are something.

One day, you wake up as an average human being and, suddenly, you become the death of someone.

The traffic grew busier not only because your body was blocking one of the roads, but because other cars are driving slower to see what's happening. Even though these things happen every day, all the time. Even though you already know what might have happened. Even though you don't have any idea of who that was. Even though you will soon forget about it. That moment, you drove slower to see what was happening, and then you went on your way in a contemplative silence: it could have been me, good thing it wasn't.

Sometimes, the thought comes when the mind wanders in a puddle of rain, in the teapot's smoke, in the printer's repetitive shakes. Other times, this happens when you are behind the train window when the station disappears in the tunnel darkness and you don't see anyone else but your reflection.

It is in these tiny trivial abysses that inhabit the surprise of realization: everything will go on, despite you.

Under our feet, trains keep departing. Over our heads, airplanes keep flying. Despite you.

One day you have coffee with your wife and children, you eat the recently baked bread. Another day, there are only scraps to eat with milk and you feel like you might have a cold. But that's how life goes.

You catch a bus from the outskirts to the city center, to where the dynamite-opened tunnels will allow trains to run. That day, you didn't bring lunch, but the other day you even shared the soup.

Though your shoulders hurt, you still need to carry the bricks and help with the mallet. While some bring bags of concrete, you prepare the mix. The thin rain makes it harder to dry.

That day, you ate a slice of corn cake that someone's wife baked. You try to speak Spanish, after all, that's the language of your new homeland. But Italian is so similar that it's hard to avoid the accent. Molto bene, muchas gracias. Fifteen minutes of lunch, at the most. Suddenly, the command shouts give space for the horror. A last voice is annihilated by the dry, deafening sound of the ground falling all at once.

All the effort to build the tunnel returned to be just the ground. The destruction was so big that the construction was called off, thus proving that the efforts were, indeed, in vain.

Though life goes on, history keeps being made and days accumulate, it doesn't mean you are fine with that. But there's not much more space for the geography of memory: those alive need the ground to walk, to work, to breed. Even though you came from dust and will resume into dust, it is over your remains that buildings keep rising. In that same place, time and meaning overlap: what was an open grave for the homeless and indigenous have now turned into a church that is deteriorating until it can be replaced by gentrification. Thus, if nothing is created and everything is transformed, I hope you remember the next time your train goes past the Pasco and Alberdi stations. When the platform disappears in the tunnel darkness, check the reflex on the window, search for the faces of those who are not the commuters and you will find us.

Here we are, waiting for you. Despite you not knowing that, or caring about that. Despite how terrible it is to realize that, just like us, you will one day cease to be someone to be swallowed by history. And that, likewise, many other lives will carry on stepping on the ground you have dissolved into — despite you.

This is a translation of a short story originally published in Portuguese, in the collection Terrores Latinos, published by Luva Editora. It was inspired by the urban myth of the hauntings seen in the subway stations Pasco and Alberdi, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.



Lidia Zuin

Brazilian journalist, MA in Semiotics and PhD in Visual Arts. Researcher and essayist. Technical and science fiction writer.