I had a post all planned for today, but it’ll have to wait until next week, because I have something else I’d rather explore for three paragraphs today. Wednesday I had a pot of nine-bean soup going downstairs and I was in the same chair I’m in right now. I had just finished posting that stack of books and was catching up on email when I heard a rumbling. Since I’m the kind of girl who sets things on fire (not usually on purpose), I ran downstairs, thinking I’d left the soup on too high and it was boiling over. My brain refused to process that it was an earthquake. I mean, it really refused. I turned off the stove even though the soup was at a simmer, and then considered that the water heater had caught on fire in the basement. I opened the door down there and didn’t hear anything but the rumbling. And it still kept going. I opened the front door and looked outside, but none of my neighbors were out of the house. The refrigerator rattled the most, so I opened it up, moved the glass bottle of cranberry juice away from the maple syrup—really! I thought two jars were making all this noise!—and then when that didn’t help, I closed the door and leaned against the fridge to try to calm it down. Only then did I really think that it might possibly be an earthquake. A few seconds later, it was over, and the neighborhood dogs started barking their fool heads off.
There’s a lot of construction going on near here, so I called my husband, who works not too far away, to see if he’d felt it too—maybe it was just rock being blasted out for the shopping center going in on Hazeldean. But no, it was there, too. I turned the soup back on and tried to shake off that jelly-like feeling of fear in my muscles. This wasn’t my first earthquake, but the other one I experienced wasn’t nearly this intense. In fact, if Myron hadn’t been sitting right by me for the first one and we hadn’t compared notes, I might have even thought I’d imagined the whole thing. This time, once the house stopped shaking, there was no denying that something had happened. I still didn’t trust myself to say for sure it was an earthquake. Especially when I came back upstairs and the cat, instead of hiding under the bed puffed up like he’d seen a ghost, was sitting Sphinxlike beneath the doorway to the bedroom, fur sleek, looking for all the world like he wished he could tell me This is what you do when that happens, moron. That look on the face of the actual dummy of the house is sobering to say the least.
It wasn’t a major earthquake as things go, only a five, and not doing any damage around here. I picked up the phone and called my grandmother, trying to process the thing by putting it into my own words instead of waiting for the news websites to pick it up and give me man-on-the-street pearls of wisdom. We talked until my phone battery died and the kitchen timer chimed. Off and on for the rest of the night, I felt my way through the denial I experienced for those thirty or so very long seconds. I thought how many places I’d raced, ticking off possibilities, sure there was a fire, sure it really wasn’t an earthquake. I thought about how it was after my mother died, when I did know that she was gone but had a hard time figuring out what that meant. That sounds contradictory, but when the meaning did come to me, in short bursts over the next few months, I could tell what I’d been missing, what had been behind that wall in my head I was trying to see over. I don’t understand why this happens, but I do know it’s a real phenomenon, this blockage from the whole picture. It’s frustrating. Limiting. Some other feelings are so easy to process by comparison.
I know Heather will have at least one good earthquake story, but if anyone else has one, please share them in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll give you this: I’ve been a Morcheeba girl for over a decade. This is a five-minute long trip-hop fugue that might not be reaching you at the right time of day. On the other hand, you might just need it. It’ll hit that part of you that comes alive at around one in the morning when you’re dancing and you realize you really could live this way forever if only the sun stayed down.