Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Little Earthquakes

The way the windows shook, I thought the #7 bus had roared past too quickly. The way they kept shaking, I knew it was an earthquake.

There hadn't been a decent shaker in quite a while in these parts. It seemed they happened much more frequently during my childhood. Those little four-pointers in the middle of the night or the early morning. The way the flimsy, sliding window next to my bed would vibrate with the tinny hum of metal-on glass. The way Mandy would sit straight up in her bed right when it started, her ocean-blue eyes wide like an animal's and how I would groan and mumble something about how it was so small it wasn't even worth getting up before rolling over and falling back asleep.

I was here for them all. The Whittier quake in 1987 (was sitting in the schoolyard, having just been dropped off for the morning), Northridge in 1994 (was asleep and mumbled something to my sister about it only being a baby one just before the ground erupted). Even the ones centered out in Lake Elsinore and Arrowhead. Through all of them, I was oddly calm. Even as our chimney sat in the middle of the street and shards of glass lined the downstairs hallways in the hours after Northridge, I was more worried about acing my Spanish final than the aftershocks that were hitting every few minutes. Eventually my father took away my books and gave me a broom.

"There's no way school's open tomorrow, let alone making you take tests" he growled as he pointed at an overturned china cabinet.

I was waiting for my Huevos O'Groats when those same fault lines that let loose back in '87 roared to life again. The front windows of the restaurant rattled, then the framed art and mirrors that lined the walls on either side of us. Every conversation halted. I picked my coffee cup off the table and took a sip.

"Is that an earthquake?" a woman squawked.

A little blonde boy, maybe seven or eight sat straight up in his wooden chair, his eyes as wide and blue as Mandy's that long-ago night.

"Don't worry, it's only a small one" I assured him, as the shaking subsided.

A group of tourists from Texas had just walked into the restaurant. Welcome to California. Aren't you glad you came?

"So that was your first earthquake, huh?" I said to Pauly. He nodded.

"Maybe a four-pointer, four and a half. All depends on the epicenter" I mumbled, taking another sip of coffee.

It needed sugar.


Jordan said...

Hey Change. The pacing and storytelling of this post was perfect, especially in light of the fact that people probably all over this nation saw the CA earthquake as a big deal. Hearing someone there talk about it as though it was just business as usual is very enlightening.

Unknown said...

Great write!

-Champ aka Pureprophet

Unknown said...

Rather then talking about the earthquake as if it was "THE BIG ONE" you just roll over and remind everyone that life moves on. Sometimes the media does make a mountain out of a molehill. We won't disturb you now and let you get back to sleep!