After five years of living in Los Angeles, I learned to remind myself that when the sweeping, static landscape looked too serene, the plates would rub their bodies against each other to remind us how small we are.
It was only when I’d thank my mind for being peaceful enough to sleep, that I’d awake to my water glass dancing off the bedside table and my dog barking at the floor. Or when I’d notice how elegant and still a palm tree can stand on a windless day. That’s when the earthquake comes and rattles it’s roots, making it dance spastically like one of those towering noodle-man signs at a car dealership. Spitting dead fronds on the windshields of fear-frozen cars.
We had just returned from a vacation that he enjoyed more than I and I hadn’t heard from him in 24 hours. I knew he was alive but I couldn’t stop noticing how still the pond water was or quiet the cicadas had become. Eventually, my phone rang. He said he wanted to meet in person, he said there were things he wanted to say that were too important to explain over the phone.
I ran upstairs and turned on the shower. I wanted to feel clean for what was to come. The water came on as if it had been off for years. Spitting and stabbing my forehead with a water pressure alone that could tip the richter scale. I didn’t have time to figure it out. I did my best to rinse and reason with myself. I put on a pair of shorts that didn’t mean anything to me and looked for a shirt that felt appropriate for the unknown.
There’s no way to prepare for an earthquake.
If it’s under a 5, it’ll only shed leaves, tickle blinds, maybe make you wonder if you’re holding on to excess but if it’s a 6 or higher, you might watch your TV walk off the shelf and hear your street split in half. That kind of damage will make you feel like an ant. It will make you feel like you need to grow up all over again. But I wasn’t in LA anymore. I was in New York. And I was sitting on a bench, in the middle of town, watching my soon-to-be-ex-lover walk towards me as he squinted at the sun.
He was wearing a pair of grease-stained swimming shorts and had sun-tan lotion unevenly spread across his pink cheeks. He spent the morning at the pool, working on his post-relationship glow and gathering strength to shake our world. He opened his mouth to reveal a chalky white circle on the center of his tongue. (A circle whose origin became all too familiar during our relationship.) A dissolved Clonazepam, the true root of his late morning strength. “I don’t want to marry you” the fading circle flapped. “I think you need someone more emotionally available” the crumbs of evidence continued.
This was a 7.2, I noted, as I watched the world grow grander.