I’m laying in a big round spoon-like object on a post that is elevated over my house, whose walls have mysteriously disappeared. The spoon pitches and sways, as I grasp its edges.
I twist my head to look sideways and see that each one of my neighbors are caught in similar contraptions.
Whack, whack, whack, my framed photos hit invisible walls below.
I open my eyes, realizing it’s a dream. But the motion doesn’t stop.
My house house is swaying erratically. Time keeps ticking, and it keeps swaying.
I hear car alarms and rattling and the whack of my photos hitting real, not-invisible walls.
And then it dawns on me, as I lay huddled in my bed: earthquake.
In my grogginess, it is a shimmering realization, like a photo materializing in chemicals in a dark room, not a panicked one.
The most unnerving thing about an earthquake for me isn’t being in it. Confusion is the overriding emotion at that point. It’s the 1,000 moments after.
The next morning I sit in church, among half the usual attendees, and look up at the walls around me. I had always taken for granted that those walls would stand upright, motionless. I keep waiting for them to begin their sway.
In the afternoon I drive to a house that was in greater need of clean up than mine and think about what would happen if one starts while I’m cruising across the bridge.
At night I lay in my bed, edgy, curious if an aftershock will be my alarm clock again. And for a few nights, it is.
The next day at the gym, I warily look up at the hanging lights and ceiling fans, high above us and map out where I would go to avoid their fall.
That is nothing I would have ever looked at before the earthquake. You don’t think about ceiling fans or bridges or walls. No one else in my town did either. They didn’t think about what the trajectory of Worcester sauce with a loose lid would be coming out of a cupboard. They didn’t think about sleeping next to a brick fireplace. They didn’t think about setting wine glasses on counter tops. We all do now.
In the days since, everything has been strangely normal and abnormal. People stop at street lights and walk their dogs. But yellow caution take strings off sections of my town like Christmas lights. People go to the gym and work out. But red tags keep other businesses doors closed.
Every person I see, I can’t help but be curious about where they were when it hit. Every house I pass, I wonder what kind of damage it holds inside.
This has been our new reality since the earth started shaking.