Sunday, April 10, 2011


What’s unsettling about the earth shifting and shaking, bopping and quaking beneath the bed that upholds the awkward arch of your back and your head's constant swivel is not at all what you think might finally just make you break down. I've learned, over time, the most terrifying truth of life, or at least my life: You can get used to anything. Even the ground, groaning. Even yourself, bored by the monotonous length of this more than minor upheaval. No, what worries me most is a certain form of cohesion. The world can contain and uplift so much pure contradiction.

A few days ago, a quake while I slept. It lasted, lingered. I awoke, wondering if I should step right outside and watch the building sway in its bend. Instead, I lay on my back; closed my eyes somewhat tight; tried not to count in my head the long length of each shift. Soon it was done, and I could sleep a bit more. Way up in the north I’m sure a score of people did shudder. Survivors. Me, I didn’t survive anything. I almost welcomed my dreams. They would probably be but benign. I felt guilty for going right back to sleep while all those poor folks in Sendai I'm sure stayed up with their fears. But I slept. You can get used to anything.

Something else: Today, on the street, coming towards me, a young woman in black, strolling, striding, smiling. Just like that. A hell of a grin. She was in a world of her own. As we all are, but when somebody smiles just like that, I wonder in what special realm do they wander. Perhaps she was thinking of whom she might meet in a moment for hot tea and a scone. Or last night’s lover’s soft touch, a small playful taunt at her tit. Or a comedian’s punchline, its sharp wit still a pinch. She seemed to be in cahoots with life.

That earthquake’s steady rumble, and that pretty stranger’s sweet smile, somehow co-exist in this life, and that separate union confounds me. One should not share space with the other. Or do they only appear in the first place as a form of crude balance? Can we even casually grin with small joy to begin with if life holds no peril?

Perhaps she, too, was awoken, like me, by that tectonic grim burp. I doubt she was smiling then. Her thoughts, a rising wave of dread. Yet a few days in the future, a kind of happiness. Persistent, even brave. So tenacious that even I, a stranger, felt the force of its joy straight across the length of the sidewalk, a kind of life all its own, fluid and real, as tactile and invasive as the boldest of tremors.