Some Grumpy and Abbreviated Thoughts on Mortality and Community

25 Aug

Since when did I feel so tired all the time? Like even coffee makes me tired lately. Since when did the white hairs on my head poke out funny directions and increase their numbers exponentially? And I don’t care about that urban legend/wive’s tale or whatever about more growing in their place and I just pull them out. Yes, the children of the eighties are growing old. Since when did that start happening? Since when did I start worrying that since I’m past thirty and I can’t seem to get it together as far as financial responsibility and stable life course that I am never going to have a baby and never be a truly successful and productive member of society? Since when was the world falling apart? Like I mean the upcoming presidential elections and the Middle East and the worldwide economic crisis and Japan and AIDS is still around people and . . . Since always, right?

Okay, so I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Never mind that our bed is up against the wall so there only is one side to get out of, unless I jump out of the window, which might be nice. Don’t worry, we’re not on a high floor or anything. The grass is about seven feet down.

Not sure if you heard about it, but we had a real earthquake here in Virginia the other day–5.8 on the Richter scale, with its epicenter in Mineral, about an hour’s drive from where I sit in Richmond typing these words. Tap tap tap tap. I was in my office when it happened–a small windowless room with new fake wood office furniture in a dark mahogany hue, and one of those black mesh rolling chairs, at a local university. First I thought it was just me, the shaking, my body, something, wrong, like the being tired all the time, the worries about my future non-children, the Middle East eating my brain. And then it didn’t stop, and I thought maybe it was a big truck going by outside. There is a lot of construction going on in that neighborhood. But then it didn’t stop and I went out into the hallway and asked the other people if they felt it too. The ground was still shaking and we all looked down at our feet and up at each other. We were mostly smiling. Someone grimaced. Her heart was pounding, she reported, holding her hand flat against her chest. Her eyes shone. Someone giggled. We still felt it. We confirmed it by murmuring to each other about it. It was completely out of our control and it was happening all around us. We saw people out on the street through the windows. We saw people in the elevator who stayed there. An earthquake? It seemed like a joke. But it wasn’t. It was out of our control and then it stopped, and many of us breathed a sigh of relief, and slowly, slowly, went back into our offices, to our meetings, tiptoed back.

Still, we found ourselves wishing it did go on, somehow. We liked the unexpectedness of it, the outside-ourselves of it. The earthquake wasn’t quite enough though. It brought up memories of intenser times–of the 2003 NYC Blackout and Hurricane Gustav shutting down Richmond. Those were fun times, when cities shut down and neighbors were forced to talk to each other and people took to go on expeditions, meet up, talk about what we knew. We didn’t bring up the more destructive times, but they were there lurking in the backs of our minds–floods, terrorist attacks, riots, real bad earthquakes.

I’ve got to go buy groceries and get out of my pajamas, but how am I going to wrap this up?

Am I scared of dying? Am I scared of living? Am I scared of never connecting? All of the above. Am I scared of dying in an earthquake? No. Not even when I lived in San Francisco.

(P.S.: That’s a picture of the National Cathedral up there. Beautiful spot to visit in D.C. if you’ve never been, suffered some damage from the ‘quake the other day and we were just there marveling at the stained glass last week.)

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