I was sitting at my desk checking messages on my phone when my chair started shaking. At first, I thought my chair was wobbly but the shaking was rhythmic. It was a side to side movement that was gentle and definitely perceptibly.
Something caused me to look in the direction of the table lamp. Without a doubt, the shade was shaking. No mistake about it.
Maybe the breeze is stronger than I think it is, I say to myself. But no, the leaves on the trees aren’t moving. Not as much as my chair is.
I looked at my watch. How long has this been? Could this be an earthquake?
Goodness, what are we supposed to do when there’s an earthquake? This couldn’t be an earthquake? Maybe I should stand in the doorway like I think I remember I learned from safety lessons in primary school.
The shaking’s gotten stronger. The vertical blinds are definitely moving. How long has it been, really? Ten seconds? Fifteen? Twenty?
Finally, the shaking stops. My cell phone rings. It’s my niece.
Did you feel it? I ask.
Yes! OMG, Auntie, we’re going to die!
No, we’re not. Calm down. Are you by yourself?
Yes, my roommates are out. Auntie, I’m scared. Panic in her voice. We’re going to die, aren’t we? Sob.
No, honey, we’re not. We’re going to be okay. You’re going to be fine.
I switch on the television just in time to see that the earthquake – yes, it was an earthquake – is breaking news. “A magnitiude 5.8 earthquake hit 85 miles from Washington, D.C….” the announcer intoned.
It’s centered in Washington, DC, I tell my niece.
By now, she’s stopped sobbing.
I’m okay, now, she says.
Sure? You want to come over?
No. I’m fine, she says. I was nervous. I called Auntie J. at work, no answer. Nothing on her cell, either.
Cell phones are the first to go, I tell her. Like during the blackout (August, 2003). I just sent you some love, I say, with as much calm in my voice as I can muster. Feel it?
Okay, Auntie, I feel it. I can hear the smile in her voice. I’m okay now.
We say goodbye. I promise to check in with her later in the evening.
I click on to another station. It’s the same news told from a slightly different angle. I switch off the television and return to writing.
Thankfully, there’s no loss of life, no damage. Everyone’s just a bit shaken up.