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Jeff dove under his desk a nanosecond after the first jolt. I just sat there, watching the room shake, thinking, “This is interesting. It’s bumping up and down instead of the usual side-to-side wobble. I wonder how much worse it will get.”
In about the time it took me to think that, it was over. A fallen nicknack, some dust shaken out of the vents, a light fixture cover swinging back and forth. Another day on the fault line.
Since then I’ve wondered if my blasé attitude toward earthquakes was simply a California sanity retention mechanism, or something more. Perhaps part of it was a dubious assumption that nothing very bad was going to happen to me, since that was how things had worked out so far. Is that (A) denial; (B) naiveté; (C) a positive attitude? Does it matter?
More likely it was a sign I had shed some of the damaging aspects of my religious upbringing. The faith of my fathers was fixated on death and what supposedly comes after. Are you ready to die? Are you ready to be judged? Will you miss out on the glorious new life and suffer an eternity of torment and regret? What if you died tomorrow? Time’s up, no do-overs. Funny—and sad—how wanting to go to heaven can make you fear the only way to get there.
But death doesn’t scare me anymore. (Pain is another matter.) That could explain why I sat in Jeff’s office without worrying whether I was going to be crushed by the floors above or sliced in two by a shard of quarter inch thick window glass. It might not have been the time or manner I would have picked to die, but we usually don’t get to choose that anyway. All I hope is that it comes with a bit of dignity, certainly not while I'm cowering under a desk with my ass in the air.
C’est la vie. C’est la mort.