Sometimes the aftershocks following a quake can be nearly as jarring as the initial rumblings. A 5.9 – instead of a 7.1 on the Richter scale. Car alarms sounding and awakening the good townsfolk and otherwise peaceful neighborhoods for miles.
Like the initial earth shaking, the aftershocks are unexpected. You think the quake is over – but then the tremors begin again – the porcelain dishes, as they did before, fall from their normally stable shelves, fancy glasses tumble and shatter against the kitchen floor, and the dogs howl for hours. Aftershocks are reminders that life is unstable, and nothing is promised to remain as it has been.
On the morning of January 31st, 2022 – the one-year anniversary of the death of my best friend – I woke up, got into the shower, then got dressed and then drove to work (as I always do). It was an unexceptional day. I left work, stopped by the grocery to purchase a bottle of wine (I’m lying – I purchased two) and went home. The ground beneath my feet did not tremble as I had expected it to.
I listened to music and watched my favorite videos for a couple of hours. I talked to my dead friend aloud, briefly. I survived the day, and I survived the evening. Three sleeping pills later and the 31st bled into the 1st of February. A day before Groundhog Day – a meaningless holiday I’ve always found fun.
But then, during the early afternoon of February 4th, 2022 the earth began to move – slowly at first - and then the world around me and within me violently shifted in all directions at once.
The aftershocks hit and they hit at a 5.9.
The designer 1920s single-bulb light fixtures hanging from the ceiling in all rooms of my apartment began to violently sway – and my office desk (while I sat in a chair in front of it) trembled and momentarily left the wooden flooring in a rage.
I held onto my wine glass tight in my unstable hand – I held onto it for dear life – I would not let the earth swallow me, but its mouth was wide open, and I could feel it’s jagged teeth upon my pale skin. It hungry and me terrified - afraid of falling into the abyss of where I had been before. A dark place some don’t ever escape. I’ve been there and I never want to go there again. There aren’t friends there – there isn’t sunshine or laugher or clouds that aren’t ready to burst open with never-ending rain. Yeah – it can rain all the time.
I survived the initial ground shakes – the 7.1 - a little over a year ago – but, before they settled, they mercilessly tore me apart and the resulting tsunami drowned the me I once knew – and everything beautiful around me held its breath. I somehow survived that first evening – two hours after the telephone conference with my therapist - me on the 9th floor of the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel in a room with all glass windows and me with a screwdriver in my hand looking, with purpose, at the screws at the window seams that could so easily be loosened and then removed.
The aftershocks reminded me, with great violence and mental upheaval, my friend is no longer here. And he isn’t coming back.
Grief is a fucking monster. But I will survive this. Because I swore to my friend I would.
So, I’m going to give this another try. The ground is no longer actively shaking, and my wine glass is steady in my hand.
I’m sitting here – in the loose-fitting basketball shorts my friend gave me after he had lost weight and I had gained a few pounds.
I miss you, my friend.
I just do.
I pour myself another glass. Because this is survival.