(sorry for this, free write)
where does it hit you first?
for me these days it is the stomach, and really it is remarkable how fast it happens, how easily the body betrays. i feel it in my throat next with nausea and then sometimes it starts with the knees and my legs go numbish and my head doesn’t feel right. balance goes off. not always, but sometimes.
the biggest problem is that it hangs around for a day or so after, at least. even if the moment of exposure was just that, a moment. the panic hangs around fizzing a little, and then it is very easily stirred up again, by something as light as a thought. some small recollection dropping suddenly into disquieting context. the land still settling. aftershocks.
this is what we get when you build on a faultline (whose fault? mine? his? only 30% mine? who says something like that and does not explain?). forgive the imagery. i walked today by the alaskan way viaduct that the mayor wants to tear down due to earthquake risk (he had wanted to tear it down before anyway). in seattle there is no contingency plan for the Big One we are due for or for mount rainier. we have not built for either. the viaduct would simply collapse. a little more than a week ago i heard rather than saw a noise while crossing under the flyover next to the viaduct and the person with me realized it was an accident, just out of sight – the rider hit water on the street and skidded and hit the curb and we started to run to him, and my phone was in my hand and wouldn’t unlock but finally i dialed 911 (it seemed to take forever (time dilation)) by the time we reached him and seeing the man lying there (others gathered around him faster, people who knew first aid) don’t take his helmet off one person said to another who had started to do so – i never saw the driver’s face through all of this, the helmet stayed on, and the driver was moving and talking? moving for certain, i remember that others were speaking to him, telling him to stop moving, if he could feel his feet, and 911 wouldn’t fucking answer the phone, there was liquid around him, my friend said it was the water he had skidded on but i had in the moment assumed that he had pissed himself, a car key had fallen out of his pocket and was beside him on the pavement, and i saw his feet. the shoes had been ripped, one clean off a few feet away (lying before the accident, as it were, space equaling time), the other still half on his foot split cleanly from the inside of the ankle to the sole and his foot was torn up and i saw the blood, the open flesh and when 911 answered i could only give the intersection and had to ask what the entrance was TO (i-5? the viaduct? i don’t know highways here) of the people trying to help the driver, my friend had helped stop traffic to the entrance and first 911 transferred me to the highway patrol because i spoke incorrectly and then switched me back and then they said someone was coming and i gave my name and number and hung up, and my friend stood beside me and for a moment my legs did not seem to work but they were fine, really, and he held my elbow
we forget about blood, it really is a vulgar garish liquid that is so much brighter than you expect, it is a prop for cheap slasher films, and it is inside us always. we forget about the faultlines that we live on, that we build on, we build our lives on. we forget or we trust against emergency, because no matter how much you doubt and plan it isn’t enough. the body betrays. it happens in an instant.
some people are talking about japan and others are calling them alarmists, but these days even some of the anti-alarmists are saying i should start taking multivitamins, that the body will accept radioactive iodide into itself more readily than clean iodide. betrayal again. gullibility.
it is a betrayal when it is inevitable? that the earth will shift no matter what is built on it, or how, or what it is built to withstand. but the accident was not inevitable, was it? or maybe it is just the working out of the equation of the specific texture of water on pavement and the velocity of the bike and what kind of pressure it takes to rupture human skin. and my body in an instant responding to a specific stimulus is my gastro-intestinal medical history (india, two nights of over-drinking) and history of anxiety and then the consequence of building on what i knew was a faultline, this stupid narrative that i am tired of being mine, that i keep thinking i am past until the moment comes and i feel like i am going to throw up.
what the body remembers. breathe deep. someone described treating her body mentally as a well-loved dog now old and sick – the necessary patience for its failings, the kindness you must give. i need to remember that.