I thought for sure the ceiling would come down. And all the nine floors above me would smush into my bed where I was lying fetal and frozen. It’s easy to describe the sound of my blinds bashing against my window. Less easy to convey the sounds that came from the walls of the building as it rattled. Rattled was more the movement of the building than the sounds.
(I’d been so nearly asleep when it struck.)
Somehow, the only thing in my room that fell over was the little Deadpool pop figure Justin gave me for my twenty second birthday.
Somehow, we were all okay.
The worst feeling was just after the earthquake ended, and for a moment I felt like my bed had been tipped diagonally. Like the whole building had come to rest on a lean.
Afterwards we sat in the hallway. It felt weirdly quiet and calm, even though all our bodies were trembling. We snapchatted our friends and looked at Joe Biden memes. There were plenty of aftershocks: we stood in doorframes and gripped the walls and each other.
(Only later, when it didn’t matter anymore, we found out you’re not supposed to do this. Doorframes probably won’t protect you. Get under a table or desk and hold on.)
Someone said they were done with having a fleshy body, and couldn’t wait for their consciousness to be uploaded to the cloud. There’s no fault lines in cyberspace. (It might have been me who said that.) (Whoever it was, we all agreed.)
We blamed Trump.
We turned on the radio to listen to what they were saying.
Stay out of the CBD. A tsunami might come. If you’re near the coast, evacuate to higher ground.
In a rush we stuffed things into bags. I didn’t know what to take or how long I’d be away. I took: underwear, clean clothes, water bottles, band-aids, hayfever medication, contraceptive pill, antidepressants, phone chargers, a can of Wattie’s baked beans with a pull-off lid. I had three days left of my Zoloft and no way of knowing whether I’d be able to get my new prescription before I ran out. (“I can get my script filled any day, the chemist is always open”.)
Margot called her sister to come and get us. We walked up to the Terrace and waited outside James Cook. We looked at the moon, it was puffy in between the clouds. We looked at the other people on the 3am street. Tourists hovering outside hotels like brand-new ghosts. Locals smoking on the balconies of their high-rise apartments, looking lazily back at us.
We squished six of us into a tiny car.
There were people everywhere, drooping on the footpath like sleepy bees.
Someone had already stuck up official signs outside uni, saying it was closed.
I got four hours of undisturbed sleep on a stranger’s couch. (I wasn’t expecting to sleep at all.) In the morning we felt limp and scratchy. Margot made tea for everyone. I tried to play with her sister’s skittish black cat.
At 9am, Luke and I walked to Kelburn. It was overcast. The sky was high and white. The air was vaguely muggy. The day was warm, but the wind was sometimes hard. We got breakfast in the village. The people in the cafe were very kind when they explained they could only do cabinet food and coffee. Buses went past as we sat outside waiting for our order; they weren’t in service. In the village it felt almost normal, but there was a greyish numbness everywhere. The liquor store nearby was all smashed bottles and sticky pools of alcohol. I felt nervous that I didn’t bring any sunscreen.
There was only one thing people were talking about, even when they weren’t talking about it.
There was only one thing in the news.
It was hard to think of what to say.
I felt muggy and grey.
I drank my coffee and was better. It was a cappuccino with cinnamon on top.