by Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera
Diana wasn’t quite asleep when the earth beneath her growled, the bed shook, and somewhere inside the walls something cracked or snapped, like an exclamation mark at the end of this quake’s sentence. Not her first. She had lain under this same roof on a different mattress in 1994. She wasn’t alone then.
Then, he had flung off the blankets, grabbed her upper arm, and dragged her into the doorway. He had held her tight against his bony body, shivered as she yawned. She had slid out of his embrace and crawled back into bed. The earth had rocked her gently into a deeper sleep.
Next morning’s news had reported 6.7, epicenter Northridge, 25 miles away.
Tonight, she doesn’t leave her bed, doesn’t brace herself in any doorway or duck and cover like they taught her in school. She lies, nearly naked, and watches the ceiling fan whirl above her, the chain clack against the metal center, its rhythm interrupted only a few seconds.
Her phone buzzes. A text from him. “You ok?”
She checks Quakebot. 4.2, epicenter about 8 miles away.
He lives closer to the quake’s neighborhood. With a new woman.
Diana hasn’t let him back in her bed for almost a year. She stares at the glowing red numbers on her dresser across the room, waits for the minute to change, anticipates the aftershocks. But there are none. She rolls onto her left side and wraps her legs around a micro-fiber body pillow, stares out the sheer curtains at the frantic shadows in the next building, a couple who moved from New Jersey a few months ago. She listens to the footsteps of upstairs neighbor, the flush of next-door’s toilet, and the bark of across-the-street’s dogs. The soothing cacophony of nighttime.
Her phone buzzes again.
She rolls onto her right side, sees only the darkness of her own apartment hallway. She pulls the jersey sheet over her legs and is okay.
Chicana Feminist and former Rodeo Queen, Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera is a Macondista, an editor for Ricochet Editions, and on the leadership team for Women Who Submit. She writes so the desert landscape of her childhood can be heard as loudly as the urban chaos of her adulthood. She is obsessed with food. A former high school teacher, she earned an MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles and is a PhD candidate at University of Southern California where she is a Wallis Annenberg Fellow. You can read her other stories at http://tishareichle.com/