It was shortly after 9am, and I, still (of course !) in my nightie and dressing-gown, had just put the dishwasher on. I was wondering idly if I could shower while the dishwasher was on, when the world changed.
For half a second I thought I was dizzy; and for another half second I wondered why ..
And then I understood that I was being shaken to and fro, to and fro .. Things were sliding about, and the fern on the plant-stand next to me tried to throw itself off; but a part of my brain functioned automatically – the part not frozen in terror – and I caught it. I was screaming “What’s happening ? What’s HAPPENING ?” because, once having saved the fern, the same brain section was telling me that the building, erected by a company not admired in the construction industry, was imploding ..
I don’t have the ability to explain the experience of standing in a top floor (7th storey) apartment, alone, as the floor under one’s feet MOVES, quite violently .. as the building becomes, suddenly, unstable .. I’ve only once before in my whole life felt a fear like that; and that was nothing to do with Mother Nature but with my utterly beloved husband in a car, in France, so far removed from the brilliantly clever man he had always been by the crab that was eating him, trying to drive towards me around the corner of a house – a slope away to nothing on his right and stopped by only a small ridge of bricks that had caught the wheels .. I believe that, yesterday, it was the memory of this blind terror in my situation of total inability to do anything that my brain had instantly thrown up ..
And then I un-froze. There were bangs as things fell over; but I managed to scorch into the bedroom, reef back the duvet and seize Boodie. He, sound asleep, was incensed when so rudely grabbed, and would have struggled free; but I, powerful in my terror, thrust him into his carrier, threw its long belt over my neck, grabbed my keys and was out of the apartment in a heartbeat. By now the building had stopped moving, but the fear was omni-present; for who could know that it would not start again ..?
My next-door neighbours were there, as they had been the other week when we all suffered five false fire alarms between midnight and 9am, with Andrea waiting to take Boodie from me so that I could properly negotiate the seven storeys of fire stairs. (Please note that we did this only the first time during the alarms, and simply rolled our eyes during the next four.) And, as everyone now knows, there were no more tremors.
Once down on the ground I found that my legs were trembling even though it wasn’t. Having found Oanh among the crowd, carrying her beautiful little daughter Annabelle, and kissed her and given her a one-armed hug, I eventually had to walk around to the front of the building to find a place to sit down ..
I’ve never regretted being old the way I did then.
And I can’t explain this, either.