While performing my usual Good Morning Facebook ablution before getting out of bed, I stumbled across a  shared experience; a posting from a college chum recounting his memory of events taking place on this date, 9 years ago.  Like the clear tone of a fresh-struck bell, I wooshed back to a snapshot of my exact whereabouts, frame of mind and thought processes at that very same moment.

At sixish on the dewy and crisp spring morning of 20 April 2002, A magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit in a small town of upstate New York called Elizabethtown.  E-town (yes, E-town) is approximately 15 miles southeast of Plattsburgh, New York, the location of my then college, then apartment and then self.  (For my Canadian friends:  Plattsburgh is about 45 miles south of your fine city of Montreal).

That morning, I was roused from my semi-drunken sleep not so much by the shaking as from the noise.  To my bleary ears, it sounded like a garbage truck driving up and down our street revving the engine.  It was irritating, an interruption–and it just kept driving.

Since the end of the fall semester, I’d been living in a dining room.  The dining room of the bottom floor of a house–tenanted by three boys.  Rugby players.  Drunken, older brother types. They’d ever so gallantly closed the french doors to the living room on one side and the pantry door to the kitchen on the other to afford my living space concrete dimensions.  I was also provided a waterbed, which got old and changed very quickly after the weekly prank became a game of letting the cats into my room to “play” while I was out.  Filth and boorishness notwithstanding, we all got a long reasonably well.  When the dishes stayed done.  And no one touched anyone else’s Hot Pockets.

With only one class keeping me occupied and standing in front of my two degrees, I spent much of my time either bartending or being drunk with friends.  I’d just been denied entry to the Peace Corps due to a preponderance of student debt and was staring at the rapidly crumbling foundation of my early twenties.  I had time in abundance, and no plan B.

Whiskey all around.

As my brain began to wake and sharpen on recognizing the din, it also recognized that I’d taken an old boyfriend to bed.  And not just any old boyfriend.  The aloof one who I couldn’t quite bring myself to let go of.  The one who made an art of nonchalance while I burned in a silent hell of not-quite-love.  The one who still makes my friends crack up when they reminisce about that time I totally lost all my marbles over a gent.

There he was, all rumpled, cloudy eyes working to figure out the sudden sensory overload.  It was finally the avalanche of books falling off my shelf and the rattle of the french doors behind the headboard that snapped the situation into focus.  Earthquake!!  Several seconds of noise without ill-effect assured us of our safety and we set to laughing over the random nature of what was happening.  I’d never in my life experienced an earthquake, and here I was, shaking away next to this boy who I missed and wished would let go his hold.  He laughed only because his default face was one of mirth.

The rattling eventually died down and a chilly breeze blew in the scent of the fresh lilacs growing up and down my one way street.  I closed my eyes and took a slow breath; a rare instance for me to consciously seal something in memory.  I lose the string after that.  Can’t think of how we’d met up or spent our evening.  At a loss for the chain of events leading up to our waking.  Not a trace of the moments immediately following.  Pft, erased.  Fade out; sepia.

That status update was like a faint whiff of an old scent…grandmother’s old apartment, dad’s winter sweaters, the ocean…it transported me directly back to that small moment and all its complexity.  It wasn’t exquisite or exciting, not defining or alarming, just a moment brought to mind by an event.  I was shocked at the clarity and appalled at the number of years that have past since that moment.    It’s a beautiful little memory, and I’m glad to have it tucked away.


8 thoughts on “Facebook, Time Travel and the Richter Scale

  1. I love those types of moments, mostly for me it is in music where I get taken back. Remebering times with old friends, girls I dated or had crushes on, and of fun times with practacly no stress. I do remember the last big earthquake we had here in Western Washington. I think it was early 2000’s and I was working for P.S.E. I was in Poulsbo reading meters in an apartment complex, it sounded like rain hitting a metal roof, but actually it was the raillings of the balconies shaking. I was in the middle of the complex, an open grassy area. The whole world was just one shaky blur for a couple seconds and then calm. Experiencing is in the open is way different than inside a building, not as scary. Thanks for taking me back and remembering.

  2. I have a very similar experience with the New Madrid earthquake a few years back and my crappy 1 bedroom apartment that had 4 freeloaders living in it. Sometimes I miss those old days of being the quintessential bohemian.

  3. Amazing what our minds can do. Such a lovely memory of a potentially tragic event. I love the desciption and how you evoke all the senses. Wonderful piece. Thank goodness it was a serious earthquake.

  4. It’s funny…I was expecting something really different when you started with the date. Something about 4/20. This was a wonderfully written surprise (as to subject-not surprise at quality!)

    Such imagery. I can picture, hear & smell it all!

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