Sunday, December 24, 2006
We'll be closed for Christmas
It's Christmas Eve and pretty quiet in the city. People are away seeing relatives or hiding from it all in Tahoe or Mexico or tucked deep inside their houses. At the grocery store a middle-aged Asian man is wearing a propeller beanie striped in candy colors, gravely reading a label as the propeller slowly turns. It may be his wife in another part of the store, in full elf regalia, green stockings to tall, peaked hat.
We've had three small earthquakes in two days here. The first one rolls slowly under us as Mr. Billy & I sit on the couch, talking. We stop and look at each other, both of us thinking Earthquake earthquake, is this only the beginning, the leading edge of a bigger one, of The Big One? But it tails off, leaving us dizzy for ten minutes after. Another the next evening, and we watch our bookcases creak and rattle. The third on Saturday morning, as we come slowly awake, Mr. Billy eyeing the glass block that sits on top of the bookshelf beside the bed, tracing a trajectory from bookshelf to bed, while I wonder What does it mean, three earthquakes in a row? and for the first time, I'm afraid. Were we dreaming, we wonder, wandering into the living room in stocking feet, checking ourselves on Did you feel it.
Finding ourselves still alive on Christmas eve, we amble down to Howard's Café for breakfast. The waitress waves at us while we find our seat; a smaller than usual weekend crowd. It suits us just fine. An old man walks through the door, and half a dozen voices say, "Sheldon!" Without even pausing, he turns around and goes out, only to come in again. The waitress in the reindeer horns sits to talk with him, her skirt riding up just a bit to show red tights. I ask our waitress if I can take her picture, and she runs to the back to get her own camera. The three waitresses pose for me. They're beautiful, smiling and laughing, their arms around each other, and I wonder, for just a second, if the ground is shifting beneath my feet.