Wednesday, June 3

"You're never alone when you're with Dwayne Johnson."

A few weeks ago, I thought about how some day it's going to be nice to veg out instead of having depression force me into it for 18 hours a day. While in inpatient, I was reminded on a daily basis that there are certain signs to be wary of in regards to relapsing, the main one being isolation.

When you have severe depression, you isolate a lot. You wake up at 3pm and think, "no...not yet" and stay in bed for another four hours. I've been forced into isolation daily, but I don't see it as a sign of relapse. In recent weeks, I've divvied up my problems into two columns: sobriety and depression. Most of the adverse side effects of life are falling into the depression column; I can't work, my sleep schedule is that of a cat, I've cried myself to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, and the smallest inconveniences are followed by a slew of FUCK YOUs and DUDE GET IT TOGETHERs. Guy cuts in front of me in line at Walgreens? War criminal. Woman left her turn signal on for the last two miles? Sex trafficker.

I've been careful about how I've been spending my time in the last few weeks. I've let myself rest, grieve, and ultimately be sad. However, on Sundays I've been taking the time to take myself on a date or do something nice for myself. I've taken myself to a movie the last two Sundays, which translates to sitting alone during the previews, commercials, and coming attractions and wondering if anyone else notices I'm by myself. This past Sunday, I nestled into a seat with a small bag of six dollar popcorn to watch San Andreas. I was curious to see how Hollywood would portray everyone in the state of California reacting to a huge, and possibly biggest disaster.

As someone from Seattle, "the big one" is suspected of never being more than a few years away. We're always "long overdue" or "it could be any day now." During my first earthquake in 1995, I was peeing. My grandmother's bathroom, painted an onslaught of peach and pink with little soaps and fake flowers and praying porcelain figurines, started shaking. If you've been through an earthquake, you'll know that there are different kinds of shaking during a quake. There's "up and down," "side to side," and this rolling feature where if you look thirty feet in front of you and that plane can actually be either higher or lower than you, like a wave. The 1995 quake was an "up and down" shaking, sloshing water around in the toilet bowl and causing praying porcelain angels to violently fidget off the bathroom counter. You can't outrun an earthquake. There isn't any "get to higher ground" or "go into the storm shelter." If you aren't familiar with earthquake safety protocols, you're supposed to get under a table or a desk and protect your neck while holding onto whatever you're under. If there's no flat sturdy surface, find a door frame and hang on. But if you're seven-years-old and actively using the bathroom, your safety choices are limited to hiding in the tub or sit there screaming, the latter of which I accomplished.

The biggest quake Seattle's experienced in the last 30 years was in 2001. Originally a 7.2, the Nisqually earthquake was downgraded to 6.8, and miraculously, no one died. There was one casualty, a man who had a heart attack as a result of the shaking earth after the fact. For months, grainy security camera footage was the first visual you would see at the start of the evening news. The capital building in Olympia was damaged, some of the first buildings erected in Pioneer Square were missing large chunks of their old brick infrastructures, and the Viaduct portion of Highway 99 shifted four inches, a shift that's still largely affecting the daily commute for enraged Seattlites.

During the Nisqually quake, I was in an old rickety building my school called the Art Satellite. Half of my theatre class was blocking for the upcoming production of "The Good Doctor" and the other half were unimpressed by a showing of Woody Allen's "Bananas." A classmate jumped from the first row of seats in the theater to the stage, and understandably, the Depression Era arts establishment started shaking. At first, we all thought that the building was going to come tumbling down due to an active student trying to get from Point A to Point B. But it just kept shaking. Due to the rolling nature of this earthquake, the stage I was standing on to block my amateur role in the upcoming student play was like being on waves, surfing cheap dry wall intended to function as a stage. The entirety of our production panicked. Unfortunately for us, there weren't any tables or desks to cower under and protect our collective necks. Instead, there was one door way. One. Fourteen seventh graders unsteadily ran towards the door frame. We were yelling because one thing about earthquakes is that they are loud. The building you are in, every building around you, and everything in them is either rumbling or falling. We thought we were safe until we saw the piano.

The piano was this old rickety thing that some how could still give off the impression of a good tune and performance. This open doorway, with no door, lead into the prop room backstage. Old buckets of tap shoes and masks from last years art show were falling off the walls, and in the artistic wake of falling memorabilia rolled this monstrosity of a piano right to the doorway, at which point, a whole bunch of seventh graders collectively yelled "FUCK IT" and ran out of the building to the sidewalk. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. And among the falling brick and stage lights, no one was hurt. We were surprised to see our other classmates already outdoors, one of whom was actually lying in the middle of the street despite his visual art teacher screaming instructions for safety.

The rumbling slowly stopped. Traffic lights were swinging, car alarms were going off, and every single girl in my class was crying. In a time before cell phones, no one could call their parents to give a high sign to let them know we were okay. We walked back to the main building of my school to find out the main performance space/conference hall was completely destroyed from a caved drop ceiling and imminent asbestos. My grade was herded into a back parking lot where they provided us with bottles of water and garlic bread. If you want to know what kind of education I received, I received the education where in the event of a natural disaster, they provide heated garlic bread. To date, this might be the whitest thing I've ever written.

I ended up going home with a friend because I couldn't reach my parents. We turned on the TV when we got to her house in time for the breaking news fiesta from around the region. Security camera footage showed bottles of wine falling off the shelves to create a Shining-esque deluge, people at gas stations dropping the nozzle and running away, congressmen and women sitting in session in the capital, unclear whether or not to proceed with their legitimate topics while the ceiling crumbled around them. I made it home later that day after the phone lines were somewhat freed, and picked up the things that had fallen in my room, mostly plastic horse figurines and pictures of real horses.

In the months after the earthquake, I developed crippling anxiety because of the natural phenomenon. I couldn't go to bed without my radio on. I had to tap my foot in bed just so that if a tremor did occur, it would be less of a surprise. If a dump truck or a loud noise could be heard from the street, I would grab the edge of the table to see if it kept rumbling. A few years later, an earthquake hit while I was asleep, probably nothing more than a 5.0 or enough to stir your coffee. I awoke as soon as the shaking stopped. I could see my track ribbons swaying left to right on my wall and my blinds lightly tapping the window.

Earthquakes are like depression: you cannot outrun it, and in a time of imminent danger and loneliness, all you can do is hide and cover yourself to the best of your ability. San Andreas was good for an action movie, and if you like movies strongly consisting of running and screaming and things falling down, I recommend it.

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