The door swung slowly inward, and I clung onto the jamb so tightly it made my knuckles pale. The room stared at me silently, but I felt it shake, a rumbling like thunder, everything crashing all around...
AftershockM. Stanley Bubien
No! It was over! The earthquake had ended!
I took a deep breath, wrenching my hand free, and forced myself into the room. I wanted to step surely, solidly, as though that would bring stability back, but my shoes crunched upon the broken china strewn about the floor. I dodged my couch, spun from its normal perch, and came to the nightstand and lamp which lay on their sides.
Somehow, neither lay broken. I picked up the lamp. It still gave off a sparkling reflection from its cylindrical base, and I twisted it around and gazed into it like a crystal ball. The littered floor, the table and couch, my fallen bureau, the overturned desk and computer, pictures that'd slid from the wall---all this reflected at me in an image distorted by the lamp's shape.
And there, in the midst of this distortion, blurred into a single image with the disarray about the room, was my face, a warped figure staring, eyes unnaturally wide.
Something screamed from the corner, and I dropped the lamp and covered my ears.
Down, down, down it fell, as if in slow motion, and my reflection within the base seemed to reach out, arms groping futilely above its head to stop the fall.
The lamp hit the hardwood floor and shattered, spraying shards everywhere.
The scream came again.
I wanted to scream back, but was stopped by a sudden realization. "The phone!" I grunted, dropping my hands. I pushed my way into the kitchen. The reek coming from my overturned refrigerator nearly overwhelmed me, but I took short breaths, trying to inhale only through my mouth, and lifted the receiver.
"You okay?" my brother's voice asked calmly, a contrast to everything that surrounded me.
"I... I... think..." I began to answer.
"It's alright," he interrupted. "Maybe it's still too soon."
"No!" I blurted. "I can do this."
"Look, earthquakes are traumatic. And you had the worse of it."
"No!" I called again. "Damn it! I can handle this! It's been long enough."
My brother paused briefly, then said, "I know how you feel. I've been scared too. It can take time."
My grasp threatened to crush the phone and I cried, "Damn you! It's been three months, and I've never been---" I cut myself short.
Voice soothing, he said, "Okay. You decide what's best. You're welcome to keep staying with us---lucky my wife still likes you!" He laughed, and continued more solemnly, "It's up to you. But remember. There's no shame in this. You've been through a lot."
I nodded with the phone still to my cheek, and said, "Okay."
After I hung up, I glanced around. The light flashed off the lamp shards I'd recently added to the mess, reflecting tiny pieces of myself scattered about.
"No shame!" I cried shaking my head with my eyes closed.
Based on a true story.
Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien All Rights Reserved.
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