Fear, and All His Friends
Last night was undoubtedly one of the most frightening nights of my life. Rather, it is the most frightening of my nights as far as memory serves.
Perhaps, too, last night, I’ve met what people called fear. Or at least one akin to fear.
It was but an ordinary night, last night. I was reading from my computer while closely watching the time waiting for 9 pm because I intended to crash early. Until it happened. 8:46 pm.
Now, earthquakes are nothing out of the ordinary in our place. It happens a lot. So, instead of doing anything at all, I stayed in my chair thinking it would fade in a minute or two.
Turns out I was incredibly wrong. Instead of the tremors dying out, it just kept getting stronger and stronger until it reached the point where it felt like our house was floating in water instead of planted on solid ground.
The earth was shaking and it wasn’t stopping.
I thought to myself that it was not the time to be in front of my computer. I started closing out all programs to shut it down. The electric service provider was way ahead of me. It was a blackout. After all, the furniture was shaking, things were falling, and, above all, above everything, the atmosphere has started changing.
I could feel it.
Instead doing what I thought people should be doing during an earthquake, getting outside the building or going under a sturdy table, I went to my bed, put a blanket over me, and kept thinking, Please, let it be over already. Let nothing worse happen. Give us rest tonight.
8:52 pm. It stopped.
I felt calm. I knew it was over. Until I heard footsteps. Footsteps of the people closer to the coast who wanted to go to get away from the Pacific in search of safety from what may come.
That’s when my heart started beating faster.
I couldn’t be calm anymore. Especially not when my mother started sounding panicked. And my sister calling me to check on us while she herself was obviously still very shaken her voice, even on the phone, giving her away too much. And when my brother came wanting to fetch and bring us to their sanctuary.
The people admitted that they were yet to hear anything from the authorities. That no warnings or orders have been placed. That they were only being proactive.
One song. It took only one song for me to appease my heart.
It didn’t take long for my cousin, a local official, to come around with, Everyone, don’t get shocked but a tsunami warning has been put in place and everyone is advised to go to higher ground.
By then, no song could calm me. I still had my phone with me and could play any beautiful song if only I wanted to. But I couldn’t. I wanted to preserve the battery. The lights were out and there was no recharging it once the battery dies.
We didn’t go with my brother. But, as he advised, we packed some clothes and things. I packed my memory sticks and drives.
I didn’t pack my computer then. My netbook. Not until my mother told me that we should be leaving the house already and I was already shaking inside and out when I realised I couldn’t just leave my computer. So, I didn’t. I stuffed it in my bag without even bothering to put it in its sleeve.
I knew it was going to be a long night.
We walked to relative safety and more people were coming in. Still more people were emerging from across the river. And there started to be casualties.
People started falling into that blasted open canal. It was a full moon night and visibility was relatively high. However, at times like last night, anything remotely dangerous on an ordinary day can become fatal.
The first one was a mother with her baby. The second one was an old woman. Last I heard, the baby was safe. I haven’t heard about the rest of them yet.
The waiting was too long.
I could hardly talk.
I couldn’t sit and be still.
I have never experienced anything like it. No earthquake has even come close in all my years of living, even if it’s still so short. My mother even told me that she herself has never experienced such and she’s turning 67 this December.
10:33 pm. The lights came came back on. At that time, I saw it as a sign that we were no longer in imminent danger. That things are better now, if only for a bit. That the long and frightening night was almost over.
I could only hope and pray for the best.
The atmosphere started changing back, too. The tension was lifting. Even the air changed. My sweatshirt, I no longer needed.
Despite that, my heart wasn’t entirely at peace yet with the rest of my soul. I could see the lights as a beacon of greater hope yet my heart kept throbbing as if the danger was still upon us. I was still on alert.
My mother wanted to go back to our house too. But I decided for both of us to stay at the neighbour’s, where other people were staying too. It’s just the two of us and I was only so certain that I wouldn’t be able to stand being alone with my mother while she talks of danger and worse, while panic is still with her.
So, we stayed there, they turned the TV on, and we waited for the cable TV service to come back on so we could watch the news.
It wasn’t until half past twelve, it was already September the 1st, when the authorities officially pronounced it over by lifting the tsunami alert and telling us that it was safe for everyone who evacuated to go back to their homes and houses.
My mother had coffee, I had my choco-malt, and we had bread.
We finally went to bed at about 1 am.
Finally, we can go sleep, rest, and be ready to wake up to a new day.
It was frightening, scary, terrifying.
Nevertheless, it was refreshing. For, from every experience, wisdom can be gleaned by those who seek it.
The long night, the long wait, the long apprehension when I couldn’t talk nor sit still didn’t keep me idle.
In those hours when only the blue moon shining in all its glory was giving us light, I had the time to think. Think and learn.
For the first time since I’ve heard of it, I finally understood what they meant when they said to live each day as if it were your last.
Indeed, too many things in this world are unpredictable. A typhoon, a thunderstorm, a hurricane we can see coming. A volcano we can fell erupting. But there remain forces in nature that not even the best of human capability can anticipate.
An earthquake. An earthquake with as much strength as last night’s. We could never have predicted that. We could never have measured its strength until it struck. We could never have calculated how much damage it can cause until it happened. We could have never located it until it came.
And accidents. Accidents happen and there is no denying that. Our world is not perfect. Humans aren’t perfect. Anything can happen. And anything can end our days.
I’ve always thought that when death comes knocking at my proverbial door, I would be able to smile at the Reaper and tell him that, You can take me. I’ve always been ready for you. You can’t surprise me.
Last night, I knew I couldn’t have the Reaper take me.
There are too many things that I still want to do.
I’ve always been so complacent. I’ve always been so overcome by lethargy and never had the thought to fight it. There are too many things that I could’ve done one day but never did because I told myself that there isn’t enough time to finish it that same day when I recognise the possibility that it can still be done.
I’ve put off things for another time. I’ve even put off things for days and weeks. I’ve wanted to do things but pushed it to later because I’ve always been so confident, so overly confident, so senselessly confident that there will always be a tomorrow for me.
Now, I know, I know, and I know that it is not so. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone at all.
Tomorrow is only something that we can look forward to. It is but a concept. It is nothing more than an idea.
And ideas are uncertainties. And no one should ever count on uncertainties to be the final word. And now, I understand, there is but one certain final word…
Today is my last.