Tonight Sean and I met after work to see a movie, which is something we've been meaning to do for a while. Every so often we get this twee idea to have a Date Night, and then we forget about it for the next two weeks and just heat up something from Trader Joe's while flopped out on the couch in front of Law & Order like we do every night. But this evening, we honored the promise we'd made yesterday and we both walked from opposite points in San Francisco and met in the middle at the Embarcadero Center to see the six-fifteen showing of The Darjeeling Limited.
(Which, by the way, totally stole my song! And yet still, you should see this movie. At first you will think it is a little too studiously pretentious, and then something will happen and you will start to like it. You will even manage to get over about 60% of your loathing of Jason Schwartzman, and 100% of your loathing of Adrien Brody. Hmm, maybe they should have put Ben Affleck in this movie. Or Paris Hilton. Wait, too far? Too far.)
Anyway, so we were sitting there, in this dark little room with thirty other people, and we were three quarters of the way through the film, and by this point I was so invested in it---the colors! the beauty! you could almost smell India!---that when my seat started to shake, my brain just processed it at first as being a part of the movie, sort of like one of those simulator things you could never go in at the amusement park, because they always cost extra in addition the price of your ticket.
And then a milisecond passed, and I realize that no, the room was actually shaking, and Sean and I turned to each other, and the first thing I could think was "he's finally feeling an earthquake! He must be so happy!" I've felt three earthquakes since we've been in San Francisco---you might remember this one and this one---and Sean hasn't felt any of them, you see, and it's driven him crazy. I think, before tonight, he had yet to feel like a real California citizen.
It's impossible to describe what an earthquake feels like to someone who hasn't been in an earthquake, except to say that it's pretty much exactly how you would imagine it to be. There is, as you would expect, a lot of shaking. And it doesn't stop. And you all look around, thinking "ha! it has to stop! When will it stop? Any second now!" and then it doesn't stop and it keeps on shaking and you think, plain and simple, "I have to leave. Wait, aren't I supposed to get under a table or a doorway? Well, screw that, no time, I have to leave. Oh my god, I'm three floors up, how will I leave?"
And let me tell you, it's worse when you're in a little dark room---with Owen Wilson still cavorting obliviously in India, the screen a glorious mishmash of turquoises and reds---and the woman behind you is saying "it's The Big One! It's The Big One!" And you're thinking "Is it?" Briefly, I wondered what it would be like to face death at the Embarcadero Center, to have people years later say "and what were you doing during The Big Quake Of 2007?" and to answer them "ah, just picking popcorn kernels from my teeth."
After a bit, the panic mounting, most of the people in the cinema half-stood, grabbed bags and purses, and tentatively turned to the exits. The roof was rattling ominously and Sean said later that he thought it was going to fall in; sweetly, he'd planned exactly how he'd shield my face with his arm if it did. And then it stopped. I bet, if you'd timed it, the whole thing would have taken six or seven seconds, although if you'd asked me, I would have said six or seven minutes. When the movie ended half an hour later and we poured out onto the street, nobody could stop talking about it, how weird it was, how scary it was, oh, and did you hear the roof rattling too? In fact, it wasn't until we were halfway into our walk home that I turned to Sean and said "hey, what did you think of the film?"
This earthquake was only a 5.6---which is the strongest I've felt so far, but still not particularly bad---and when we got home, no wineglasses were broken, no cats traumatised and skittish. But Sean and I couldn't stop talking about it, the bizareness of being at the cinema during an earthquake, the absolute wrongness of it, I mean, how strange that we were just living our lives when the ground started shaking on an innocuous Tuesday evening. "That was really a lot more troubling than I thought it would be," said Sean. And I know that we signed up for this when we signed up for San Francisco, but he's right. Even the harmless shaking is hard to get used to.