Copyright is held by the author.
THE STEAM rises from my early morning coffee warming my face. I close my eyes and inhale the scent deeply, anticipating the rich flavour of that first scalding sip. I cradle the cup lovingly, the heat a balm for my soul as much as for my hands.
“You ready?” she calls from the hallway entering the room, all teenage grace and angst. “C’mon, we’ll be late.” She doesn’t really care about being tardy. She’s going to drive the car. That’s the appeal — and the hurry.
She’s going to drop me off on her way to school. I worked in health services then. Every day I donned personal protective equipment, masks, and shields, gowns and surgical gloves trying to breathe through our own air, feeling, imprisoned behind rubber — but not now.
We survived years of the pandemic, the dramatic horrors of climate change and then in 2035 the west coast earthquake. The entire shoreline of North America dropped away: Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, entire cities gone. Just gone.
We’d been warned. Of course. But still it was unexpected. The earth shuddered. That’s all. The whole continent felt Mother Earth shrug her shoulders. The soil cracked and broke away and everything that had once been just slid into the ocean.
She’s standing in the doorway now waiting impatiently — my coat in her hand. She smiles and shakes her head. “Really, mom, I’ll get you a travel mug. Drink it on the way. You’ll be late.” I smile, stand, reach for the jacket, and run the back of my hand over her smooth skin, taking in her furrowed brow, the annoyed glint in her eye. She thinks I am wasting time. Time is never wasted. Time is.
We arrive at Vancouver’s inner city safely. I watch her drive away. Another nursing day launched.
The new shore line, 100 miles east of the original, is now a long line of cliffs, a jagged scar reminding us there once was more. More land, more buildings, more people. They built a memorial boardwalk to commemorate all the millions of lives lost.
Guides point to the horizon and say, “the Vancouver skyline would have been directly in front of you.”
I remember that day, the coffee, the car ride, my husband’s text: “be late for dinner”, the hospital halls, the emergency sirens, the panic, the grit of the dust that clouded the air.
Memories define us, confine us. The experience is ours alone, but isn’t there a lingering burst of emotional energy left behind that says, “We were here”? Did this event cause a rent in the fabric of life like stones dropped into a pond rippling the surface, or sound waves circling out forever, heat rising up from a cup of coffee unseen but still there?
Those cities are gone, the lives that peopled them gone. And yet, still here I am, walking this boardwalk, tethered to a place that no longer exists with memories that drift unmoored with no body to call home.