Wednesday, March 31, 2010

first responder

I am a first responder.
I come on to emergency scenes and I help people get through them. I have lifesaving skills. I breathe life back into those in their darkest, most desperate hour. Generally, I stumble upon people in need of my craft, but lately I have been seeking disasters out.
I keep my ear to the ground. Sometimes you can feel an earthquake coming hours before it actually hits. You get down low and press your ear to the soil. Soil is a better conductor for the sounds you are listening for. You press your ear very close to the ground. Then, you exhale and inhale slowly and, just before you dispel your next breathe, you pause and listen. You will hear a faint grumbling. The further away, the more faint it will be. Just repeat this process until you have figured out the concise location. This could take seconds or it could take years.
This is how I came to find her. I had my ear to the ground and heard and intense rumbling. It was so loud it came near to deafening. It seemed as though I was at the epicenter of a 9.5 magnitude quake. That, up until this very moment, I was completely unaware of the fact that I had been living in Chile and that it was May 22, 1960 and not March 31, 2010. The big one, Gran terremoto de Chile, was coming for me and I didn’t have anywhere to go, because a first responder needs to be where the action is. A first responder does not have the luxury of fleeing the scene. A first responder is responsible for staying the course and seeing things through like the captain of a sinking ship.
I had always come across disasters; I’ve never been part of one. As I lay there, waiting and listening, I pondered the specifics of my existence. If I am the first responder, then who will respond to me? Are there second responders that receive a signal when the first responder is down? Perhaps there is a beacon or all of the second responders live in a cave and when a first responder goes down, there are flashing lights and sirens and they emerge from the Earth’s crust to aid the fallen responder.
I was close to solving the mystery when I opened my eyes and saw her. She was staring at me with the largest set of eyes I had ever met. She asked me what I was listening for. I told her earthquakes. I asked her what she was listening for and she said teardrops.
We were listening for each other’s call. We were instantly locked in embrace. In the first second, it felt like we had been in this place for years. Our bodies were molded to fit one another not like two plucky strangers, but like identical twins. We were like two people that came into their respective forms together. Though our lips could not recite each other’s names, our hearts were long-time acquaintances. Each heart beat out the rhythm of a devotional power ballad written on behalf of the other heart.
I told her that she was the most beautiful disaster I had ever seen. I called her Cañete. When she kissed my face she told me my cheeks tasted like salt. So, to her, I was Sal. I can’t say that I remember what people called me before I first responded to her. I can’t say that anyone did call me before her. If you told me that my 35 years of roaming were spent as a nameless person, I would believe you because I have no memory of this time.
All I know is right now. Right know we are Sal and Cañete as I imagine we have always been and will always be.
Cañete trembles and shakes the earth apart while I water the soil with saline tears. When we become so far apart that we cannot find each other, we simply press our ears into the soil exhaling, inhaling, and pausing until we have figured out each other’s concise locations. When we are together, it as like the place on the ocean floor before the ocean shelf drops into oblivion. We are the place that is neither Earth nor ocean, yet perfectly both at the same time. We are the tipping point between pain and pleasure and we are eternally bound for the moment.