October 17, 1994
Nobody could sleep. Some of us played poker, one couple jazzed on adrenaline and desire slaked a long-delayed lust in the spare bedroom. The television set kept us posted. Tap water was unsafe, so we drank home-made beer and ate pasta. The telephone was in constant use, checking on friends and loved ones.
Along about one in the morning I got out a bottle of expensive cognac that had been given me by a friend. I'd been saving it for years, waiting for a special occasion. Not getting killed in an earthquake qualified. So I opened it and the eight of us drank half the bottle. It was just right.
I'd begged blankets and pillows from the neighbors, and by three everyone had collapsed. Silent bundles of exhausted dreamers parked all over the house.
At six I woke up and went down to the corner bakery and got sweet rolls and made coffee, and by eight everyone had left to try to get home. Sometime in the night, the guilty lovers had taken French leave.
Bridges were out, freeways had collapsed. An undetermined number of dead, and fires out of control all over. Things were a mess. About a week later a friend told me that he'd had two bottles of the same exotic brandy and both of them had fallen to the floor and smashed.
Now is the right time.
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