A Matter of Seconds


Lia Kalforian

And there I was, watching from a distance, as the blazing red lights illuminated the city through the debris and smoke. I was far, but not far enough; no one could have been. My heart felt as though it could slowly disintegrate in your palm, the way tissue paper does when you run it through water. Over 300,000 screams echoing in my mind. I remained motionless, paralyzed, only carrying the knowledge that the life I had once known is now a faint memory. In a matter of seconds, a living breathing world can be buried deep in rubble. No matter how deep you dig, you will never be able to retrieve it as it was. Life belittled.

The day seemed like any other. Looking back, I remember even the most insignificant details; the conversations between neighbors, the glossy red ball our dog kept handing us. He would squeak it constantly using our legs as support for attention. The way the sun peered from the curtains, covering the kitchen in a golden tint. Lunch was taking longer than usual, being put off by our dance breaks and little jokes in between rolling the dough and cooking the sauce. Meal prep was a family activity that day, and as all family activities go, we barely took it seriously. The food was half done; mom told me to take it out of the oven in 30 minutes. I checked the time: 5:30. Should be easy enough of a thing to remember. I made a mental note, “Take out the pizza at 6:00.” I went about with my day, checking on the food once before the thirty minutes were up; the cheese had melted so perfectly on the pineapple slices I so heavily dreaded meeting in between bites; pineapple pizza: it was one of those things my sister had convinced me to try. I spent the rest of the time watching hilarious videos online, chuckling out the minutes drawn away from reality, when suddenly a small shake brought me back. My immediate thought was to run to the kitchen and let my family know that I had finally experienced one of those tiny earthquakes I never seem to catch; I caught a glimpse of the clock. 6:08. This is where my mind draws a blank. Something happened in between running to the kitchen in full joy and ending up under a desk, pressing my dog to my chest and feeling his heartbeat, pleading for a painless death. My eyes met my mother’s; we were standing there at the very edge of life. The world went mute. What felt like a blink later, I found myself in the midst of utter chaos. My dad trying to get into contact with all our relatives making sure everyone is alive. My mom calming my sister down after her episode of panic. The sound of sirens and people screaming in agony and fright meshed with American Pie by Don McLean, still playing from earlier when my sister was dancing around in the kitchen. I was in another world; I was in shock. I hear my mother yelling, “Lia go get water!” Doing as told, I rush to the kitchen for water and stop when I notice the color of the world outside; it feels surreal. Almost as if it was put through a filter. The pizza was taken out; it was burnt.

How odd is it that our minds either completely repress certain days, certain moments that bear emotions too big for us, leaving us in a fog with gaps in between our memories, or provide us with a roll of film we can pop into the movie projector of our minds and relive the day in vivid images. Sometimes it might feel as though those images are no longer a part of the movie, and a moment we are reliving in real time. A Jumanji effect that is hard to grow fond of. It happens on joyous occasions when fireworks are sent blasting across the sky, during everyday life when a classmate drops her metal flask, when a door closes a bit too hard.