Mom cannot afford an Earthquake Room for our apartment, not this year either. Which is nothing to get extremely red in the ears about. She is standing near her bedroom against the rounded wall. So I try maturity when I go about the subject, tell her I am nuts for safety, tell her I found coupons for a Flood Room instead. Everyone knows that a Flood Room is a more frugal, sensible option. We have a small nook right between the kitchenette and the front door where it could fit like a dream. Or we could convert my bedroom, and I could sleep on the sectional. You can never pay too much for preparation. But my mom, who does not have life insurance for her big cheeks or her thinning hair, peels a peachy bit of wallpaper from around the doorframe. She asks me how likely it would be for our fourth floor apartment to sink under water, and I clarify: this is for a flood of the more biblical variety. Then she flicks the piece of wallpaper on the floor where there is a little pile forming, because she always peels the wallpaper in the same spot. She gives me an in-your-dreams-young-lady kind of look.
“Sylvia, why not want a bicycle or a pet chinchilla or a hobby for a switch?”
Now: I am wise to the facts. That insurance companies make a killing on Natural Disaster Rooms™. Foisted on overly careful parents for routine practice scenarios. But everyone at McKinsey School uses their Earthquake Rooms as an excuse to cop a feel. All of that chaos, confusion, and how!
So when my mom is working late, I can usually be found at a friend’s place, after school, making safety come first.
Like the time Bridget threw a party for her thirteenth birthday last year and everyone was invited to her house and into the Earthquake Room. Her parents gave each kid a piece of candy at the door. The mom was smiling and patting my shoulder when I walked in. Sung-Jin, who has opinions, thought that they had confused her birthday with Halloween as an irrational reaction to Bridget’s impending womanhood. Bridget was wearing a really low-cut shirt and laughing as an excuse to show off her lack of braces. Sung-Jin was whispering about it but he didn’t have to. Bridget’s parents are so tall that they are deaf. My mom is petite and I say that means her center of gravity is of the down to earth variety.
Bridget’s parents slid some chocolate cake into the room and closed the door behind us. They did not understand why we wanted to celebrate with an earthquake, but they wanted us to have everything we wished for. I wouldn’t call her party orgiastic, which is this word from vocab class. But my performance on her birthday did win me an invite to several other Earthquake Rooms for some one-on-one natural disasters. I used to be a regular at Sung-Jin’s place, but not anymore.
The thing about the room is that it always looks the same, no matter the house. A fairly small space, but with vaulted ceilings. A rough type of carpeting. Not so good for lying down. The far wall always has built-in bookshelves, but only one of the books is ever real. It belly-flops down from the top shelf right at the start of the simulation, so you can predict the fall pretty easily. Bridget was so distracted by all of the birthday attention that it conked her in the noggin. She has these blonde bangs that half-shade her eyes; she’s always peeking at you. Now the bangs were flying crooked and her eyes fluttered.