Disaster Relief 

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"Duty calls," Sung-Jin said. We had been bumping a little, just idly grabbing at whatever we could. He pushed me towards the wall and caught Bridget, because he knows I can take care of myself.

The walls on either side of the Earthquake Rooms are decked with heavy curtains that shift and sway. Beneath the curtains, each room is installed with digitalized windows. The glass in the windows breaks, but not really. You can see outside, but not really. The world is cracking apart, but not really. The room rocks back and forth, and there is an electronic voice that guides you through proper earthquake procedure. Basically, we would just try and fall on top of each other. At Bridget's party, I bumped into a guy and made him fall into the cake. That was how I met Jonah. He had chocolate in his ear.

I call Jonah from the kitchen phone while I'm making tea for my Mom, and tell him that she said no to the Earthquake Room, no to the Flood Room.

"It's okay, you're still invited over obviously," he says.

"Listen: I'm doing the favor here by spending time with you. Not vicy-versy."

"I know." Jonah's voice is really calm. The hot water is boiling over onto the stovetop, and down to the floor where it always pools. The floorboards are warped in that one puddle-spot.

"Where are you right now?"

"In my bedroom," he says.

"What are you wearing?" I ask.

"A shirt and pants, and also a belt."

"Oh, cool."

"Do you want to hear about the wildfires?"

 "You have a Wildfire Room? No way."

"No," Jonah says. "There are wildfires going on right this minute. Do you want me to tell you about them?"

"Yes," I say. He tells me about the wildfires, and other natural disasters happening right this minute.

Jonah and I aren't friends, but nowadays I go to his house. He doesn't really have many friends, or at least he has less than me. He just basically strikes me as na├»ve, if I'm honest. His parents are professional type people. And he has a Natural Disaster Hallway™ , which means exactly what it sounds like.

One day, when my mom is working late at the office, I am at Jonah's giant house, in his Landslide Room. These rooms are much more realistic than the older models, more realistic than the Earthquakes. We are covered in mud. We try a different room each week, and get turned on by all the danger. One week it's the Tornado Room, then maybe a little Tsunami. This week, I let him touch inside my thigh. I am wearing shorts because it's springtime, so he's touching my actual skin.

"Don't you care about messing up your clothing?" I want excuses for more skin.

"No, not really. I can get more."

"I don't want to wear messed up clothing to school."

"You don't ever do that."

"But maybe I should not mess up this shirt anymore?" Jonah is slow on the understanding what I want. The room tilts up like a seesaw to get a new landslide going, and instead of letting me fall into his lap, he protects me from the mud and rubble by seatbelting his arm in front of my chest. I let it stay there while we coast down the floor and to the opposite wall. We slide out into the hallway with our noses running and the carpeting gets soaked with clumpy rivulets, which is a word from vocab that I always use in essays for an easy wow. We are still sliding around, and Jonah's father is home early, at the top of the stairs. He sees the mess, so that isn't good. His face turns into a stale prune and I think it's time to leave.


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