When he did, his aunt collected everyone’s cellphones, including mine, and hooked them up to the car battery. I sat in the Jeep and typed out the first installment of this blog series, then posted it using the internet connection on my phone. I watched as families waited in line for the water truck then carried large jugs back to their homes. Alex played catch with his niece. Other children played baseball in the empty lot across the street. There were bits of completely normal activity amidst chaos.
After all the cell phones were charged, Alex and I drove off to go back to our respective apartments. Of course, as I entered mine, another 4.2 aftershock hit and I almost left again immediately, but instead I organized things as best I could, fed the fish, and cleaned up most of what had spilled on the kitchen floor. I took the stuffed foldable mattress and my sleeping bag. My friend Nicole offered to lend me a tent. I met Alex downstairs, and we dumped our important things in the Jeep. We then walked 2 blocks with our camping equipment to an empty lot where Nicole’s family and several neighbors from her apartment building had set up a camp the night before. We cooked chorizo and chicken on a grill one of Nicole’s neighbors had carried to the lot. As it became evening we drank warm rum and coke because there was no ice to be bought or borrowed. We played Uno, and then one of Nicole’s older neighbors started a conversation with me about Chicago, in which he played the part of expert.
Eventually I climbed into the tent that was mine for the night with my flippable mattress and thin blanket, and fell asleep to the sounds of more chatter and someone in a nearby tent snoring loudly.