Posted by: David Weimer | March 16, 2011

My Own Private Tsunami (revisited)

I was thinking about this tsunami while working on my wife’s van in the parking lot next to our apartment.  In the [now almost seven] years since that pondering, till now, I’d forgotten about the tsunami and the 230,000 people it washed away.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes.  Every day I forget another tragedy where thousands upon thousands of families like mine are rubbed out in earthquakes, floods, civil wars and plagues.

Last week [I wrote a year ago], I was looking through my unfinished stuff to find something to work on.  A friend and I regularly attend a philosophic discussion group, M&M Philosophy in Wheeling and we made a 2010 New Year’s pact.  He’s an artist and I want to write, so we said we’d bring new work in every Tuesday meeting evening to show each other.

This accountability arrangement has so far prompted me to return to and finish things that may not have ever been touched again—things  I’d begun while self-employed contracting for a living.  Years pass.  I put something on my desktop, and then put it aside, then file it away.  Not returning to things is a constant threat and theme.


My Own Private Tsunami, 2004

by David W. Weimer


Packed in together with thousands.

Tens of thousands.

Hundreds of thousands in a surge out of nowhere.

Bobbing like corks.  Ant-like people like me.

We’re ants.

Hundreds… thousands…

We’re just like…

Instead of driving with my family to a friend’s property in the hills for a winter, day-after-Christmas campfire, I’m replacing the water pump in my wife’s 1996 GMC Safari.  Kneeling up here on the cowling to get leverage, reaching in with an open-end wrench, holding my flashlight like a phone on my ear, I pry and un-stick the old part from its seat and see this old water pump wouldn’t have made the 40-plus-mile round-trip.  I turn the shaft with difficulty; something seems to have melted and fused inside.  My fingers are cold.

We could have had an adventure different from my smelling what I knew in our gravel parking lot this morning as I walked to the dumpster with trash bags of wrapping paper and cardboard.  It could have been different from bending down, peering, seeing the yellow-green circle under the nose of our tan van, popping the hood, knowing what I’d find.  The adventure could have involved a stranger’s driveway or just the side of the road reaching in with tools and the cars blowing by.

Maybe my family would have spent several hours this night far from warmth, contentment and our apartment.

But now in this fading light, I carefully clean old stuck-on gasket material from the engine block inlet and outlet with a razor blade.  I apply gasket sealant from a tube to the new pump’s gasket and line up bolt holes and press the replacement part into place.  I get the bolts started and tighten them carefully.  I reattach stiff hoses and reassemble the air intake housing.  I add antifreeze and bleed the air from the system by squeezing a hose and watching bubbles in the open fill neck of the radiator.  I take a test ride, keeping an eye on the temperature gage.  I look under the hood with my blue flashlight—everything is fine.  I wipe off my tools and put them away in my cold metal toolbox.  My hands are a little scraped up.  I clean them in the kitchen sink in time to eat with Andrée and the boys.

It was providence that got me tearing this van apart today after noticing the puddle of anti-freeze, oh yes.  Everything worked out.  The auto parts store by the mall was open this Sunday after Christmas.  Something is watching us, helping our van to break down at just the right time here at home, during the day, when I’m not working…  We were lucky.  We’ve been lucky before.  Tomorrow morning I’ll check the coolant level in the van before work and probably top it off.  I sense a heavy quiet certainty that we’re being looked after… just like they are.

And they… earlier today, over there, providence watched over them by the hundreds, thousands—people like me in a big swirling wash of human flotsam tea in a wrath of the God of Tsunami death…

I sort of think they used up their luck, but I don’t know.  Maybe this was their luck.  I think that something watches and doesn’t care about luck, even though I feel we’re lucky.

They were doing the same thing as I’m doing now, only drowning while I was sleeping (because of the time difference).  I know there was a guy over there working on his car.  He scraped his arm on the radiator just like I did.  They were people, I’ll call them individuals, in the middle of something important over there.  Sleeping and hating, working and relaxing and eating.  Arguing and loving.  One guy was standing near a tree in his yard, gazing at the horizon and his life, pondering his family’s future and listening to music, distracted, watching television and just turning it off.  And then everything was under water, drowning in a tabula rasa torrent.

Will I drown?  I gotta wonder sometimes—not that I’m looking forward to it.

© 2010  David W. Weimer


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