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HECTOR COMPOSES A CIRCULAR LETTER TO HIS FRIENDS TO ANNOUNCE HIS SURVIVAL OF AN EARTHQUAKE, 7.8 ON THE RICHTER SCALE / David Zane Mairowitz Mexico City. 23 September, 1985 Dear David, Knowing that a letter from me has slightly more chance of reaching you across the world than one sent to me here (my local post office is a heap of stone), I'm preempting your questions and (I trust) your concern by making the following announcement: I AM ALIVE. THE CITY IS NOT DESTROYED. I thought at first to write to each of my friends separately but I've decided now to photocopy this brief note and send it out as a circular. (At the same time I would ask you to make copies and pass them on to any mutual friends you might think of.) I can't tell when I'll have a moment to write at length, but I'm sure you'll understand it might not be for some time. The most urgent thing is that you don't worry about me and above all not try to phone. The central communications office went down in the first quake. For the moment, just take my word for it: I'M ALIVE and not lying under the rubble of my apartment block as you may imagine. Muchos abrazos, Hector I)S. SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE EXPECTED news of Beatrice. • The fact is I can't provide any. That is to say, she is not dead, or so it would seem. I have been on her trail since the first moment the fat gourmet worms I was eating disappeared from my plate, since the cinema across from the restaurant where I was to see the reissue of Singin' in the Rain an hour later budged a meter to the left then one to the right before severing itself in two from the marquee, down the center aisle, exposing Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds to those of us sitting, too sick to be astonished, in the restaurant. What I am saying is that not only was the left side of the street spared while the right collapsed in on itself, but also that the stone edifice of the cinema appeared to have cracked while the plasterboard projection box and the flyweight movie screen stood functioning, albeit robbed of 76 · The Missouri Review sound. And we—those of us who had been sitting along the plate glass restaurant window, which bowed but stood like the rest of our side of the street, scarcely believing yet in the tremor—watched the film. It was in what-must-have-been-a-scarce-second that Beatrice appeared to me, as I had last seen her years before, backing out of our cemetery rendezvous, machete in hand to make sure I did not follow her, leaving for me on a gravestone the court injunction preventing me from entering her premises in future. I imagined, with Gene Kelly now swooning and ripped along the perfect axis of his dancer's body in this tiny aftershock some perhaps fifty seconds later, that everything in our lives was cleft open to miraculous spontaneity, now, that catastrophe would make bitter sisters charitable, calm the distraught and reunite fractious enemies as the bombing raids of popular wars were cracked up to have done. And so I went for her, not altogether from fear of finding her dead, but rather to see if she lay perhaps prostrate under brick and if, the choice being between suffocation and my pulling her free, she would proffer a helpless hand or retreat forever into the dark stone. In any case, in that moment of divided earth nothing could be taken for absolute, not even her hatred for me, that perfect dynamo which could in its heyday set forest fires at long distance and turn windmills on the airless caverns of the moon. I staggered out into the street. The riot squads were already overreacting, bayonetting bystanders away from the central area, but it was gratuitous. We were becalmed in the murderous city, docile as never before, because I'm sure that we somehow always expected this, knew at every moment of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 76-91
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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