San Franciscans are resilient people.While many are natives of the city, many more have come from other less beautiful, less tolerant places. They are willing to suffer shifting fault lines every few decades for the pleasures of living in one of the world’s most charming cities.
The fog had dissipated. Sirens could still be heard around the city. Smoke from the fires, at last contained in the Marina, drifted south toward Treasure Island and the number of fatalities reported earlier on the news had been overestimated. The majority of the newer buildings downtown had been built to withstand earthquakes and most of the lath and plaster, wooden Victorians typical of San Francisco had creaked and rocked and suffered few ill effects.
Earthquakes are non-descriminating. From the predominantly, working class, Mission district up to elegant Nob Hill, San Franciscans were picking up the broken bits and resuming their lives. The residents of North Beach crowded into the Savoy Tivoli for drinks and antipasti and the aroma of sauteed garlic wafted from the kitchen of Bocce Cafe as they geared up for the dinner crowd.
Eric was exhausted, covered in smoke soot and drenched to the bone when he reached his apartment building. Ruth was sitting on the front steps, jumping up when she saw him.
“Oh, thank God! I’ve been calling you for hours!” She threw herself against him, kissing him feverishly. When she drew away she had black streaks on her cheeks, forehead and the end of her nose while the front of her dress looked like the Turin shroud. Eric laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” They stood holding one another on the sidewalk until she pulled away, asking with alarm, “I was terrified. They said people were dead in the Marina. I went to your office. Where were you?”
“I was helping to put out the fires.”
“You should have called me,” she scolded. He gave her a reproving look.
“Well, this time I was too busy.” Ruth lowered her eyes in embarrassment as he tucked a wayward lock of her hair back behind her ear and wiped the soot from the end of her nose. “So it takes a major earthquake for you to want to see me, huh?”
“I’m sorry, Eric. Really.”
“We’re safe and we’re together. That’s all that matters now.” Embracing on busy Grant Avenue, at last together without the impediment of legal briefs and tax forms, life came into focus for them both.”
“Let’s get married,” Ruth blurted, impulsively. Eric smiled, knowing it was only a momentary slip of her finely calibrated emotions and when she returned to work, she would fall back into her old patterns. Her elusiveness was the price he paid for loving an ambitious woman. For the present, however, she was all his and he savored the rare moment.