It can’t be true. I won’t believe this.
I glance at the photograph I held tightly in my hand. I feel my hands getting sweaty, a bit moisture. I try not to get too emotional, but...it’s hard not to.
I control my tears, but it looks like they’re not listening to me. I felt my eyes getting heavier and heavier. Now, my eyelids cannot hold all that water in my eyes. They drip down, and onto the photograph.
Drip! Drip! Drip!
Now, my hands taste a bit salty, but I don’t really care. I quickly wipe my tears off my hands and the photo. That wasn’t what mattered.
It feels like it has been such a long time that I used to have parents. Before everything that happened. A waterfall continues to flow out of my eyes.
This time, I let it flow. I now understand that I need to let my feelings out.
I flip to the next page to see my family photo.
It was me, my mother, and my father. I was holding Rocco in the picture. We were a small family.
I was only six back then.
I loved them.
I really did.
I just wish that it wouldn’t take them fifteen years to find me. To care about me. To even search if I was alive or not. I just wish someone in this world would ever understand how I feel.
But, it’s hard to describe my emotion.
The only reason I look at the family album I saved from the disaster that occurred fifteen years ago is because it makes me feel a little better. Though every time it makes me cry to see them. In a corner of my heart, these photos remind me that I’m not alone. That I will always have someone with me, to care about me—though that’s not really true.
I used to live with some wealthy businesswoman, but I left her house after I graduated high school. I couldn’t stand here. In fact, it felt like I lived alone. She was always off on business trips and other meetings.
Honestly, I still don’t know the proper reason why she even adopted me. She had no time to care for me.
Starting from the age of eight, I started to cook, clean, and do the household chores all for her. My best friend was Aunt Hena. She wasn’t really my aunt or anything, but she was the maid in the house. She took care of me so well that instead of calling her Mrs. Hena, I called her Aunt Hena.
Though her love and care lasted until I was eighteen. She developed a severe case of heart disease. She was terribly ill, and soon, she left me.
The day after that I realized staying in this mansion without Aunt Hena would just pointless. Every time I stayed with that rich lady, it was like her presence was making me feel uneasy like I was going throw up on her...and myself.
I had been working as a waitress in a restaurant nearby the mansion. I started since I left that house for good. That’s how I got enough money to stay in a small, rented apartment until I found a job and could move on to my next stage of life.
During all this time, I’ve been having the same nightmares over and over again. Like they were bothering me each night, preventing me to have a proper sleep. It was almost impossible for me to close my eyes and rest for a couple of hours without these memories haunting me over and over again.
These dreams were actually my memories playing in a loop. Over and over. Making me remember all these terrible events.
I had them yesterday night as well.
It was fifteen years ago. A hot, humid, yet cloudy day, like any normal day in Florida. All the citizens were warned that there would be a thunderstorm.
My family didn’t worry much, only because we were pretty used to this climate.
But what we didn’t know was that there was something more dangerous coming in our way...dangerous than a mere thunderstorm.
Only we didn’t know it yet.
No one did.
As my family was doing our normal routine, mom making food for me and my father. He was going to work, and I was going to school.
The entire family sat at the dining table, and that’s when we realized.
Our family dog, Rocco, had started jumping up and down, almost like he was sensing something.
“What, Rocco? What boy? You hungry?” I asked him.
I immediately tried to reach the kitchen cabinet, but it was too tall, and I ultimately failed. Then I saw mother running towards the kitchen and she reached the pack of dog food, and we served it to him.
But he tipped the bowl over, and father got mad.
“Rocco! Bad boy! Eat the food. Now.” he ordered him, but he started whimpering more than usual, in a scary way.
“Mother, what happened to him? Is he sick? We need to go to the veterinarian!” I was seriously worried. I had noticed mother pacing around here and there, holding little Rocco in her hand.
“No, honey. We just visited Dr. Clark a week ago. He had said everything was perfectly fine. Maybe it is just that he needs water, or needs his walk.” mother tried to reason with me, but I knew she was tensed too.
“Let’s go to Dr. Clark, honey,” he looked towards my mother, “maybe he fell, or he is hurt Just to be sure, we must visit him,” he replied, and mother hesitantly replied. “Ok, let’s go quickly, before the thunderstorm.”
I remembered wearing my jacket, and holding Rocco very tightly, as if I was never, ever, going to leave him.
“Stay with me, ok, Rocco? You're fine.” I petted him, but his whimpering only grew louder and louder.
My six-year-old self had no other option but to cry. I started sobbing loudly.
That’s when it happened.
The wooden floor started shaking. We were all being tumbled around here and there. The dining table shook, and the vase leaned and fell on dad’s head. He was unconscious.
We called for him, and mother picked him up and held my hand tightly.
The table had also dropped the photo album, which I picked up.
The two of us rushed outside and when we did, we saw the entire ground had full of cracks. Houses had collapsed, including the floor.
Rocco had stopped whimpering and started to just whine a lot.
I could tell he was scared, just like the rest of us.
“GO ELANOR!! GO! GO FIND SHELTER! I’ll take care of dad! I need you to stay safe! Remember, we always loved you, and nothing can ever change about that.” she shrieked, and at first, I wanted to protest, stay with her.
But soon, I got startled when the ground started to shake more.
As I had started running towards the direction she was pointing to, Rocco couldn’t handle all of this.
He had gotten so scared that he jumped out of my grip and ran off.
I couldn’t blame him, he was only a little pup.
I was alone.
No one but myself.
I had nothing but a photo album with me to survive.
But I didn’t stop running. I wanted to call Rocco back, but there was no time for that. Everything just kept on shaking and crumbling, and soon, everything was destroyed.
I remembered, running tirelessly for a long period of time until I saw that I was in a train station. Well, a broken train station.
Only shattered columns and many things littered across the floor was left.
‘MIAMI TO TAMPA: DEPARTING IN 5 MINUTES’ The broken sign had read. I noticed that the sign was titling awkwardly.
I didn’t mind.
In fact, I remembered being happy to find shelter after many hours of aimlessly running and wandering here and there.
I remember, slowly walking over the broken pieces of bricks, stones, and other garbage.
I rested the photo album on the right side of the destructed floor, as I thought about all the things that had just happened to me in the past few hours.
How I had lost everything important to me in my life.
How I lost my parents.
Since that day, every time I try to sleep, these memories would always come back, no matter how hard I tried to not think about them. For some reason, they wouldn’t leave me alone.
I was miserable from that day.
After that, I had just started walking and walking until I reached a big house.
That was when I met that cold, rich lady.
She had made me a deal, that if I was ready to do all the chores in her house, she would adopt me.
Even there, I thought Aunt Hena and I would stay together.
But now she’s gone too.
That was when I realized that there was no point in staying in that house.
Ever since then, I have been always searching for my parents.
Those four years of my life, I’ve tried tracing them, asking the locals, but still, there was no sign of them.
I decided that there was no way I could find them. So I thought of leaving town.
Starting somewhere else.
For most of my life, I was in Tampa. I wanted to go to Miami again. Just to see how things were there.
That’s when I realized where I was.
The train station.
The one which connects Miami to Tampa.
Yet again, it brought me back to all those terrible memories I had tried to block out for all these years.
Though they had obviously rebuilt it. It looks much better now.
As I had gotten a bit older, about eleven or twelve, I had always wondered why there had to be an earthquake that day, in Florida. It is the place where you have the least earthquakes in the world. Why did it have to happen in that terrible year—2006?
Parts of the Gulf of Mexico’s earthquake had hit certain parts of Florida on that devastating day.
But I tried to focus.
I took a deep breath in and after getting the tickets, I got on the train.
It was a normal one.
Nothing too special about it.
I opened a book and started to read. That’s when I noticed an old woman sitting right next to me.
I scooched in a little bit, towards the window, for her to have more space.
But just as the woman saw me, she started crying.
“My baby? I-is th-that y-you? After all these years! I’ve lost you! But you’ve come back to me! My sweet child!” the woman started yelling and crying at the same time.
“Umm...what? I’m sorry Ma’am, but I don’t think we’ve met. I am sure that you have probably mistaken me for someone else.” I told her.
It was common that old people would do this. They didn’t have such a good vision. But this woman was arguing with me.
She claimed that I was her long-lost baby.
“No! I’m not crazy! This is you! Darling Elanor—”
It can’t be true. I won’t believe this.
“Wha-? M-mom? I-is that you? Is it really you?” I was stunned, shocked.
I started sobbing, and I held her old, weak, and wrinkly hands. Though they felt soft.
“Remember your father, honey? He didn’t make it. After that day, I ran with him and stayed in the woods for a couple of days. When everything was over, I wandered around here and there. Until I found civilization. I had no money, but I worked in three different jobs, and when we got to the hospital, it was too late.” she said in her shaky voice.
“I’m so sorry mom,”
“It wasn’t your fault. But I was about to suicide. I told myself that if I never found you, I would die. There would be no meaning to my life anymore, without you, Elanor.” she explained, and I hugged her tight.
“I’m never leaving you again, mom. Not like how I left you, dad, Rocco, and our house.” I told her, still hugging her, and sobbing.