The Break-Up by Brianna Barnes

Poetry, Prose



The woods outside Santa Cruz contain the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, an abyss cut into earth, the San Andreas Fault Line.

“It was nothing like you could imagine,” my co-worker said. “I ran out to the street and the earth moved in waves.”

Photographs displayed in local museums offer views of felled Victorians, nonsensical piles of urban debris. There are kodachromes of displaced residents walking the streets, agape, with caffeinated news crews in the near background, filming their shock, feeding on loss.

I wanted to pilgrimage to the point of traumatic rupture, to see the earth open up. I wanted to go with my then-partner who either did not or no longer loved me, to share in the catharsis of being able to physically observe the birthing place of disaster.

“Here is the spot where the earth could no longer contain its trembling,” I would tell him, a tour guide who had memorized distant calamity. I wanted to untangle our bitter mumblings with a focused procession.

He said he would go, but we never did.

I’ll start over. I knew someone once, who did or didn’t love me, yet what is love but a knowing, an intelligence that tells the story, an omniscient narrator? The narrator-who-is-love says, “There are significant parallels between your emotional world and external reality” and “I would like to try to translate pain.”

We were afraid of recognizing fear of nothing, since we were already lost to each other by that time.

The people of Santa Cruz circa 1989 were thinking about the impossibility of returning home. The earthquake was a distilled, perfect, organic violence, perhaps one we should have expected.

“We should always anticipate disruption,” the narrator-who-is-love advises. The ground we walk upon moves imperceptibly with each unsure step.

Brianna Barnes has been published in the Apeiron Review and has work forthcoming in 300 Days of Sun.