The house was one of a row that faced the ocean, a delicate glass box that seemed to float in mid-air when the fog rolled in. I passed it many times along the coastal road before I realized it was a ruin. There were plenty of them in the days after the quake. Beautiful shells of other people's dreams, right there for the taking. So I did. 

Inside, looters had carried away everything of value – even the doorknobs were gone. A part of the roof had caved into the living room and rainwater washed in. A mold stain was forming on the floor. The floor itself had splintered. High up on my ladder, patching up the hole, I could look down and trace the earthquake's jagged path across it. It was like gazing down into a fault. 

I moved into the den, the only room that had

This article appeared in 184 on June 2013. Buy here

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