If someone uses the word "surreal" again, chances are that I will nod affirmation, and quietly and intently survey my boots. Not because I've discovered second hand Wrigley's clinging to the toecap or that I haven't cleaned them in an awfully long time (read: never) but because I don't want to snap and say "Of course it's bloody surreal. Do you think you're the first person to say that?"
It's 5am. I've had a few hours sleep and everything seems a wee bit dreamlike. Everytime I look at the telly, disbelief rises. Surely this is footage cobbled together from 9\11 and Haiti - not Christchurch. Stuff.co.nz reports 113 dead - it is just a number. Until I see a picture of one of them; a woman I used to work with who was in the CTV building.
Reality and sur-reality seamlessly fade in and out and you are never quite sure where you are one minute to the next. Text messages that were sent days ago arrive at times. These are replies to messages frantically sent in the minutes and hours immediately after the event and time and technology mean that they are only getting through now. You feel a bit guilty when someone replies and you realise that you had forgotten that you'd text them at all.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to help out. Twice I've been called in and both times gives you an opportunity to ground yourself (a silly expression given the circumstances) in work - good, hard, physical work. Sometimes you look up and around but it's best to keep going and focus on the job at hand because the word "surreal" just doesn't begin to cover it. It's at times like these, when you stop and take a moment that it hits home what a strange place we live in.
A week ago, we would have said "Oh gosh but the September 4 quake was awful !" We didn't really know what awful was and now a great many of us feel naive. Our city was tested in that first quake but the fabric remained. Now, that fabric has been well and truly shredded, cut and burned. The security blanket that was Christchurch as we know it has been ripped away and people now walk around with that dazed look that only the self medicated seem to enjoy.
Perhaps I need to rein in my temper a bit. Everyone needs to talk about it and despite "surreal" being an oft used word, perhaps its being used just enough. After all it's all true.
It is very surreal.