I am fifth in a line of ten making our way up from the small city along the coast.

We are hardly the first, and perhaps are near the last to leave, the police having already abandoned their posts for higher ground – they believing all who are going to get out have gotten out, long ago.

Blue skies and pale beach behind us refute the radio reports, though the tall-legged young woman in the lead urges us to hurry.

“Not much time left,” she keeps saying.

We can see the clumps of people settled on the mountain side above us to either side of the path we are on, multi-colored dots on green grass-covered ledges as if on a picnic.

None are near.

We cannot see their faces.

Yet I feel the intense agitation they suffer as they wait, each of them wondering “are we high enough yet? Will the water reach us here?”

The woman that leads us again tells us to hurry as she reached the stair, a twisted piece of crumbling concrete rising up through a cut in the hills to some pinnacle I doubt any of us are strong enough to reach.

Her pace quickens leaving the rest of us to struggle even more to keep up.

The second man in the line slows down the rest of us, leaning on his cane so heavily he seems perpetually ready to fall.

Kindness kept us from brushing passed him when we were still near the city, but now on the narrow path, we cannot get around him.

He slows even more on the stairs, causing an echo of hushed curses and a flurry of frequent panicked glances back down behind us at the sea.

“Are we high enough yet? Can the sea reach us here?”

A woman in her middle 40s mutters behind him, pondering how the man with the cane got such a prominent place on the line, and how would should have lined up by ability, leaving the unable behind.

A young man – apparently her son – pleads for her to keep quiet while I cam caught between the urge to slow my pace so I don’t have to listen to them and hurry my space to press closer because of the imaginary sound of water gushing from behind me.

I expect the wave to hit me in the back at any moment.

Behind me on the line, a man in a crisp business suit grumbles around the waste of time as he consults his watch at frequent intervals then stares up at the sky, convinced that the authorities have lied to us again and this is all a plot to cause him to lose money.

I feel bad for the old lady who lined up last and falls farther and farther behind us as we climb, her legs unable to handle the tilt of the land or the quick pace the woman in front has set for us.

Each step for the old woman seemed a torture of panic and panic as her hands tremble and her face grows pale.

I look back to see her grimace, then turn ahead just in time to avoid bumping into the boy and his complaining mother.

The woman in the leads is far in front of us as we are of the old lady to the rear. Each step creates greater and greater inequities.

“Are we high enough yet? Can the sea reach us here?”

Then I feel the wet on the rear of my calves – even before I hear the sound of the water.

No cry comes. No crash.

But I know instantly without looking that all behind me on the line are gone.

And I struggle on, knowing finally that I am just high enough.


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