the beginning of the end
When our electricity went out for the third time this month, we simply took out the extra candles we had stashed under our kitchen sink and continued our routine the best we could. The myriad of leftover scents, from pumpkin spice to ylang ylang to candy apple, were a necessary evil as the sun fell under the horizon.
As it got colder, we took out our wool ski clothes and layered up. They smelled of our cedar chest and were incredibly itchy, but it was better than waking up in the middle of the night, chilled to the bone, reaching for a blanket that wasn’t there. We also brought our fur blankets to the living room and sat there together, as to conserve heat and light.
“Phone’s out of battery,” my little brother declared, tossing his phone haphazardly to the other side of the couch, “and I had finally just gotten through Hugo’s architectural tangent, too.”
“You’ll be able to finish it soon,” our dad lowered the New York Times he had saved just for this occasion and the candles casted a haunting shadow across his sullen, tired eyes.
“We should just go to bed then...” my mom started.
“I’m not even tired. Why do you get to decide when we go to sleep? It’s probably not even 9. Let's talk about the trilateral negotiations of...” Evan started to complain.
My mom knew that if she didn't nip this in the bud, Evan would be up all night, debating with whoever would listen. “Y’all have a long day tomorrow at school and you’ve been complaining all week about not getting enough sleep,” she countered, blowing out the few candles we had left sitting on the coffee table.
It was decided.
The moonlight saved us from sudden darkness-- in it you could see what was left of the smoke, curling into the air. With it, our sense of normalcy seemed to drift away as well.
Bang, bang, bang, our door bounced on its hinges, sending our dogs into madness.
I rolled over and threw my covers off. “Ugh who is that?” I complained, “doggies, it’s okay, c’mere,” I patted the couch, but the person at the door was persistent.
“Will you please get it?” my mom grumbled.
We had a sleepless night, being awoken by the screams and fireworks that usually accompany a blackout in Texas. When it got cold enough, people would tie their sleds to the back of their pick-ups and glide around the neighborhood. It got old after a while, and my dad thought that those people “disregarded the gravity of the situation," but I think it helped people stay sane, despite their childishness. As I walked to the door, I was prepared to tell our neighbor, Brian, that Evan and I did not want to join him in the fun.
I knew that some kind of “But the ice is so slick this morning!” argument would be in my future, followed by a very short (I would make sure of it) moment of banter before I could snuggle back under the covers and finish my dream.
Not that it had been a nice dream, it was more of a reoccurring nightmare actually— I was late for class again and I didn’t know where the classroom was. That’s so ridiculous, I thought to myself, I would never be late for class.
I opened the door to see a not-so-excited Brian Williams.
"We are leaving for Mexico right now and I wanted to say goodbye," he reached out for a hug that I did not return.
Shocked, I said, "what, like right now? What do you mean? Why?"
He looked at me like I was a crazy person, "the power-- it's completely down."
Oh that's what this was about. I guess that the Williams finally had their last straw. They had been meaning to get out for a while, but I didn't think it would come this soon. I had to keep them from leaving.
"Yeah, the power-grid's been out before, remember when we..."
"Julia, wait. Did you not hear the gunshots last night?" he looked very concerned, not like himself at all, "it's not just our power that's out, it's everyones. Anyone without a backup generator, one that hasn't been run dry by the latest outages I mean, doesn't have power."