It was only for two days. Less than two days really. But it felt like forever. Outside was the hottest day of the year and so humid that the moment you stepped out, your sunglasses fogged up. People die in this kind of heat. Their perishable food perishes. Their pets pant and malinger. I was up in my office writing when
the lights shut off and the background whir of the air conditioning suddenly went silent. DAMN IT. But I wasn't too worried at first. Ten years ago we'd been through a series of storms, of outages. Every other month it seemed we were losing power. We knew the drill.
Out came the candles and flashlights, the kind neighbors next door firing up their generator and throwing a cord over the back fence so we could keep our fridge going. We had a gas stove. Hot water. So, no real danger or suffering. The kids were younger then and living at home, and part of me liked how the power-less-ness slowed us all down, kept us home, playing cards or bananagrams by candlelight. We knew life would go back to normal soon. The people in charge would see to it.
One too many outages though, my husband had had enough and he splurged on our own generator. The day he brought it home, literally in the minutes he was driving with the thing down the street, the lights came back on. He joked that he'd singlehandedly brought the power back to our neighborhood by his purchase and we'd likely never even need to use the generator.
He was right--until ten years later, a few weeks ago, the hottest day of the year, the two of us alone, minus the kids, and in a new house, no neighbor next door chucking the generator cord over the fence, and too late realizing our own never-used generator was stuck in the garage.
Behind the electric-powered door.
Only two days and we lost nothing, and still with a gas stove, the hot water, an easily broken into garage to haul out the generator. I made my way slowly to the library through blacked out traffic lights, stepping around patrons everywhere sitting, some of them on the floor, plugged up with their electronics and trying to keep cool, the phone ringing off the hook, are you open, do you have air, and back home again to the darkening, warming house, not nearly as confident this time that the power will come back on, that we aren't one big storm, one teetering electrical grid away from something scary--
It's okay, my husband reassures me. It's your anxiety, and not the world collapsing.
And okay, okay, for now, I will choose to believe him, watching as he fires up the generator, watching as this time he is the one throwing the cord over the fence to power a neighbor's fridge.
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