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Thursday, September 06, 2007

power outage

In the middle of the day the power goes off.

She is arranging schedules and just as she begins to type a letter, the house falls silent: the computer shuts down abruptly, the oscillating fan on her desk stops, the lamp goes black, the glowing red numbers of the digital clock disappear, the light in the hall bath goes off, the low hum of the refrigerator—three rooms away, clattering and buzzing— halts; all the sounds she hears from time to time, but has learned to ignore, these stop too, everything stops and all at once.

It is if the house grew suddenly tired and decided to take a breath. And even though it's just the power that's out, it's just the electricity, it is as if time stops.

She stops too.

She can't believe the silence—can't believe that in the middle of the day there is no power. She pulls the fuchsia folder with the important papers, emergency contact numbers, and bills from her desk. Grabbing her cell phone she dials the electric company.

It occurs to her for one moment that possibly she has forgotten to pay the bill. She has been forgetting things lately, important things, things she never used to forget--forgetting things she should never forget and unable to forget the things she should.

No, the electric company tells her the bill was paid. There must be a power outage in the area.

She’s transferred to the technical department. She listens to the Bee Gees, the soft harmonies, asking, “How deep is your love?"

She tells the woman she has no power, no blinking digital numbers on the stove or DVD player or cable box.

The woman asks for her address and a cross street and tells her there is a power outage and they are working to fix the problem.

She hangs up.

There's nothing she can do. There's nothing to do.

So, she does what she never does in the middle of the day, she stretches out across the bed, sinks into the pillows, lets her legs go limp, thinks about how good it feels to do nothing. The windows are open and outside she can see the willow swaying slowly, leaves rising and rustling in the breeze, limbs moving to the melody of the wind. She relaxes into the bed tries to feel it—firm and embracing—accepting the weight of her body like a lover.

In the middle of the day the power goes off and she understands what real power is. She stretches her arms wide, then her legs, spreads herself out like a starfish, reaching into the empty space of the bed.

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