Outage

I wake up feeling stifled, but that sometimes happens. I sleep warmly and feel more cocooned with a comforter, even in the summer (it is still officially spring, but I call it summer when our highs pass the mid-80s). I toss the comforter aside to let my skin breathe. I feel nothing. Given my half-asleep state, it does not register for a while until I get up to turn the A/C down a degree for a little while, just to take the edge off, and I realize the air is not moving. The clock is blank.

I sigh. A power outage. It happens. I lay back down and wait for the thump of the A/C coming back on and the sensation of air moving and ruffling by hair, but even after thirty minutes or so, I feel nothing. Without the knowledge of the air shifting around me, I feel almost like I cannot breathe, and I figure I might as well get up.

Three hours. It is promising to be a record-breaking hot day in May, at 95 degrees, but I just sigh again. I figure we can wait for lunch, which on Saturdays involves a microwave. It annoys me a little that I cannot get some early writing done or catch up on American Idol while Dad is out, but I figure a little RnR is a welcome respite to the busier week prior. I had not intended on doing anything but write, and I got all my school work done. No real harm done.

Lunchtime comes and goes. The parents have Taco Cabana, but I stubbornly insist on my Saturday nachos. I am a creature of comfortable habits. I wait a little longer, willing the power to come back on. Still just a tiny blip in my day. The warmth of the afternoon sun has not closed the downstairs in, although the upstairs rooms where my cat lives are beginning to feel the pressure.

We put the nachos on the grill to melt the cheese, and Mom calls the electric company. 11 p.m., they say.

Okay, that’s pushing it. The blip becomes a blob, and the outage becomes an inconvenience. I have at least 3500 words to write, and I do not do so well longhand, which makes it okay for a sprint but not for a marathon novel, especially since I am not sure where I stopped. And no air, no air moving, no draft, no breeze. I live in Texas – we like our air. And growing ever warmer, so that even the stone tiles cannot keep the walls from closing in.

The parents go see a movie, but I stay. I prefer to be the frog in the pan, who does not notice the slowly increasing temperature rather than experience air conditioning only to return to a warm house, a rude awakening, walking into the wall of unpleasant reality. I would rather adjust than be reminded.

I read. I drink a soda still cold from the dead refrigerator. I finish the book. I go upstairs and run a damp washcloth over Cassidy, who refuses to leave the ever more stifling upstairs rooms for the cool tiles below, given the stringently defended territories Sasha recently decided to take over. I go into the master bedroom, where it is cooler, and lay on the bed with our third cat, Noel, who is happy for the company.

I stay until I think too much about the still air and the heat. I am reminded of the scientifically inaccurate but no less disquieting Twilight Zone episode of the Earth going off its orbit and getting closer to the sun.

I put on my swimsuit, which has not seen the light of day for several years. For the first time, I find myself uncaring about the state of my weight, which I normally hide because I do not want to look at it. I avail myself of our swimming pool, which is a perfect temperature, and there is a breeze. I decide to put on my usual large T-shirt in spite of being alone and my unusual indifference to my appearance, mostly because there is no one to put sunscreen on my back.

And I read. I drink a bottle of water and finish the novel. The parents come home and begin to prepare dinner, which they intended to grill outside anyway, and it was a perfect evening, with the breeze and the shade. I go back in to dry off and dress and to grab a new novel to start.

I hear a shout, a word I cannot discern, but then I realize that I hear a hum. The bathroom is dark because there was no need to turn on the light, and I am pretty sure I know where everything is, being quite familiar with the room. But I flip the switch after I am finished and dressed, and then there is light. Four hours earlier than projected.

I smile, because it means that Cassidy will get some air. I smile and I go outside to eat. It is too good of an evening to waste plugging myself back into my machines.

The steaks and asparagus and onions are delicious and the breeze is wonderful. I wonder if I should stay longer. But the mosquitoes rise from their pools with the setting of the sun, and a perfectly circular lump on my wrist dissuades me and I return to the interior.

My computer is obviously on – given its abysmal battery life, there was no point before. My cell is charging, because I kept it on in case the parents called. My iPod is charging, but not because I could not stand the silence. It stopped the day before. I will make my usual Internet rounds late and start writing before walking the dog.

It never inspired dejection. The outage was only a nuisance, an interrupter of plans. In the past, I might have reacted more intensely – but I am no longer as hot-blooded as I used to be, in body rather than temperament, and I do not break out into a sweat just from stepping out in 80 degree whether. It makes Texas summers more tolerable now.

It could have been worse, an unseasonably hot day in July instead of an unseasonably hot day in May. I could have had things I was required to do, but I don’t, other than what my own private discipline requires of me, and I can still tackle that now.

I do notice that it’s the air conditioning that goes out in the summer rather than the heater in winter, even during our record lows. Figures.

I feel and hear the air moving, and I can breathe in my own room, and that is good. I like the everyday magic of my moving air, my reassurance that what I breathe is not my own breath. Cassidy sleeps on the bed, happy again to be wearing his coat and to feel the fan on his belly. I can turn on a lamp instead of finding a flashlight.

And I hope the magic lasts.

Added Monday 12:02 a.m.: It doesn’t. But it’s back now, for a good while, I hope.

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