In the Dark

Monday, November 3, 2008

They say that strongest stars burn brightest when circumstances are at their worst. It's a curious concept. Inspiring, to say the least. Still, there's a touch of irony when circumstances in question refer to the fact your apartment has lost power to 60% of it's regular functions, and as such brightness isn't quite an option. Indeed, the only things that could be illuminated was the light over the kitchen vent and the bathroom upstairs, both generating a slightly putrid yellow glow that my roommate and me despised but were now appreciative for. One must remember to find the silver lining in clouds, the good in all situations, carry on and so forth.

Still, fumbling through the dark parts of house cursing every dark aeon in whatever corrupted pantheon I could think of, stumbling over Eat Beast and bitching over why on earth I never just bought a damn book of matches doesn't make for good reflective ME-time. Eventually I located the little light on my key chain and Danielle was able to unbury a stray lighter. Lighting the one candle we have (between a gay man and a ex-pat sorority girl, that has to be breaking some sort of cosmic law of interior design) we meandered over to the kitchen.

Due to whatever strange pattern the fuse box had been set up in, all major devices in the kitchen were still on and active. We flicked on the oven light and I made a phone call to my landlord. After many, many attempts at flipping fuses, switches, and more fervent swearing we finally had to admit to ourselves that we were indeed stuck in the dark for the night. Assured that an electrician would come to our rescue the next morning we relented ourselves to our dim dining table.

"Look at that," I gestured towards the wall. The flickering candle light, its quivering flame dancing erratically in a struggle for oxygen and fuel, began to cast peculiar shadows across the wall through the wire baskets, flowers and fruit on the table. The simple shadow show acted out a curious, nonsensical story that neither of us seemed to know but none the less were entertained with by the blurred and dark figures.

As our eyes followed the shadows on the wall we were able to really take in our space. Over the past few months we had put in plenty of work and time designing the apartment, choosing colors, shapes, and textures that wouldn't make the place a roof over our heads but an actual home for once.

"Our place is actually looks like adults live here."

"Holy crap... you know, it does." It was true. After years of moving from apartment to apartment, living in places that looked like college students lived there, I had graduated from matchy-matchy Ikea furniture and cinder block shelves to something that resembled a home tour on Apartment Therapy. "Still, we have those mirrors and a few pictures to hang."

"We could do it now."

"In the dark? We only have candle light and no measuring tape to keep things on an even plane. It'll come out funny."

"Well, if we just be slow and steady we can get it."

I mulled it over. I had ordered some mirrors from Crate & Barrel, and had an assortment of pictures that needed to go up here and there to fill in the blank walls, green and white canvases begging for some sort of eye drawing pop to complete the scene. "Okay. Why not? Hell, the oven's working too. I'll whip up some brownies-" the Sara Lee kind, on sale for a $1 so how could I say no, it's a weakness, don't judge me, " - and we can have something to eat after we work."

"Ooo, brownies!" Danielle cooed.

After whipping them up and into a pan with a splash of Kahlua I had sitting on the shelves since 2001 and a few cacao nibs I found from some forgotten project, I threw the pan into the oven and we set to work.

Using an old non-mechanical tape measure, we were able to execute a few perfectly aligned nails. Hammering and measuring by candle light, we started to laugh and joke. We talked about past relationships, commiserating about the bad, blasting each other over the worst, and laughing about the good memories they still held. While each giggle and sigh made me have to squint harder in the dim flame's light we somehow, successfully even, got the pictures up without any injury or property damage. Take that history of being accident prone to a point near constant fatality! (Edit: I shit you not, Eat Beast's tail just knocked my skin graft inducing hot tea all over my leg as I finished writing that. Fuck with the universe and this is what you get.)

As the timer sounded we took out the brownies and allowed them a bit of cooling time, with which we teased the cats unmercifully with a laser pointer, sending Cid skidding into walls on the kitchen tile and Eat Beast into frustrated kitty frenzies as he attempted to bite the mocking red dot.

In a short while we were filling ourselves with chocolatey goodness and towering glasses of milk. We laughed in the dark and amused ourselves further with our handiwork, amazed we had pulled something off we could be so proud of. We spent the next few hours debating and chatting over things of no real consequence, and relegated each other with plans for the future by the day and years; wistful ideas that I suppose all twenty-somethings have since we may not know better.

The electrician came the next morning and fixed the breaker though warned it may happen again, as such is the case with old duplexes. Still, it's not something I fear or become apprehensive about. it forced us to shut our lives down for a while. No internet, no TV, no anything. No way to do our homework, stress about our jobs, or idle away the hours on YouTube and Wikipedia.

Just us, a hammer, and brownies.


  1. Hey--I've been stalking you as I one day hope to become a low-budget foodie such as yourself, but I just haven't commented 'til now. Your tales often make me laugh and your recipes sound delicious, and this story simply delighted me. (Although I was sorry to hear about your hot tea ending up where hot tea was never meant to be.)

    Thanks for a really entertaining blog, and know that I always look forward to seeing "Vanilla Garlic" pop up on my RSS feed.

  2. Candles are cheap, so are hurricane lamps... go find some.

    :o) When you're done, want to come decorate my study for me? It still looks like a college student works here...

  3. Growing up a few miles outside of a small mountain town, our house was subject to many power outages during the snowy months. I always looked forward to those nights. No blaring tv for my dad, no commodore 64 for my sister to be typing away on, and my mom couldn't hide away doing housework. Instead we would sit around the fire playing games or reading. They are my fondest childhood memories. Thanks for reminding me how blissful the dark can be.

  4. I enjoyed reading this. Reminded me many years ago when the power went out all over town. My family plus my 2 sisters families ended up at our parents house, and by candlelight, had the best family time *ever*. Hmmm, maybe we should impose one of these nights upon ourselves every now and then!


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