It was late Friday Night.
I was in bed, reading.
Many people with fibromyalgia have trouble sleeping, but in my case I’ve always been a night owl anyway. Add to that the recent time change and election night anxiety, and my sleep cycle was a mess. It was almost three o’clock in the morning when I finally got sleepy.
Michael was asleep on the spare bed in the Junk Storage Room, which we refer to as “the study,” so my insomnia wouldn’t disturb him. Rosie was asleep in her bed. I was reading a book– Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, which I highly recommend, by the way. I propped my eyes open until I was so tired the words swam on the page before my eyes. Then, I switched off the light, said my prayers, and curled up under the covers.
That was when I heard the explosion.
It sounded like it was coming from down the street.
I have been a teensy bit paranoid about explosions lately. LaBelle isn’t a quiet place to live at the best of times, and the election chaos has got us all more tense than usual. And Catch and Kill makes for paranoid three-o’clock-in-the-morning reading. To my mind just then, it was entirely possible that LaBelle had been the victim of a terrorist attack. But then the electricity flickered on and off twice, and there were two more loud explosions before LaBelle was plunged into total darkness.
The house was quiet for about five minutes; then the emergency sirens started, and they didn’t let up.
Michael got up and mentioned it was probably a transformer down at the end of the neighborhood. He felt his way downstairs to look for the flashlight. Of course, the flashlight wasn’t in the place it was supposed to be. I had moved it the last time we had a late night emergency. I’d put it back in a very safe and obvious place so we could find it quickly, and I had no idea what that place was. Michael had to search the downstairs, lighting his way with a piece of Rose’s glow-in-the-dark racetrack like Bilbo Baggins lighting his way with Sting.
Rosie woke up and climbed into bed with me for warmth– the furnace is gas, but the thermostat is electric, and the house was already starting to cool off. I said the usual comforting things about being lucky to live in a country where the electric company would fix this by morning, as we snuggled up together and tried to doze off.
Of course, we couldn’t doze off. It was Friday night in LaBelle. We usually run two air filters for the pollution and to filter out the ambient noise, but the air filters are electric. And people around the neighborhood found their Friday night plans ruined, so they decided to get in their cars and be annoying outside instead. They drove up and down the street playing rap music.
The rap music woke the Menacing Neighbor, the one who vandalized our garden. She screamed her favorite expletive, suggesting that the music players had an inappropriate relationship with their mothers. Then she came out of her house and stalked up and down our side of her property, screaming at us for some reason, calling us “F*cking roaches,” every other word an obscenity.
“It’s good to pray to the angels when you’re scared,” I said to Rosie in my Mothering Voice.
Rose grunted at me, half asleep. She’s used to the neighbor’s antics and I’m not. I listened to the neighbor go in and out of her house bellowing nonstop for at least an hour. Then the neighbor got into her car, window open, and drove down the block, still yelling.
I was just about to doze off when she got back in. “THE F*CKING LIGHTS ARE OFF AT MY HOUSE!” she proclaimed to the neighborhood. “SOMEONE HIT A F*CKING LIGHT POLE ON CARNEGIE!”
I wanted to open the window and shout “THANKS FOR SHARING!” but I thought better of it. It was too cold inside already.
After that, I finally dozed off, thinking that it was Saturday and we’d be able to sleep in.
I woke up just before seven to a strong smell of exhaust. Apparently I’d spent all my anxiety and panic on last night’s adventures, because my only thought was to notice that the heat was on and the bathroom light was shining, which meant the power failure was over after only four hours, and I probably wouldn’t have to replace the groceries in the fridge. I started to doze back off.
That was when the smoke detector sounded the alarm.
I’m a Millennial. I grew up watching many bombastic instructional videos on what to do when the smoke detector goes off; they showed on PBS on weekdays and were sprinkled in with the ads in Saturday Morning cartoons. I watched PeeWee’s Playhouse and 123 Sesame Street catch fire, and the characters react appropriately or be chided for not doing so. I was given careful instruction in person, as well, by the visiting firefighter when I went to Our Lady of Bethlehem Kindergarten. I got lectures on how to react in an emergency by the DARE officer at Our Lady of Peace Elementary School as well. I had been primed for this my entire life.
I was so tired, I wanted to cover my head with the quilt and let nature take its course.
But then I steeled myself. I had not gone all the way through DARE classes and earned a sticker shaped like a policeman’s badge to die like this. I went downstairs. The smell was worse down there, and the smoke detector was flashing a red light and a series of irritating squeaks, in the pattern that’s supposed to mean “carbon monoxide.”
The next moment, we were shivering on the porch while I called 911 in my coat and pajamas. I pretended not to see the Menacing Neighbor, who was on her porch in her bathrobe, glaring. I only hope she was as sleepy as I was.
The fire truck arrived a moment later. We had to show the friendly firefighters my nightmare cave of a basement and let them take their bright yellow carbon monoxide detector in every room of our house. They diagnosed a problem with the furnace, which I turned off.
“We’re very lucky to have firefighters who will rescue us, not to mention the smoke detector!” I lectured an exhausted Rose.
We’re still saving up for a car at the moment, so Michael had to walk Rose a mile to the shopping center for breakfast while I called the landlord.
I checked my email. The electric company had helpfully emailed me to tell me that the power was out, then again to tell me the estimated time the power would come back on, then one last time to rejoice that the power WAS on.
The Menacing Neighbor slammed her door at the whole world.
I gulped black coffee to try to wake up, but it hasn’t worked yet.
The repairman found that our furnace flu is clogged completely with black grit. It looks like the inside of my charcoal grill. He is working on it, and it’s supposed to get above freezing today eventually.
I know there are much more important things happening on a global scale today, but I’m just too wiped out to think about them. Besides, it’s cold in here.
Though, as I told Rose, it could have been a lot worse.
We could have been out of coffee.
Image via Pixabay.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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