All day the sky was low, about 10 feet over our heads, and made of bronze. The air was heavy, without a breath of wind. The leaves hung limply in the garden. By nightfall, it was, if anything, even hotter than it had been during the day.
We always get at least a couple of nights like this during the year, so I knew what to expect—the electricity would go out. Sure enough, about 11:30, I was writing an email to my husband when suddenly I was plunged into darkness.
I fumbled my way into the kitchen and found matches and candle. Leaving a trail of blue wax drips behind me like I was Gretel trying to find my way home, I turned off what lights I knew were on and tried to find the kids’ water bottles. This year, 2 of 3 don’t have insulated ones because I haven’t gotten around to buying them yet, so their bottles need to be ½-filled and placed in the freezer overnight. I completed this task mostly by feel and optimistically, with faith that the lights would be on before 6 a.m. (Hey I’m an optimist! Didn’t you notice that bit about ½ filled?)
By midnight, I mounted the stairs, leaving my signature blue drops behind me, the candle and I both dripping. Our room was a tiny bit cooler than the rest of the house. By some miracle, I could get a driblet of water from the tap (when the electricity is gone, the pump can’t get water into the house), enough to brush my teeth. I cleverly stuck the candle to the side of the taps, to leave my hands free, choosing that spot because a. I would have the light and b. it would be easy to clean the wax off the smooth porcelain later. There was plenty of room between the candle and the plastic shelf above which holds toothbrushes, soap, etc. I washed my face, careful not to let the water splash onto the flame, since I’d left the matches downstairs in the kitchen. The flame heightened in the still air and licked quietly at the underside of the plastic shelf… Oh well. I never really liked that plastic shelf much anyway, and if I put my scrunch spray over the hole, no one will notice. And who else goes in my bathroom anyway?
I lay down on top of the sheet and tried to relax. I could feel the heat descending upon me, the heaviness of the air, as the last of the coolness evaporated. I dropped off quickly, only to wake again gasping for air a few minutes later, drowning in a puddle of my own sweat. (Gross, I know, but we must face facts if we’re going to help you feel you were living it too) I walked slowly, hands outstretched, feeling with my feet to avoid stepping on my daughter’s face, and groped until I found a hand fan, and fanned myself till my arm was tired. I waved it over the kids. (I think I’m addicted to parenthetical remarks: we have only one AC so all the kids are sleeping in my room these days. Privacy? Well I don’t get much of that at the best of times!) I gulped down a glass of water. I wandered out onto the balcony, but it was just as hot out there.
Elliot woke up, gasping. He was dripping wet. We chatted a while about the lack of electricity and how much darker it was. There’s a hotel near us with a generator, and we could see their light reflected off the sandy air, like fog.
Soon all the kids were awake from the heat, and inclined to be whiny. It was about 1 a.m. by this point. I sang songs, I told stories, about children who lived in ice caves and went to school by sleigh, about a little girl who lived with her family on a cedar-covered island in the middle of a cold grey sea. I thought of hell and said I imagined it might be like our current situation, which made my daughter cry. (Although it didn’t take much to make her cry at that point) Finally about 2 we all wandered out onto the balcony, which was gritty with sand. Everyone liked standing there staring out at the darkened city. We felt the teensiest breath of air sigh across our faces. In hope, I dragged two mattresses out, but the mosquitoes were terrible for such a sandy night, and the night seem disinclined to loose any more sighs our way, although I sent a few its way, in hope. We went back in and opened the windows. We tried to sleep.
The night dragged on. Around 5:30, the electricity came back on, just in time for the call to prayer to blare from the mosque across the street. When it came on, we all cheered! We all slept in, too. At school, the kids’ teachers said that everyone was tired but let’s still try to get some work done.
No one in the city slept last night. I compared notes with French mothers, Senegalese house-workers, Mauritanian friends—all had the same experience, although some were lucky enough to get a nap in later.
The morning continued hot and still. The air was still sandy, but the light was brighter. Suddenly, the sky went dark red and the windows rattled. Sand and wind mixed together hit the house with a bang. We were in for a really bizarre sandstorm—more like a sand blizzard. For about an hour the storm raged, disrupting traffic, downing trees and electric wires and fences and streetlights, lifting plastic bags into a wild frenzied dance in the air, filtering through even closed windows to leave a film on every surface in the house. I stood on the porch, looking out. Visibility extended only as far as my next-door neighbour’s, but amazingly enough the wind was cooler.
I went out towards the end. The house was still muggy and hot, which made taking my sticky skin out into a sandstorm something special in the way of exfoliating options. Also, it saves me money on that rub-on tan stuff—my way is all natural, no weird chemicals. Come visit me and you can try it too—for FREE. Optimistic and generous, that’s me.
Eventually the sand died down, so we opened up the house for the cooler breezes. But they went away too. Now we’re back to where we were before—still and hot.
But the electricity is still on! I’m going to bed, where I can enjoy that AC while it lasts. I hope to dream of ice caves.
PS Quiz answers tomorrow! If you haven’t taken the challenge, there’s still time!
PS2 I hope everyone remembered to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day! What did you all do?