The Electricity Within

Even dark can appear illuminated when they are examined with the lanterns of hindsight and time.

I was notified by an electrical technician who had come to the door with an order for disconnection that we would be living without electricity. I held the notice slip in my hand as reality began to form and quickly looked it over to try and make out the message. A canary yellow, postcard-sized carbon paper slip, marked with faint scratches and unintentionally crumpled by work gloves. “ORDER FOR DISCONNECTION” it read, in bold, capital letters at the top.

I didn’t beg or argue, I spoke sweetly to the electrician and offered him my assistance, as if he were at the door to deliver a gift. I could tell he was as surprised by the person who stood on the other side of the door as I was. My pride had taken over, and I tried to keep my composure, overcompensating by acting like a lady, as my mother had once taught me. This lady-like behaviour presented itself instinctually, almost as if a cheerful tone of voice and pleasant smile could soothe my facial muscles and stop the tears from forming in my eyes. Surprisingly, it helped.

By looking at the amount due and the many months that had gone unpaid, you would think the house had been abandoned.

It looked abandoned.

Walls, broken down. Floors, ripped up. The off-white laminate kitchen counter tops were old, stained and water-damaged; reduced to nothing and well beyond repair. The house looked condemned, ragged. The air was damp, soggy and always smelled musty, like someone’s forgotten, moth-infested luggage.

I closed the door and worked to instantly regain composure. I could feel little forces staring at me and turned around to face two small sets of dark-brown, curious eyes come out from hiding.

“Dad didn’t pay the bill.” I announced to my eleven and eight-year-old siblings.

“It’s just how it’s going to be for a while, we won’t have electricity. But it’s okay, it’s nothing. We will be fine!” I explained to them. Comforting words that rested entirely on thin air. Quickly and quietly, a fog of grey flooded the room and all sound was muted. Time stopped and the children sat down in the living room, away from each other, silently mourning.

“It’s okay, it’s nothing. We will be fine.”

A promise that had become my private mantra, protecting only the kids, wounding me even deeper. I was fourteen and the only God I’d ever known existed only to test my survival. At night, God would sit in the corner of my bedroom, writing me letters. He was always careful to paint just a miniature micro-pigment of a far bigger picture.

The promises and lies I told myself, how I fooled myself so passionately in order to keep on moving. “Something has got to give,” I would promise.

Minutes following the announcement I walked quietly up the stairs to my third-floor master bedroom, closed the door and buried my tears in the first pillow I could reach. I cried, not of disappointment, only of fear. This new development was one more misfortune in my poverty-soaked, juvenile existence.

I thought mostly about the two younger children I’d circumstantially adopted. My dead mother. My absent father — a man who vanished shortly after his quick remarriage.

The massive, empty house I was supposed to call home had become a private orphanage.

I didn’t know that at the time.

I knew my dad wouldn’t be able to pay the bill for months, if not ever, without divine intervention. Was he ever going to pay it? Was he ever going to come back?

My heart sank, the kids loved him so much. Every time the phone rang, they asked if it was him. When it was him they would gathering around me, shouting and yelping for the phone in hopes to get in one world. To tell him one story. To hear his voice once more.

I didn’t want to believe I was an orphan, it was my greatest fear. He’d disowned me more times than I could remember in my short life. I never could understand why.

That night, I slept with the kids.

Tears washed over my face until they had soaked my pillow completely, but the kids didn’t know that I was crying, or even that I was afraid. I secretly asked my mother to send help from wherever the afterlife had taken her.

Even when she was alive she had always been much closer to God.

I didn’t sleep in fear of missing school, my alarm clock was out of commission. I went to school and acted perfectly normally, telling jokes, clowning around with my friends. I treasured the moments when I could be fourteen.

But I got the kids to school the next day, and just as I’d promised, we handled it like it was nothing. We were fine.

In my sorrow and fear I began to look for some unthought of good fortune in the situation, I tried to find ways in which I could grow stronger. I started to look for the beauty hidden inside the tragedy that I called life.

I didn’t have to look far, it was all clear from where I stood; how brightly the stars burned, the warmth of fire on my skin, the piercing silence of darkness. My siblings peaceful faces as they slept, huddled together for warmth.

I began to feel a hunger for beauty, for beauty felt light and it was in that lightness in which I could find shelter from fear.

As the fear slowly subsided my perception began to shift and like a garden over time the weeds of growth and wisdom began to show.

I realize now that it was in searching for lightness that I was able to find the electricity within.

This above passage is a modified excerpt from my diary.