While the power was out, Mary and I still had 4 hours of juice left on our computers, so we turned down our screen brightness and watched a movie on her computer, about a man who thought he might be dead, even though he wasn’t. It wasn’t a spooky movie, but it felt scary anyway, in our little apartment lit by candles. I got chills, and we held hands while the storm raged outside and the thunder vibrated the dirty plates in our sink. Our gas stove still worked, so we cooked when the movie ended, from a recipe Mary had downloaded. Lightning lit up the kitchen and our faces like a strobe light at a dance party, but we both looked a little bit too frightened to be at a club.
When we finished eating and adding dishes to the growing pile in our sink, we went back to the couch and watched some television on Mary’s computer before it finally powered off. We played a board game by candlelight, and then read stories to each other from our favorite books via flashlight. It was 6pm, but it looked light the dead of night – we pressed our faces against the cold glass of our apartment window and looked at the dark black clouds. I’ve heard the phrase “angry black clouds” before, but I’d never seen the phenomenon until now.
Another clap of thunder rumbled for what seemed like whole minutes, followed by a startling amount of lightning. The tree next to our building groaned under the strain of its poor branches battered by the wind. Mary held my hand again, and we turned on my computer to watch a children’s movie to calm down. Just when the little boy got reunited with his golden retriever and solved the mystery, our power came back. Our lights flashed on. And then just as quickly as it had come, a flash of lightning brought everything back to darkness.
My computer shut off even though I had just checked to see how much power it had, and the little bubble showed 60%. I pressed the power button and typed my name across the keyboard, but the clack of the keys was silenced by another jolt of thunder, so Mary and I decided to just go to bed.
“I’m scared,” Mary said, pushing her body into mine while I pulled her closer. Our bodies fit together perfectly.
“It’s okay,” I answered, holding her hand in mine. We let the storm finish our conversation and waited for sleep.
In the morning, we walked around our apartment without a clear idea of what time it was, since all of our clocks either blinked 12:00 or showed a time that didn’t make any sense for how dark it still was outside. Flicking a light switch and having a light turn on suddenly had novelty, so we turned all of our lights on, even our fan. It smelled like someone had cooked tin foil in the microwave.
Mary went to work, even though it was a weekend, because she had some work to finish that she wasn’t able to do yesterday because of the power outage. The tree had fallen across the pathway in the night, something I thought I should have heard. Trash that had long resided in our gutters and next to dumpsters was thrown into the street to mingle with leaves.
I tried to turn on my computer, but it wouldn’t turn on. I switched to different power outlets, but it didn’t work. I finally switched my battery with Mary’s and turned on my computer, but when it loaded, it showed me the welcome video that I hadn’t seen since I bought the computer three years ago.
“Damnit,” I said aloud to the apartment. “Damn.”
I set up my user account and changed the background to the island tableau I had before, and searched online for a hard drive restore program – I hadn’t deleted anything, I hadn’t told the computer to delete anything, so it had to be somewhere. I paid 80 dollars for a program that promised to put everything to rights, ran it, and took a walk.
Our neighborhood looked like – well, it looked like a storm had hit it. Ours wasn’t the only tree that had cracked under pressure. A couple trees had taken cars with them – I walked past a Volvo that had bisected by a huge elm. One family had started to put the garbage back in the garbage can from around the house. I waved to them and helped another couple of kids get their big wheel out of a tree, then went back home to my computer.
I had all my files back, but they were all on my desktop. I set up my old file system and spent the morning putting everything back where it came from, like the family putting garbage back into its can, only instead of garbage, it was my photos and songs.
One file, “The three of us,” wasn’t something I recognized. It was filled with at least 200 jpegs, none of which had the microscopic preview image, so I opened them into a slideshow, and suddenly lost my breath.
It was me and Mary – with a baby girl. She grew up through the slideshow – a crying red tiny thing in Mary’s arms, a smiling, pink-overalled one-year-old holding my hands and taking steps. The pictures stopped when the girl was about two – she had a bow in her hair, a blue polka-dotted sweatshirt, tangled brown hair that went to her shoulders. She was in a swing.
When Mary came home, I had the computer on the coffee table and was looking at the picture from a distance. I wordlessly pointed to the child on the screen and explained, and she sat down next to me, suddenly and silently crying.
“Who is that?” I asked. She took in a long halting breath.
“You- You forgot her?” Mary paused. “I tried. I can’t.”