Living in a city this size, it’s easy to forget.
To forget how numerous the stars and how bright the skies.
How bright and how dark it can simultaneously be.
Dark, dark midnight blacks and pinpoint bright, tiny, eternal-seeming sparks of starlight.
But when a sky’s as clear as it was that night, it will take your breath away.
It made me think of you.
When the power went out, it pricked my senses, the same as for everyone in the city. I guess even when we’re asleep, we register the electrical hum of everyday appliances and when that stops, we wake. It must be the same as if we had been in the open, and all the bird and bug noises and the sound of the wind rustling the trees stopped, we would stir from sleep or stop what we were doing.
It didn’t startle me as much as I’d have thought; the power cut I mean, considering none of us expected it; but it wasn’t a surprise. It’s difficult to explain looking back, but then all the reactions were curious really. Nobody speaks about it, which in itself is odd of course.
I’d just stepped out of the shower. It had been a tiring day physically but the drumming of the water had eased what knots there were and cleared my mind. When it happened I’d pulled on some clothes and laced my boots before I picked up my glasses and headed outside. There was no hurry, no sense of panic or even heightened curiosity. I didn’t pick up a torch or my phone or anything, I just got dressed, went outside and sat on our garden wall, just the same as millions of others.
There was a pack of cigarettes in my jeans pocket and as I lit one and inhaled, the dried leaves crackled audibly and the glow seemed to light half the street. For a split second it felt like an imposition on the dark silence, then it became part of the night, and then my eyes began to notice other shadows. I saw a few other cigarettes being lit further down the street, and the light smell of pipe-tobacco reached me on the wind from somewhere invisible. Nobody had torches or candles, nobody was using their phones or anything electrical. The battery-powered stuff would have worked I think, but no-one had brought anything out from their homes.
No-one strayed far from their homes. You couldn’t see anybody’s face to give them even an acknowledging nod and nobody spoke. There was no need. At different points over the following few hours, everyone returned to their homes and their beds and when they woke in the morning the power was back.
If it were daytime, we’d have been watching the world go by, but the world wasn’t. So it was just us, millions of us, stood on the streets watching the world not go by. A paused world. No past or future, just the moment. It would have been awe-inspiring if we weren’t so serene, as if every living thing were in a meditative calm.
It was beautiful. I wish you could have shared it.