Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In the Still of the Night

Last Friday was a loooooong day. I was on my feet the whole time, running from one small exhibit to another, installing objects, dashing up to Chinatown to buy fabric, back for more installations. At the very end of the day, just as I was leaving the building, I realized that something we had installed the week before had fallen over. I stayed to straighten it.

Once I got home and had a little dinner, I didn’t last long. I started reading my book but fell asleep with the light on and a cat on either side of me. I awoke when the power went out in my whole neighborhood. It made that sort of winding-down sound you sometimes hear in movie theatres and then it was Very Dark. The sort of dark when you’re not sure if your eyes are open or not. The sort of dark that makes time move more slowly, and enlarges sounds both near and far. It was almost like some sort of hypnotic trance (or so I imagine.)

I bumped my way to the living room window, pulled the shades and looked across the street where the White Trash House was flashing like a disco ball and people were screaming at each other. Apparently the power failure set off the smoke alarms in every room, so strobe lights and buzzing noises made their house more visible (and audible) than anything else on the street. I could see lights in the houses a block behind us, and in houses about 4 blocks away on the other side. But our street was in total darkness.

It was nice to see the stars overhead. Usually I live in a neighborhood that’s too well-lit to permit that.

Looking back, I realize I was a lot blearier than I realized at first. It took me fully twenty minutes to remember that I actually own candles, and only another 10 to find them and get them lit. My cats were fascinated – they’d never seen or smelled candles before. I just never light them.

I called my friend Miss Krafty, who lives up the street from me. She relayed two comforting bits of information: her power was out too, and the Red Sox were ahead 10-3 in the 9th inning. (In hindsight we were too easily comforted by that. The next two games were not inspiring. I do think the city and the utility company narrowly avoided a major demonstration of civil unrest by lucking into a power outage on Friday. If it had happened during the 9th, 10th or 11th innings of the Saturday night game, rioting would have broken out.)

To pass the time I called my sister and we entertained each other for an hour. She told me about her ladybug and the evidently shocking discovery that under their shiny red carapaces, ladybugs have lacy black wings. I love that this was news to her. I can remember her as a serious little girl, collecting snails in our back yard and studying them very closely. I guess she never did the same with ladybugs.

[Aside: I happen to know about ladybugs because for about the past 7 years they appear to have been following me around. It’s as if they’ve selected me for some reason. Other people have personal totems of fierce animals like tigers or bears. I have ladybugs. When I lived in England I had 4 ladybugs who lived in my flat and watched me study. (At first I thought it was just 1 very active ladybug, but I later realized there were several of them.) When I moved back to Texas and lived in a barn, an entire swarm of ladybugs moved in with me and my cat. Dickens was interested at first but soon found them very boring. Ladybugs just don’t dart around or buzz in a satisfying way. He’d rather stalk lizards. And then when I moved to Boston, I walked into my office on my first day of work and found the filing cabinet behind my desk covered with a swarm of ladybug magnets. Ladybugs are the only bugs on the planet I will share space with voluntarily, without complaint. They are the only bugs I encounter that don’t seem to be begging to be squashed by my shoe, or flushed down the toilet.]

My sister and I talked a great deal about shoes, whooping cough (her dog has it – they thought he had a hairball), and my thoroughly adorable nephews. My youngest nephew (turning 2 later this week) is experimenting with inflection to convey size. When he says ‘Shoes’ in his normal voice he is referring to everyone else’s shoes. When he says “shoes" in his itty-bitty high squeaky voice he means his shoes, because his are the smallest. If it’s possible for an aunt to dissolve, simply melt into a pool of loving particles, because her neefs have charmed her so thoroughly, I would long ago have disappeared.

I told Kelsey if Seth ever sees a “Mouse” she could be alarmed, but if he ever saw a “MOUSE” she should move to a new house.

After we’d talked for more than an hour we hung up and I drifted back to my living room windows. It was fascinating in a slow sort of way. I could see people walking up and down the sidewalks with their cell phones out – either talking on them about the power failure, or using the light from their phone screens to guide their steps. I could see flashlights being carried from room to room in neighbors’ houses. And a block over I could see houses with power, inhabitants completely unaware that their neighbors had gone back in time.

I watched for a while and then went back to bed, knowing that the alarm I had intended to set was not going to ring in the morning. I climbed in bed and pulled all the blankets up over me. Dickens tucked me in and found a place to curl up, purring very loudly. I began to drift off to sleep…

Wilkie began to meow. She meowed many long syllables of questions and answers. She experimented with her own itty-bitty voice and inflection. It was almost a cat aria of conversational experimentation with the letters ‘m’, ‘r’, and ‘w.’ She was sitting on the floor right by my bed, engaging in a very earnest and almost musical monologue. Finally I lost patience and told her she needed to get in bed. Pause. She joined me and Dickens on the bed, curled up, and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up to find one of her fetch toys placed precisely in the middle of my pair of bedroom slippers. She wanted to play Fetch in the pitch dark. Extreme sports for housecats.


Pumpkin said...

Ladybirds, neefs and extreme sports cats......love it!!!
Your wee neef sounds utterly adorabubble and I have even more respect for your cat now.....my previous cat experience has been with one who looks upon toys with much disdain and distrust.
There is a bit of a deluge of ladybirds here too.....which makes a welcome change from wasps and other stinging beasties!!
Excellent post. xxx

HolyMama! said...

i'd forgotten about your so cute ladybug magnets!