I had beaten P to the house by only a few minutes, and figured that a surge must have done something to the power. It was incredibly warm and I was covered in nervous sweat, so I quickly splashed my face in the sink and wiped it dry with my shirt. The cats’ comfort was my main priority, so I decided to put them in a room with some water, a litterbox, and some places to hide.
When I tried to fill the Brita, only a few drops came from the sink. Having grown up on municipal utilities, I had never experienced what was dawning on me. No power= no water, because the well can’t pump anything. Well great. Just…great. My nerves were so jangled from the bridge debacle that I could sense that I was One More Small Bad Thing away from going into a really dark place. Lucky for me, there would be fifteen of them before the night was over.
P rumbled into the driveway and bounded up the stairs, getting absolutely soaked in the process. The wind was raging and rain pelted our skin with sharp, heavy drops. I decided to take the initiative and go get candles, water, food, and some creature comforts at the Target in Bethel. Waze said it was 20 minutes away, so I mustered all of my can-do attitude and hopped into my tiny VW GTI, anxious for the relief of an ersatz bottled water shower. P got the truck out of the way and I reveled in the air conditioning for a second.
As I inched forward, I felt something awful happen underneath the car. What…what could that even be? The driveway was a labyrinth of ruts and tire marks from the truck, and the VW was at a strange angle. Nevermind, I’d gingerly go forward and
No I wouldn’t. You see, dear friends, at some point in the distant past, there had been a garage where my car was now stuck. Over time, the land had receded away from the concrete pad, but I couldn’t see it because the lawn was so overgrown. The GTI was hanging like a see-saw on the edge of the pad, the front wheels spinning furiously in the muddy soft ground.
We tried the usual problem solving tricks, but nothing worked. There were metallic crunching sounds. The light was fading and there was almost no cell signal. I frantically ran until I got a little service and called the first towing company on the list. It’s a small town, and I actually got the guy driving the truck. He said he would be there in an hour. With no street lights and very little traffic to illuminate the road (people were not out in the wild weather), I had little choice but to hang out at the end of the driveway using my phone’s flashlight as a beacon to hopefully flag him down. I was preparing for the car to be broken, to need a tow to a garage and then to a rental car somewhere in Danbury. The kid who got out of the truck looked the situation over and said “Let’s see if we can ease her out of those ruts, first.” He shimmied some ancient looking wooden planks under the front wheels and he coached me, unbelievably, out of the hole. I was ready to pay him whatever he wanted.
$55, he said. I sent $100 via Venmo.
This narrow escape after a day of narrow escapes somehow left me with enough optimism and energy to continue along with the plan. We headed to Target, exhausted, reeking of nervous sweat, our clothes soaked with mud and rain. Towels, sheets, candles, batteries, gallons of water, snacks. We got home, brought the mattress up the steps and threw it on the bedroom floor, hastily dressing it in the new linens. Then we both took what one of my friends calls “Marine showers”: standing in the tub and dousing our faces and strategic parts with just enough water to lather the soap, then using the rest of the gallon to rinse. I must say, it was one of the best showers I have ever taken. Relief poured over me as the cool water took the residue of the day down the drain in a swirl of bubbles.
This whole time, I was texting the realtor who had been our liaison with the owner of the house, who was living in Hong Kong at the time. “Our power is out” “Eversource says it’s literally just our house” “Hello? Is there a generator?” No response. Finally, at 11:00 she said she would text the owner’s father, who lived in town, and try to get some answers. “Great. Thank you. To clarify, this is not a problem with the house. There is a power outage, so I don’t think he can do much.”
We climbed into “bed”, the cats acting predictably weird in their new environs. At around 11:45, we fell asleep. At 11:55, the lights came on. We laughed until we cried, and then fell asleep again.
P would be leaving the next afternoon, after unloading the truck. There was still a bunch of stuff in DC, a house to clean, as well as his car that was baking under the sun on the street. We’ve moved a lot in the 12 years we’ve been together, so there’s a rhythm that now feels comfortable. I do the packing, he does the lifting and logistics, I do most of the unpacking.
In the morning, P went out for a few more supplies and the first of many, many venti Apple Crisp iced Macchiatos I would ingest that year. (Starbucks gift cards always welcome, friends) I lingered in a hot shower and ate a bowl of cereal in my towel on the mattress, hair dripping.
Something you should know about this house is that the man who owned it prior to the current landlord (who uses it purely as an investment property…he has never lived in it) had some wild ideas about what living in a house should be like. Every single door EVERY ONE was glass. The bedroom doors. The internal bedroom doors. But also the bathrooms. And the kitchen. The front door. The office. Living room. Dining room. This means that if someone is outside this house and you are inside it, THEY CAN SEE YOU. No matter where. I’m all for letting light in, but this was bananas.
After the cereal, I found a box labeled “Em: clothes” and fished out a clean bra and tee shirt. Alas, no underwear or bottoms, but they had to be close by. I wrapped the towel like a sarong around my waist and went searching. Just then, a loud knock sounded from the kitchen door. I shouted “Who is it?!” and crouched behind some boxes and clung to the towel. No answer. I heard the rattle of keys and, to my utter horror, an elderly man let himself in, mumbling something about power outages and breakers.
I won’t detail the exchange here, but the short version goes like this: without getting permission from us, the landlord’s father assumed we were idiots who didn’t know how to check a breaker box, and instead of calling, let himself in and got to see a whole lot of embarrassed, soggy, flustered Emily. I had no place to hide my indecency because of the glass doors everywhere. I had to kick him out and asked him to please get permission from us before letting himself in, in the future. He left, still muttering. I’m making light of it now, but it was a humiliating, violating experience. I was not exactly at my most resilient after what had transpired during the last 24 hours.
You’re probably getting a sense for this now: the move here changed me. I am a different person. There is a dent where once I was strong and forceful with belief that things always work out in the end. They do not, in fact, always do any such thing.
Next installment soon.