Power Outage | Ursula Villarreal-Moura

As I cross the strip mall parking lot back to my car, digging through my bag for my phone, I’m distracted by the marled swirl of pale purple clouds overhead. Clumped together like distorted orchids, the clouds crawl in centimeters. Until I left to exercise, my husband and I had wasted the evening arguing.

The voicemail he’s left me is eleven seconds long. He offers no apologies but warns of a massive tropical storm passing through. My impulse is to spite him and run errands instead of heading home. But I’ve sweated like a maniac, like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, and I crave a warm shower and the safety of home. Unhurried, I drive listening to an author discuss her memoir on NPR. I scrunch my lips until they touch my nose, because I’m still perspiring, a mix of nerves and exertion. The drive is quick and only a dozen pinpricks of rain dot my windshield. The storm is deliberating her next move.

Inside our condominium the power is out. My husband is slouched on our unmade bed, his headphones plugged into his iPhone. He’s watching a Netflix movie on the screen of his cell phone. I wave to him. He removes one ear bud and tells me the entire neighborhood is without electricity. I’m tempted to point out that the traffic lights were working at the corner, but we’ve fought enough for one day.

I peel off my sweaty spandex leggings, tank top, and moist sports bra.  Though I have my back to him, I know he’s admiring my naked ass.

In our adjoining bathroom, I light two candles and prop an emergency flashlight to shine on the shower wall. The bathroom is as dark as a prehistoric cavern, even with the scant glimmers of light. I run the water. It roars like a rollercoaster gaining momentum until the showerhead abruptly spurts to life. I remove my glasses, place them on the edge of the sink, and step in. As I massage shampoo into my hair, I think about the almost two hundred dollars worth of groceries we bought yesterday: steak, salmon, eggs, cheeses, hummus, sensitive vegetables, and freshly squeezed juices. I wonder how long the food will keep in the fridge.

My husband enters the bathroom and waits by the sink. I assume he’s preparing to wash his hands. The shadows on the wall shift. It takes a minute for me to realize he’s standing outside the shower, flashlight in hand, arching his arm over my head.

“I know you’re blind without your glasses,” he says. “I was afraid you’d fall.”

I am blind and can barely make out the outline of my calves beneath me. I love him for inconveniencing himself for me, for setting aside our petty differences.

“Thank you,” I say in the direction of his hand. “If the power isn’t restored soon we should go buy ice for the food,” I add. “Salvage what we can.”

He agrees.

A pulse later the lights beam back on throughout our condo. I almost lose my balance in the brightness. I want to laugh but I’m afraid my husband will think I’m mocking his awkward pose. From inside the shower, I see him lower his tired arm back to his side.

Only hours later will we realize it never stormed, only threatened.


Ursula Villarreal-Moura is an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She has been a nonfiction reader for LUMINA and has interned at American Short Fiction. Her work is forthcoming. She has a thing for hearses.

About TOSKA

Nonfiction for the restless soul. Published online quarterly.

3 comments

  1. I really enjoyed your essay, the way you scrunch your lips until they touch your nose, the pinpricks of rain, and how the water roars like a rollercoaster. Well done.

  2. Ursula

    Thanks for taking the time to read my nonfiction, Bahar. It means a lot to me that you liked it.

  3. Magdalena

    Beautifully written. I loved the details that I could picture so clearly in my minds eye.

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