Saturday, December 02, 2006

Panne de tout....

Was just settling down to work on some poems last night when the lights and computer flickered and went out. This was hardly surprising, as we had had a minor ice storm with high winds all day. We lit every candle in the house and waited in the silence. Amazing the silence when all our technological devices are shut off at once -- fridge, stereo system, lights (yes I imagine they emit a hum), computer. Occasionally we heard the long, low howl of winter wind around the building, quite spooky in the darkness. We told stories about our childhood. It was like sitting around a campfire. After a good hour, it became clear that this panne de service would last quite a while. I picked up a phone to call a friend, but curiously enough the line was dead, too. It was getting cold in the apartment -- there was nothing else to do -- so we crawled under our comforter to wait it out, and fell asleep. Suddenly around ten pm. we were awakened by a banging on our sliding back door. Two firemen were standing on our fire escape, shining powerful flashlights through the glass. I slid the door open, still rubbing my eyes. Monsieur, on est désolé de vous déranger, mais il y a une fuite de gaz, faut évacuer toute'suite... Seems a there was a major gas leak, a main was broken somewhere underground, but it would take hours to locate it. In the meantime a whole street had to be evacuated. We fumbled around in the darkness for our shoes and coats and scarfs and gloves, I tried to find book to read ... only managed to lay my hand on my Dictionary of Poetic Terms, an absurd choice in this circumstance. The firemen lead us down the stairs, holding our arms because the steps were covered with sheets of ice. On the street, there were several fire trucks, a tangle of fire hoses all over the pavement, a small crowd standing around the police car and yellow cordon at the end of a street. Hanging in the air -- but only intermittently, between the gusts of wind -- a distinct odour of gas. Was I imagining it? (But no -- a neighbour smelled it -- or imagined it -- too.) C'est comme dans une film, I heard a man say. Like a film. Funny how everyone caught in an emergency in this society imagines the scene taking place on celluloid. If there's an underground film industry, it's the one taking place in our heads. Anyway it was soon clear this could take all night; we called up a friend, who fortunately was in, hailed a cab and spent the night at his place. (I imagined news reports of a mushroom cloud over our street; it remained shut till 6 am; the electricity stayed off until shortly before I wrote this.)


Anonymous said...

I can't decide which is the more striking part of this story: the reference to which book you grabbed or "If there's an underground film industry, it's the one taking place in our heads." I wrote a poem recently about how I sometimes dream night-long dreams that are basically feature films, except I never remember any of them and they leave me utterly exhausted.

ça suffit maintenant.

Brian Campbell said...

I think the most striking thing in this story (if I may say so myself) is the book I grabbed in the underground film in my head.

Merci beaucoup pour la commentaire!