Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Two Varieties of Terror Experienced During the Blackout of 2003

Ten years ago, I was at work when the power went out. That wasn't terribly disconcerting-- we had lost power in the building once before for nearly a month, and would for a few days lose it once again after. What was disconcerting, though, was that my cell phone couldn't get any reception, nor anyone else's, that it became clear that the power outage wasn't just our building but everywhere. And the fact that, at that place and time where I was, nobody knew why.

I remember feeling a little scared, especially with others thinking out-loud that perhaps it was some kind of terrorist attack. I must confess that I was never really scared of terrorists or terrorism before then. Even after the terrorist attacks in September of 2001, I didn't feel that I, personally, was unsafe or threatened. My heart went out to the victims of the attack, and I felt a great deal of sorrow for them and anger towards those that took their lives. At the same time, it felt a little distant and removed, like it happened in some far-off-place, and that it couldn't happen here. Demographically at least it seemed unlikely that Dearborn would be the target of a terrorist attack by radical Muslims.

But the blackout changed that-- it made me feel quite vulnerable and made terrorism something to fear in the now rather than in abstract. Of course it turned out to be nothing of that sort, but the feeling lingers.

Up until that summer, Mary and I had been sort-of friends for a few years. That is, we didn't hang out or anything, but when we ran into each other, we'd talk for awhile, mostly about movies. That summer I had invited her to one of my film shoots, and we started spending deliberate time together. We went to a movie together at the dollar show (Ang Lee's HULK), had gone to lunch together.

I had always had a crush on her since the first time I met her. And having spent actual social time with her that summer, that crush, which had been something casual, became deeper and stronger. Something that was deeper and stronger than anything I had ever felt or anticipated. Something that was tearing me apart.

Which was strange. I was hardly a ladies' man, but in the past, when I had a crush, I had absolutely no qualms about telling the object of my desire how I felt. I was always open and bold about it. But with Mary...

With Mary, it was a secret thing. I wanted so badly to tell her, to be open and bold, but I couldn't; the words just wouldn't come out. I was so terrified that she would say no, or stop talking to me, and I couldn't bare the thought of it. And, like I said, it was tearing me up. It was an agony. Some nights I cried. But I couldn't tell her.

Then came the blackout. The first day, like I said, my phone was out. But on the second day of the blackout, my phone was working, and as soon as it was, I called her to make sure she was okay (she was).

I didn't tell her how I felt then, but by calling I think I tipped my hand.  Two weeks later, she told me, in effect, "Tom, you have a crush on me", which was a very Mary sort of thing for her to do. I had still been too scared to tell her. The next day, though, the last day of August, I wasn't too scared to kiss her.