If there had ever been another time that was this dark, this hot, I could
not remember it. The itchiness of the sweaty fabric on the couches sent
most of us to the floor. We sprawled out on our backs, faces to the ceiling we
could not see. The sticky carpet hardly offered more relief, but it felt good,
I think, to take up more space. From the battery- powered boom box, the
news commentator told us we were in the middle of what would become
known as the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. It had spread from the East
Coast to parts of Ohio and Michigan, he reported, and Detroit was just
one of several major urban centers covered in darkness.
“Who’s that? Y’all heard him before.” I could make out Janice’s1 silhou-
ette as she propped herself up on her elbows and sent her question in my
direction. Her generally clear, deep voice was shaky.
I imagined the newscaster from the am radio station sounded caught in
time to these young women, who were between sixteen and twenty years
old. His tone was official, uninflected, more standardized than an auto-
mated recording. The unfamiliarity of his voice added to the sense that we
were in the middle of something we would be wrong to assume we under-
stood, an event whose outcome we could not necessarily predict, even
when the lights came back on.
“Yeah, he sound real old. Like he just creaked his ass out a coffin.” Dani-
elle’s remark won a few uneasy laughs.
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