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  • The lights flickered as I left the building and with a pop, with a flash, they were gone.

    Maybe I imagined the pop. Maybe there really wasn't a flash. Maybe they were already gone by the time I left the building but even as I walked down the steps and fully grasped my environment, my mind filled the darkness with light, with a pop and a flash, with a story.

    At the corner, I stopped and swore under my breath. The lights were out in every direction, for several blocks, street lights, stop lights, the sun, the moon, all but the headlights of bustling traffic. Drivers seemed as uncertain as I, hesitating at the corner and speeding ahead. Eight lanes ran east to west and seven on the north to south street. I bit my lip and looked around again. I'd planned to walk, which required crossing the street, but so did taking a bus or the metro.

    "Oh, fudge," I whispered. "Here goes."

    I stepped on the curb in black trousers and coat. My hat and scarf, mittens and face were the only bits that relieved the darkness.

    "Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god." I chanted.

    The cars to my left, the ones near the curb stopped and waited. The ones coming from my right seemed far more determined to plow through the lightless intersection and I feared the one nearest the curb on the far side. She stopped inches from my right thigh. I skipped onto the curb and exhaled. I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath through my prayer.

    On the far side, safer than naught, I realized I could have (and maybe should have) used the flashlight function on my phone. I didn't have reflectors, but I should have been fine. I was just walking home after work. It wasn't that late. It was just winter and the lights went out.

    Of course, I wasn't actually walking home, but that didn't matter. I was leaving work. I planned to walk a couple of miles to catch up with friends at a tavern on U, to catch a drink, to catch a show, a little dinner, a little jazz. Most of the walk was perfectly safe but for the lights. Most of the walk would be fine.

    "Aw, it isn't that cold," a man smiled at me the farther I went. "Your nose is just a little red."

    I swiped at it with a mittened hand and chattered, "It's not bad."

    "You sure are beautiful," his friend added. "What's your name?"

    Then, they went back to selling cigarettes on the street, one at a time.

    "Singles here. Singles. Newports. Singles."

    I turned the corner and made my way to the tavern. Cheap bear. Deep conversation. Over to the club on the corner for jazz and a trio that made the rest of the world, the day and the dark, the light and the walk disappear. They couldn’t quite shake the winter, though, with two of the three playing in coats and an occasional hat.

    "I'm so cold," I leaned over and whispered.

    After the show, I stood by the heater. After the show, the drummer asked me out and the pianist invited us to another club. After the show, snow softly fell and the drummer asked the pianist, "Can we give my girl a ride home?" After the show, I ran for a bus that wasn't quite mine to get out of the cold and out of the ride, and I thought as I walked slightly farther (because of the bus I had taken) how the snow made everything brighter.
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