My friend Jillian laughed at the sight of my grand jeté, which was slightly less than grand. In case you didn’t know, wearing ballet flats doesn’t grant you the ability to leap gracefully over puddles like a ballerina. I landed smack dab in the middle of a puddle, but in my defense, it was more of a lake. We had just come from seeing the movie, Lala Land, at our neighborhood cinema, but after two power outages, all moviegoers were promised a refund. Jillian and I made our way through the sea of frustrated people crowding the dark lobby, deciding not to bother the theater employees who looked ready to tear their hair out.
The choreography had colored my imagination so it appeared that all the other people attempting to leap over puddles were part of a real-life musical. Even the bus that drove past and splashed Jillian and me with a torrent of sleet was just following the routine. My ballet flats have had their final performance. (That’s the second pair I’ve ruined in the past two months.) But that’s okay. All the great dancers have worn their shoes to shreds: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Isadora Duncan, Meriwether Falk.
Electricity has been unpredictable, but I have candles and a kindle, so that’s all I need to survive. The weather has been challenging, and I partly regret not accepting my friend Kelley’s offer to celebrate New Year’s in Athens with her, but with a trip to Macedonia in January and Bavaria in April, I have whittled away my travel fund for the time being and I should try to be responsible.
I thought of Kelley yesterday, not just because she is having fun in Athens without me, but because a storm blew open my back door, which had been firmly closed. I remembered that the gutter on Kelley’s balcony is being held up by a bungee cord. That was the best the maintenance guys who look after our apartments could do after the gutter fell three weeks ago and flooded Kelley’s apartment. I had answered Kelley’s plea for help and swiftly came over, hauling an Ikea bag full of towels. It seems every teacher who has lived in my apartment before me has bought new towels, so I have a closet full of them. Not wanting Kelley to come home to another flood of biblical proportions and not wanting to spend hours cleaning up all the water again, I texted one of our maintenance guys that he should check on her apartment to make sure it doesn’t flood again. “The problem is fixed,” he insisted, but I insisted he check. I would do it myself but Kelley came by the other night to get her spare keys after locking herself out. It seems that these disruptions, scaling from mishaps to mayhem, have become so ingrained in our lives that we start to expect them.
When the power went off during the movie, which was meant to be our happy escape from the miserable weather, I told Jillian I thought it was 2016 giving us one last middle finger. Our jazz-enthused, singing, dancing, playing-among-the-stars lovers seemed destined for a happy ending when all the lights in the theater came on, breaking my reverie and awkwardly reminding everyone that we were just common people sitting in a movie theater. Then all the lights and the screen went dark. Jillian took that opportunity to breathe heavily and produce villainous laughter, just to creep everyone out. Thankfully, people laughed. We all waited. Some inventive people behind us used the flashlight on their phone to make dog shadow puppets on the screen. When some people got impatient and walked down the stairs to leave the theater, Jillian yelled after them, “Don’t leave! All is forgiven!” Jillian and I waited in the dark because we really wanted to see the characters live happily ever after. The movie came back briefly, and even though all the lights came on too, we watched in the well-lit theater until everything went dark again and it appeared less likely that our characters were going to have the kind of ending we hoped for them. Seeing as how the movie was cut short, I don’t really know how it ended and I can remain blissfully unaware, hopeful that artists really can have it all: the love of their art and each other.