WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT by Wendy Knepp
On Saturday night, I headed home from visiting my old college roommate, Janice. We met in San Diego where Janice had been attending a conference. Thoughts of our conversation flashed back as I realized how we had changed over the past ten years. She talked about Celebrate Recovery, a program to help her work through some painful childhood memories and co-dependency issues. I was inspired by how she got help to examine and improve her existence. The way she talked about her new life, it sounded like she got religion.
As I neared home, the Golden Arches lit the sky. Wouldn’t hot chocolate taste good before I turned in for the night?
I pulled into a parking spot and stepped out. The frigid night air sent a chill through me, and I hastened my pace into the nearly empty restaurant.
Before I placed my order, I asked the cashier if I could use the restroom. She obliged and pressed a button to unlock the door.
Once inside, the only stall available was the large handicapped one at the far end. I entered and took my time. Shuffling feet broke the silence as the occupant in the next stall flushed the toilet, washed, and left. Stillness again filled the air.
The tiled room soundproofed me from the outside world. It occurred to me that I was locked in. Only women had access to this room, and only if they contacted the cashier. A sigh of relief escaped my voice. Quiet, peace, and seclusion. I listened to the silence and heard my thoughts clearer than usual. My mind explored the respite, the temporary solitude and safety the place brought.
SNAP! The lights went out. Everything went pitch black. Panic struck my heart. How long would I be in the dark?
Seconds later, I realized the lights were on a motion sensor switch. It was okay. No one could come in except via the cashier and then the lights would be activated.
Engulfed by the deep quiet and absence of any light, I thought about how suddenly the darkness fell. Does death come that quickly, unannounced, I wondered? Does it just happen without warning? Everything goes dark? A shiver went up my spine. What about all the people who aren’t ready? It’s over before they take time to think about what’s next. Do I need to think more about my own life?
When did I call Sis last and tell her how much she means to me? Or drop by Mom and Dad’s house to give them a hug and let them know how much I love them?
Sitting there in the dark, I felt a still, cold emptiness in the pitch-black room. It was time to leave.
My movement triggered the motion sensor, and lights flashed on as I continued to the sink to wash my hands. Fortunately, in this situation, there was light after the darkness. I was glad the lights came back on because there was so much more I wanted to do with my life.
I headed out the restroom door and back to the counter to order a hot chocolate and medium fries. A new cashier stood behind the counter, “I’m sorry. We’re closed,” she told me.
At that moment the first cashier I’d spoken to jumped in and said, “It’s okay. She was in the restroom before we closed at 10.”
I placed my order and went over to a table to wait for my food.
Was it really that late? I looked at my watch – 10:12.
The cashier brought my food.
“My pleasure,” she replied with a smile.
As I ate, my mind wandered to the incident in the bathroom. What if there was life after death? What’s it really like? Is there a Heaven and a Hell? Was that what Janice tried to tell me?
I finished and left.
The next day, Sunday, I spent quietly getting organized for the work week. Monday’s clothes were laid out, lunch packed, and dinner was in the crockpot ready to be set in its base to cook. Being prepared gave me an unhurried and secure feeling.
Monday morning my phone alarm chimed, waking me out of a pleasant sleep. I turned it off. After a few minutes I checked the weather and the latest news. On October 2, 2017, the headline read, “Vegas Shooting at Mandalay Bay - 59 people dead 500+ injured.” A bolt of grief shot through me. I reflected on my brush with sudden darkness Saturday night and wondered about those people in Vegas.