After days of solitary and increasingly manic tinkering, I escaped from my apartment to cheer Arit on at her graduation vernissage. The event was a resounding success, and was made even more so by the fact that Arit won an award for her portfolio. Of course she did. She is brilliant, after all.
Afterwards, we all went out to dinner and gorged on pupusas drenched in spicy green piquante sauce. I didn’t arrive home until almost midnight, whereupon I discovered that the apartment above mine had sprung a leak and, in so doing, had saturated the wall that divides my kitchen from my hallway with water. Moments later, I heard a sizzling sound coming from the area around the wall’s light switch. The wall was hot to the touch, and it dawned on me that I was on the verge of experiencing an electrical fire.
I remember thinking the word “motherfucker.” And then time collapsed.
In the span of less than a nanosecond, I debated the severity of the crisis and considered my options. Neighbour? Landlord? Fire department? I could hear my father’s voice in my head, patiently instructing me in the ways of electricity, the word “dangerous” echoing in a thick Serbian accent. Without meaning to, I clearly pictured my worst fear coming to pass: my home and everything in it in flames.
The nanosecond gone, I calmly collected Ivan and locked him in the bedroom, noting that his carrier was stored on the top right shelf of the bedroom closet. Then, I walked equally calmly to the circuit box in the living room and flipped breaker switches until I found the right one. In darkness, I waited by the light switch, which was still sputtering like an electric egg. After a minute or so had passed, I felt the wall again, trying to discern if it already contained fire. It was still hot, but no hotter than it had been. I made my call: landlord.
As I waited for the landlord to arrive, adrenaline surging under my strange calm, I became aware of something I hadn’t known about myself: I am good in a crisis. Under normal circumstances, I am an edgy, chain-smoking neurotic, but even so, I am good in a crisis. For reasons that I don’t quite understand, this made me feel exceptionally good about myself.
The night ended with my landlord telling me that everything was fine and that I should turn the circuit-breaker back on, despite the fact that both wall and wires were still dripping wet. When I expressed reservations, respectfully noting that water renders the insulation that covers electrical wiring inert, which in turn causes fire, he boasted of being so fearless that he had once shot a bear from a distance of twenty feet. Seeing him for the moron that he plainly is, I thanked him for his time and ushered him out of my apartment.
When I finally fell into bed, I dreamt that a man in a tight black spider suit had attached a forest of small electrodes to my landlord’s naked body and was administering electric shocks of slowly increasing intensity to his cowering frame. I didn’t lift a finger to stop him. Neither did the bear.