The Things We Own

Just as we considered moving the dresser, the lights went out. The entire house had gone black, devoid of its electrical pulse.

We carried the dresser into the kitchen and left it there. There would be no navigating the stairs with such a heavy load in the dark.

We fumbled our way around the house and found the matches, lit the candles and brought them to the far corners of the house, lines of light trailing out from the center like the explosion of a firework in slow motion. We lit up the crucial areas: the bathroom, the living room, the hallway. We settled in for a bit, expecting the lights to come back on at any minute. But they didn’t.

In the dark, it became obvious that the light of day had faded. A simple observation, but when was the last time you saw the world go from being lit with the fire of the sun at dusk to the soft black curtains of night and the gentle caress of the moon? Beyond our walls, lights, and computer monitors, we unconsciously slide into the shadow of the earth every day.

In the darkness, there was only the flickering of the candles to illuminate this or that thing, as if we’d never owned anything else beyond the small circle of light. The things we owned metamorphosed from inert possessions to ornery wildlife living in the darkness, eager to strike back at our shins and feet for years of callous, dispassionate ownership.

I was reminded of a short story I’d read years ago. With the invention of electricity and the incandescent light bulb, families everywhere had been forced to clean house in the austere illumination it provided. Perhaps we could do the opposite and just forget about the things that inhabited our home. Let them go free into the night.

My parents went to sleep. My sister and I stayed up and told stories.

We told stories about dreams, about family, about adventures. We traded – here, have this. This is what happened to me then. This is what I thought. These are my friends. These are the events that made me. This is what the future will look like. These are my stories. Take them.

We told real life stories – we were too old, too mature, our imaginations too prune-like to wring tales of pirates and skeletons and zombies from the fertile darkness. Instead, we merely took the ones we had and set them out, each one a little lightening of the spirit.

Maybe another day, during another blackout, we’ll recount the things we own.