Blackout

Yesterday we had a power cut which lasted 14 ½ hours.

They’re not unusual, lengthy blackouts, but they are tiresome; it’s true: familiarity really does breed contempt.

During power cuts I find myself conducting frequent conversations on my cell phone with Mr Dominic who is local representative for national power company.

Morning Dominic, I say cheerfully (or as cheerfully as a person who has had to forgo her breakfast toast can manage).

Habari, he responds gruffly.

I enquire politely as to the power situation: what’s the problem and when can I expect lights.

In an hour, he says.

Three hours later and I’m still in the dark, literally and metaphorically.

So I call again.

Afternoon Dominic I say (bit less cheerfully now since morning dissolving into waste of time as cannot work or at least sit at keyboard and pretend to work since black screen would be giveaway)

Habari he says, like he cares how I am.

Power? I enquire.

In an hour, he says and puts the phone down.

An hour later and still no power so I ask Rehema to please call him.

Rehema has worked with me – running me, the children, my home and everything else she feels would manage badly unless she had a hand in it – for 13 years. I hope I might get an answer if Rehema speaks to Dominic, not only because she adopts a non-nonsense tone but because she won’t miss the nuances of language that I so obviously am.

She holds the briefest conversation with Dominic.

What did he say? I ask.

In an hour, she says, but, she adds, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about: he has no idea where the problem is for a start.

Oh, I say in a small, disappointed voice.

My husband laughs at me when I call Dominic, ‘as if he’s going to know when the power’s going to come on’, he says.

My children laugh too, ‘I bet when you’re number flashes up on his phone he’s got you tagged as ‘mad white woman who believes everything I tell her about the power’’.

Whatever, I shrug.

We eat supper by candlelight: the 380th candle-lit dinner this year quips Ben. Nobody bothers to point out that there aren’t that many days in a year besides which it’s only April because it feels like the 380th because candle-lit dinners lost their appeals years and years ago. And we lay bets as to when the power will come on.

I bet it won’t come on at all.

But your friend Dominic promised it would, they all tease.

It does: just as I’m going to bed.

So far so good today: bet old Dom misses my usual call.

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