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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Berm

Blackout

short story

Today my calculus professor told us that we were probably having a long weekend since the campus was getting some sort of wiring improvement, which was great since I could finally spend some time with Emily. I called her, and she agreed to take a 10-hour bus from Denver to visit me. I would’ve gone to Denver but her roommate hates me for some reason, so my dorm was our only choice. My roommate Farid was always cool when Emily came over, he was going to have his annual Harry Potter marathon with some guys from his major anyway. Since Emily was going to take the night bus I had to clean the dorm as much as I could, weeks upon weeks of RedBull cans and Cup Noodles’ remains close to fossilization didn’t exactly go away with Lysol. Farid had this habit of saving stuff for later to recycle, the thing is he never actually went and recycled it. Farid left the dorm at around 7:00 PM. “Enjoy the weekend my dude,” he said, wearing a Slytherin hat. After an hour and a half of cleaning, the dorm looked somewhat presentable. The only problem I had was it didn’t exactly look like a nice place to have a date, it —still— looked like a boys dorm. So I called my friend Erin for help. She got there in about ten minutes. “So? What’s the emergency?” Erin asked. “Would you like to have a date here?” I said. “No,” she replied decisively. “That’s the problem,” I continued. “Is Emily coming?” She asked. I nodded. “What about not taking her here?” She said. “I have $25 left, those books professor Anderson asked for were ridiculously expensive,” I said. “Fine, I’ll be back, give me ten…fifteen,” Erin said as she left, almost jogging. It actually took her 20 minutes, but she got there. She was carrying a cardboard box filled with a barrage of different objects. Erin started taking out of the box a set of garden lights, two scented candles, a psychedelic-tablecloth-looking thing, and a Bluetooth speaker. Once she arranged the lights, set the candles, and the speaker on top of the tablecloth thing she said “I want all of this back by Monday.” “You’re awesome,” I told her. “I know,” she replied. I set the alarm to 6:00 AM to get ready and pick Emily up at around 7:00 AM and went to sleep. The next morning, I got woken up by Shaggy’s sweet voice singing Bombastic —that has been my alarm since I was 15. As I checked the messages I noticed a text from Emily. “The night bus was full, I’ll take the 8 am one, love you.” I was half relieved and half sad, on one hand, I could resume my sleeping but on the other, I was going to see her less. “Got it, text me when you’re close, love you too,” I texted her. Nine and a half hours later I went to pick her up. We kissed and we hugged, then drove back to campus. When we entered the dorm and I tried to turn on the lights, but, they didn’t turn on, in fact, nothing did. The sun hadn’t set yet, but unless it suddenly decided not to set for the first time in billions of years, we were out of luck. “Weird, didn’t they tell you something about the power going off on the weekend?” Emily asked. I quite frankly forgot that the dorm was indeed part of campus hence it would be subject to the wiring situation. “I’m sorry,” I replied. Emily laughed. “I can see you had quite something planned here,” she said, admiring Erin’s setup. We ordered some Uber Eats and ate it while sitting on the tablecloth with the candles lit and Vocalise Op. 34 playing in the background. The sun, not skipping another day, eventually and predictably flawless set. The room was now fully lit by nothing but the two candles Erin left. We talked about college and how different it was from high school, she told me about a guy who got arrested on campus for selling fake AirPods and I told her about a girl who got caught cheating using glow in the dark ink and UV-light-emitting pen. It was around nine or ten, the already almost finished candles were with every ten minutes burning even dimmer, Emily said that perhaps we could see the stars since all the lights were off. I took two red SOLO cups, a carton of cheap wine Farid and I had stashed just in case, and we got out. Emily was lighting the way with her phone’s flashlight. I took her to the roof of the computer science building, the tallest on campus. We sat there, admiring the starless sky, but from the distance, we could see the reason we couldn’t see the stars —the city— shining brighter than any trace of a star we could try to spot. I placed my arm around Emily, and she said “it’s beautiful up here” and I replied looking at her eyes reflecting the not-so-distant buildings “it really is.”

© Gabriel Berm

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