You know that box on your laptop that pops up sometimes? Plug in or find another power source. You never really read it, do you? You hear it. Usually in a deep American drawl like that of Brad Pitt or the guy on Radio 4 that does the links. It’s in a wide, pale box so nothing can distract you from the essential threat, i.e. seconds from now you could lose everything, everything, if you do not take immediate action. Also, annoyingly, it always takes you off guard. You click on that battery picture thing at the bottom (Icon, Mum, icon) and it tells you there’s 19 minutes and 14% remaining. 19 minutes! Hah! Enough time to write an email or a poem about a slug. Or both. Certainly enough to finish your admin and your Aero – that essential combination – before you drag yourself up from the sofa and wander off to find your lead. So you’re settling yourself comfortably, dreaming of supper – short term – or what to wear for your daughter’s wedding – long term, (she’s sixteen) when up it pops. A visual affront, like that sign outside the dentist: Have you ever thought about Mouth Cancer?! No I haven’t! But I blooming well will now, you evil, scare-mongering tooth terrorist! Plug in or find another power source.
What does that even mean? What other power source is there apart from the plugging in one? Steve knows these things. I concentrate on concentrating because I sometimes switch off after I’ve asked him questions as he explains things in detail and I tire easily. He’s on his way out and is brief.
A generator? A mobile battery? Maybe some kind of solar energy? He’s thoughtful, rattling his car-keys.
But who would have those? I don’t know a single person with a generator. Although come to think of it years ago we lived in community for a while and there were quite a few power-cuts. We’d all stand stock-still like miners in a cave and the base leader would shout cheerfully, Don’t worry! The generator will take over in a mo! I used to imagine deep rumblings in the depths of the big house as the Gen-er-a-tor, a cavernous thing, would cough and wheeze into action like some enormous, asthmatic superhero. The generator was known to be temperamental. An anxious few minutes, some jokes, a breathing in the darkness. Then a low buzzing, as the generator gathers itself, announcing to the other cellar dwellers in a deep Brad Pitt voice, Do not fear. I am taking over now! Finally, a loud hum and the lights come on, and we’re all dazed and smiling. Light! Who’d have thought it?
And that’s how it is; you live, you work, you read the paper. You have a bad day. Then you buy something new and feel better for a bit. Then something annoying or painful happens, either because you didn’t prepare for it or more likely because life has a habit of flinging random trash at us. And you think Thank you God, for nothing! But please sort it. Please make it better. Please.
One of the reasons I go back again and again to the slightly shabby church on the corner, is because I get to stand alongside others who are the same as me; eager, tired, hopeful or battered, curious. Are you there? Will you help? Please?
And somehow, as we sing, shifting from foot to foot, looking at each other cautiously like you do on trains, something happens; a gathering, a waiting, a slow breath. Then, an invisible stirring, like a surge from some cosmic generator.
I am taking over now…
And later we leave. And we’re smiling a bit, even the most broken of us.
Light. Who’d have thought it?