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Annette Powers Headshot

Blackout

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I was at an audition in Fort Greene when the lights flickered for a moment and then went out. I had been waiting for three hours to do a two-minute monologue from Othello and was next in line.

It was about 100 degrees outside and not much cooler in the musty basement. The small window unit must have blown a fuse - a common occurrence on hot New York summer days. Despite the dimness, they called me in to perform. I flubbed Desdemona in the shadowy room and walked out into the blazing city. I knew I didn't get the part.

When I went outside, I realized it wasn't just the building that lost power, but the whole city. All the streetlights were out and the car horns were deafening. I tried to catch a bus, but they were packed with sweaty strangers so I walked the 45 minutes back to Park Slope.

On my way, I heard Bloomberg's voice blaring from a car radio saying this was a widespread blackout. It was August 14, 2003 and 9/11 was a not-too-distant memory for New Yorkers. The streets were filled with panic at first, but people relaxed as we learned this blackout was not the doing of human malevolence, but human error.

I made my way back home, but without fans or A/C, it was unbearable. It was still light out, but night was creeping on and I didn't want to be alone in my hot, gloomy apartment.

I went to the store, then home, to the park, then home, then out again. I had noticed a cute guy sitting at a table at the café on my corner and on the third time I passed by, I flirtatiously asked, "Are you still sitting here?" He flashed a nervous grin and said, "Yeah, sit down and I'll buy you a drink."

After a few, we joined neighbors for some board games by candlelight. A few hours later, we left together and marveled at how still the city was without traffic. We found ourselves chatting for hours on a moonlit park bench. The sky was a deep indigo and the stars glowed like a Broadway marquee.

The relationship was pure light. My family and friends adored him and together we were a meteor shower of relationship perfection. We had "neighborhood days" on the weekends in the city and traveled abroad whenever we could. He made me a CD for every month we were together including songs that represented each of our blissful days. He signed every email "ILYSM" - I love you so much.

One sunny July eve, nearly four years after our meeting, our friends and family toasted our blackout love. Two years later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

When our son was just 16 months old, I read an email that said, "I love you so much." Not our shorthand "ILYSM," but all spelled out, "I love you so much." The email wasn't to me.

"Are you in love with her?" I demanded. He nodded sheepishly. "Were you planning to ask me for a divorce?" He nodded again.

Whenever I saw this scenario in movies, the husband begged his wife for forgiveness and promised to "end it," but there was none of that. There was only resignation.

How could my husband and best friend for the past seven years do this to me? I asked that question over and over and he just shook his head. He had no answers.

For the next 11 months, a blackout of pain consumed me. We had just created this new family and I expected sunny days. Instead, my days turned into nightmares of murky sludge.

I sent rapid-fire text messages of hate and binged on ice cream, anguish and self-pity. I called my friends (one stationed in every time zone, so that I'd never be alone,) and they talked me to sleep until the Tylenol PM kicked in. I screamed, sobbed and cursed my infernal new reality.

The pit it my stomach grew into a cavern so dark and so deep that I feared it would consume me and I'd tumble like Alice into the void.

I found some respite from loved ones determined to save me from my gloom. And so many times, it was my unknowing toddler, who gave me reason to get out of bed- with his all-limbs performance of "the chicken dance," his surprisingly sophisticated sense of irony and his gift of tiny little kisses on the tip of my nose. He was and is the light of my life.

My ex and I are good co-parents, but when it comes to our own relationship, he has no answers that can satisfy me and I still can't seem to get over the shock. I struggle daily with the chasm between what I thought my life would be and what it has become. Everyone assures me that "this too shall pass" over time and with my intention.

Could that be true? Could I simply decide to shed this inky veneer?

What would-be our four year wedding anniversary just passed and I decided not to spend that day in darkness. Instead, I went to Iceland, where it stays light for 23 hours a day. I stood underneath the midnight sun, raised my face to the radiance above and pledged to move forward.

I have since returned from Iceland and have been working everyday to maintain that inner glow. It's tough and I falter, but I see a ray. And that's something.