Reunion in Darkness

by

08/20/2003

73rd and West End, 10023

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

My parents were due in at 6pm on Blackout Thursday. I see them but twice a year, when I travel to their home in Beverly Hills; but this time, for the first time, they were coming to me, to my new “adult apartment” uptown. I was looking forward to entertaining them, had a fridge full of gourmet food and chilled wine. Everything was set, but when I was told to “evacuate” my office at 4:20, everything came undone. I envisioned my folks stuck mid-air somewhere, my father having an anxiety attack; I could hear my mother’s reaction: I told you she should have just flown to LA.

I was responsible. I was at fault for the biggest blackout in the nation’s history.

Like all of us foraging through the city that day, trying to coax a cell phone into operative mode and spending five bucks on bottled water, I just wanted to get home. I needed to pull together something for my parents, if not simply prepare a big apology for the unbearable circumstances. See, they tip the Richter scale of “proper” and I always feel the need to rise to their level. Mom hates subways (rats!) and Dad likes to eat at the Four Seasons (only the best!). Don’t get me wrong, they’re excellent people, and they in fact struggled through penniless days in the Bronx, where they met forty years ago.

But how was I to impress them with the sophisticated New York life I’ve achieved when my apartment was sweltering and I couldn’t even produce a glass of water?

Twenty-three flights up. Dad’s gonna throw a fit.

By 9pm, my folks still hadn’t made it to my building and I was sweaty, tired, guilt-ridden and bedraggled. At 10, I resigned myself to sitting atop the concierge desk, chatting with passing residents, laughing with the staff, eating pizza and drinking beer by candlelight, awaiting my parents’ angry arrival.

Then it was 11, five hours after they had supposedly landed at JFK. I decided to hike up to my apartment in hopes that they’d be there soon. As I was saying goodnight to my new friends, I saw a silhouette that was unmistakably my mother’s.

“Alex, thank God!” she yelled as she ran toward me, arms open for a hug.

I apologized for the blackout. “You must be so hot and uncomfortable,” I said.

“Darling, we’re just happy to see you. We could care less about the damn blackout. We were here in ‘77. Now that was a mess.”

“Dad, are you all right?” I asked. “Let me grab your suitcase! I have flashlights! And lots of Evian!”

“Al,” said my father, “relax kid. We’re just glad you’re safe. Are you hungry? There’s a cookout across the street and your neighbors invited us for beers and weenies.”

“It looks fun,” my mom said. “It looks like the old days.”

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