Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Walk in the dark

The other evening, as I was walking toward my bedroom after turning off the lights, I was reminded of all the walks in the dark we were forced to during the war. During most of the time when we didn't have electricity for days at a time, we didn't go to bed at sun down. While it required minimum activity, we still had to move around the apartment in complete darkness.

The darkness was more intense than what you'd get by just turning off all the lights in your house. There was no light coming from the outside either, from street lights, cars or other buildings around. If there was no moon and it was cloudy, it would be pitch dark inside.

We didn't have flash lights, as those require batteries which we didn't have. Every now and then we'd use candles, but those were very rare, too. We mostly used glasses filled with water on the bottom and oil on the top, with a little string, threaded through a cork screw, lit at the top. Those were dangerous to move too much, especially as you are walking in the dark, as the oil can spill and catch on fire. Sometimes it was even desirable not to have the light coming out of the window because a lit room was an easier target to snipers.

Our eyes would somewhat get used to the darkness, but we could still only barely see the contours of the walls, doors, and furniture. So we adjusted to manoeuvring through the rooms with hands constantly feeling our way through. Because we would do it so often, we'd have a good sense of the distance between objects, but we still had to touch around us. Inevitably, there were few head bumps.

So, every time I walk to my bed after having turned the lights off in the living room, and I stretch my arms out to feel where the table, kitchen counters and door are, I remember those long nights in Sarajevo.

The sad memories also returned few months ago when our neighborhood lost power for a couple of hours. We gather all 10 candles we had in the house, and lit them all next to each other in an attempt to create the biggest light source we could. The TV, home phone, and desktop computer all not working also added to the anxiety, but at least the cell phone and the laptop had enough juice to keep us busy until the power was back.

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