On One Hand

June 24, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:01 am

For the second time in my life, I have been exceptionally close to a lightning strike. Being close to lightning is always an odd experience; it’s over too abruptly to be scary but dramatic enough to firmly leave a vivid imprint in the long-term memory and energize the visual imagination for weeks to come. This time I was at my grandparents’ house, lying in bed in the dark at 2:00 AM and staring out the window at the distant, approaching summer storm.

When lightning strikes close, the sound comes in a form unlike the familiar deep, rolling thunder that rumbles in from the distance. It’s a brief, sudden, deafening bang, like an exploding stick of dynamite, an extreme exaggeration of hands clapping, or a large dictionary dropped on a solid wooden floor. The single crack of thunder and the bright electrical flash occur at exactly the same time when the lightning is close, and the sound wave jolts you off balance and leaves your ears ringing for quite some time.

I was lying in bed when it happened, and my initial thought when the lightning struck was fuck that was close! The flash from outside had barely subsided when the lights above me, which had been switched off, began to flicker and glow, and only then did I realize how close the lightning strike had really been. The lights buzzed loudly like a cliche electrocution scene from a popular movie as they got brighter and brighter, culminating in a luminescence far exceeding what the light bulbs should naturally be at when switched on. Everything in the house seemed to be whirring or humming as it came alive for a moment. I was waiting for the bulbs to explode at any second, but instead they remained intact until every electronic appliance in the house anticlimactically shut off abruptly. The still air smelled like the flint on a lighter, but in the aftermath of all the drama that had just gone on, the house was pitch black and completely quiet save for the rain pattering on the roof.

I got up, threw my clothes on and ran down the hall to where my grandparents were sleeping, telling them when I got there that I thought that lightning had just hit the house.
“Oh, is that what that was?” my grandfather asked, sleepily. He staggered to his feet and flipped the light switch on the wall to find that the power in the house was out. “Well I knew it was pretty close,” my grandmother said, hobbling quickly around the room from the far side of the bed to beat my grandfather to the door. The giant dog was unfazed, yawning lazily from a mat at the foot of the bed as she raised her head, flopping her heavy tail in enjoyment of the activity around her. “I guess I’d better call the power company,” my grandfather said nonchalantly and then asked my grandmother where she put the cell. He fumbled for a flashlight and switched it on, then trudged down the stairs to get the phone and check the rest of the house for damage.

My grandparents live in a dry, rural area on a large hill at the foot of the mountains. The road running past the house is unpaved, and a naked power line runs parallel to it, branching off to feed the many scattered houses within view of my grandparents’ home. We looked outside to see that all the other houses in the neighborhood still had power, meaning that the lightning strike was close enough to the house to effect only the one power pole leading directly to where we were. All the circuit breakers in the house and nearby garage had popped, but even when they were re-set the electricity didn’t come on. The power company said on the phone that they’d send someone in to re-set the breaker on the nearest power pole as soon as possible.

I stayed in the basement as the storm passed after my grandparents had gone back to bed, returning to the guest bedroom upstairs only after the clouds were gone and I could clearly see the constellation Sagittarius in the southeastern sky through the window from my place on the couch. The power came back on just before dawn and I could hear the Utility Company’s truck crunching down the gravel road as it was driven back toward town. The next day my grandfather and I looked around the house outside for damage, but we never figured out exactly where the lightning struck. We discovered that the electric garage door on the house had opened for some reason in the chaos, but every home appliance was functional and there were no visible burns or marks on the roof or anywhere in the area. All we know for sure about the lightning is that it was close enough to pop all the surge protectors in the house and spark the lights in the guest bedroom where I had been when it happened.

June 9, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:26 pm

Warning: Long Entry

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