On Thursday, August 14, 2003, there was a giant blackout that caused power outages in most of the Northeast United States and Canada, as well as selected states in the Midwest, including Michigan.
I remember microwaving a frozen chicken alfredo Lean Cuisine after day camp that afternoon, watching it slowly rotate and bubble in crappy frostbitten goodness, feeling ready for a pre-dinner snack. As a marginally overweight thirteen-year-old, pre-dinner was one of the highlights of my day. It was a time for me to eat pre-packaged frozen foods with wreckless abandon before my mom came home and prepared us something equally carb-filled and dairy-ladden. Selections for pre-dinner usually included things like meatball and mozzarella Hot Pockets, an entire tray of Pizza Bagels, and, if I was feeling something light, a chicken alfredo Lean Cuisine.
The microwave suddenly stopped halfway through and the first thing I thought was, “Balls. Is this because I tried to microwave cream cheese with the foil still around it last week?”
Being temporarily robbed of my pre-dinner, I turned to VH1 for support. We had recently gotten cable and VH1 was absolutely the best thing ever for a marginally overweight thirteen-year-old who spent endless amounts of time on the computer pirating one hit wonders on BearShare. The best.
When the TV wasn’t working either, I began to feel a vague sense of betrayal and contempt. Are you shitting me, ComEd? Do you expect me to skip pre-dinner and go play outside like one of those kids who liked sports?
This was some bull shit.
And as another hour passed and the power still didn’t come back on, the betrayal and contempt turned into dispair. I realized that this situation was more serious than me missing out frozen meals that surpassed a suitable daily caloric intake and I Love the 80s. It became clear to me that I had just been cockblocked by an act of God.
You see, that summer, I had made my first guy friend, Mike C. I never learned his last name because we met at summer camp and last names were completely irrelevant to swimming in man-made lakes and drinking superfluous amounts of Kool Aid. He was the first guy I could talk to without making an awkward fool of myself, because he was equally awkward and foolish. In my mental picture of him, he is wearing a bright red short sleeved button down with dragons on it and oversized jorts. We bonded over making disgusting drinks by combining Pepsi with dirt, grass and various undrinkable liquids and then daring each other to drink it until we got in trouble.
Needless to say, it was love. And everyone knew he was going to ask me out on the last day of camp - Friday, August 15, 2003.
Neither of us had made a move all summer. Sure, there were small passes. Being buddies on field trips even though we weren’t in the same camper group. Sitting at the same picnic table at lunch. Adamantly denying any feelings whatsoever when questioned by friends. But we both knew that we liked each other, and I had been waiting all summer for my first guy friend to become my first boyfriend, just the way Boy Meets World had taught me that any functional relationship begins.
When I realized that the entire neighborhood was missing their pre-dinner and basic cable, I knew that there would be no camp tomorrow. I still hadn’t heard any news about the immense size of the blackout, but I knew, just like you knew the first time you heard “Mambo No. 5” that it was going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the week, that something this disastrous and unthinkable was actually true. And an apologetic call from my camp counselor sealed my lonely, awkward fate.
So I called my best friend Kelly to tell her the unfortunate news. She was honest and not very helpful, per usual. “Are you gonna, like, cry or something?” Yes, Kelly, I was gonna, like, cry or something. I put on “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, got all feelings about it, and wrapped myself up in my Pottery Barn Teen covers as I wept myself into a slobbery sleep, bummed that I was still feeling pretty hungry while mourning the loss of my first love.
Having zilch in the boys department to distract myself from Mike C., he became my lost love/obsession for the better part of two years. I thought to myself, “Sure, we don’t know each other’s phone numbers, addresses, or even last names, but true love will find you in the end!” I also watched a lot of Lifetime.
To other marginally overweight thirteen-year-olds in search of a time-consuming hobby, I would highly recommend preparing yourself for ninja attack by true love. I made sure I was ready at all times to be struck by the overwhelming power of romance. I wore cute pajamas and did my hair before going to bed. Didn’t the guy always come tap at the girl’s window in the middle of the night to proclaim his feelings for her? I accompanied my parents on any boring errands in hopes of running into him. True love could find you at ACE Hardware, couldn’t it? I religiously rode my bike past the day camp center and scanned for Mike C. in case he had come back to find me and tell me how stupid and sorry he was for not telling me how much he loved me earlier in the summer. Thirteen-year-old boys know what chivalry is, right?
As you may have guessed, true love found me in absolutely none of those places. But it did find me on AIM freshman year of high school after I had successfully made one (one!) real guy friend and had three (three!) short-term boyfriends (one of the boyfriends was also the guy friend, so we can really just average a solid dos in male interaction for me.)
Our long-awaited reunion went something like this:
peachykeen2119*: hi. whos this?
mangaMaster17: mike, from the sal. remember?
peachykeen2119: mike c! woah!!! so intense!
mangaMaster17: yea! it’s been a while lol
peachykeen2119: yeah lol :)
mangaMaster17: yea, u were pretty cool
peachykeen2119: thnx u 2
The conversation continued for a brief while before he invited me to play an online anime game. Yup, he was one of those kids. I should have guessed from the dragons on the shirt that he would be into anime. I wasn’t enthusiastic about it but I tried playing. After all, I had been putting on makeup to go to the grocery store in case I ran into this kid for two years. Maybe there was something totally awesome I was missing about anime?
However, as he elaborately, passionately explained the rules of the game to me, I realized that this was a pathetic end to a pretty pathetic love story. There was nothing I was missing about anime. I had just spent the better part of two years being infatuated with a kid I barely knew and had very little in common with. True love had found me in the end. And it wanted to me swordfight with it disguised as a chesty elf avatar.
Moral of the story: If you’re cockblocked by one of the largest blackouts in history, that might just be mother nature’s way of looking out.
*Peach was a nickname given to me by my best friend Kelly, apparently to provide me with embarrassment when reflecting upon my AIM screen name nine years later.