Great Expectations

On the stiflingly hot evening of July 13, 1977, after seeing Jeremy off to the airport for a modeling gig in Berlin, I attended a healing testimony service at the Christian Science church. Despite the stuffy air, I left feeling lighter than I had in weeks. No matter what happened in my life, I felt, I would be taken care of. I had been healed of cancer: after that, nothing else could be that difficult.

As I ate my dinner in a small cafe on Madison Avenue, the lights went out. All of them, as far as the eye could see. The city that never sleeps was abruptly plunged into total darkness.

The owner (apologizing profusely), although he obviously had nothing to do with the blackout lit candles for me and the one other couple who were still visiting. Flashlights winked in the darkness outside. There was a palpable furtiveness to the action on the street, as if the blackout had turned everyone into a cat burglar. A few passerby poked their heads in to give the owner the update on the conditions in midtown. There was speculation about looting.

The restaurateur shook his head. “People are damned opportunists,” he muttered. Then, he turned to me, “What are you going to do, young lady? Will you be able to get home safely?”

“Actually...” I hadn’t considered it until now, but our loft was accessible only by the freight elevator that had served the building since it had been a warehouse---and the elevator ran on electricity.

I couldn’t go home.

On any other night, I might have been twitching with fear. People were running wild in the dark, and my husband was three thousand miles away in Germany. But I was still in the spiritual space where nothing could harm me unless I allowed it.

I calmly picked up my fork. “I’ll figure something out,” I said.

The owner regarded me quizzically, but the couple at the next table turned around. “I couldn’t help overhearing,” the woman said. “You can stay in our daughter’s bedroom if you like. She’s out of town.”

Whatever people say about New Yorkers, you can always count on them to come through in a tight spot. I went home with the couple to their posh apartment on the East Side. There wasn’t much conversation; with no light to see by, we all just went to bed. I slept like a baby, feeling perfectly protected and safe.

By the next morning the lights were back on. I had an early flight, so I left a thank you note on the counter and tiptoed out the door without waking my hosts. For weeks afterward, I lived in a sense of profound gratitude for the generosity of strangers and the spiritual connectedness that could offer me protection in even the strangest circumstances.


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