Living alone is a slow slide, like entering a still pool. Sun warms different layers, currents cool around the rocks, and as you slide down you can never be sure where cold shocks wait.
Bills so far have been unsurprising. The bank mails the mortgage statement because I haven’t figured out its subpar website, and the paper provides more comforting certainty that the amount agreed (and agreed and agreed to, given all the signatures) will not change. A nice lady at the city set up my trash and all the utilities, and the gas company required a few online clicks.
It’s been cold, but the gas bill did not loom for me. Not having grown up with gas, some part of me must still not understand this is what heats the house and water, what makes the stove’s blue flames both the cat and I find fascinating. The first bill was sixty bucks and change–not bad at all.
Electricity has gnawed at me, worry making a little hollow spot in the pit of the skull. How much do the lights really use, the heater blower, the microwave? Electric dryers are notorious pigs, and even with maybe a load a week the thing still glows red like a cash burning machine. A couple computers are always on, chugging on World Community Grid. But I don’t use the bathroom halogen lights. Three hundred watts to light a closet no better than a twenty watt fluorescent is the kind of math that has doomed the Eurozone, yet here it is in my brand new bathroom.
A friend has a conniption when her first electric bill in her new place arrives: 3000 kilowatt-hours, almost three hundred bucks. Her sister had to talk her off the roof, she said. The little worry mouse in the skull’s pit writhed and grew. I have had to shell out health insurance deductibles I didn’t plan on. Grocery shopping is always depressing: maybe two reusable shopping bags full for eighty bucks. I feel a brilliant, sparking hammer looming over me, accelerating down. Seattle City Light has a surprise for me this Christmas, I am sure.
Your bill is due, the email comes today. I click the link. The page is immediate, not the clearest, but visible. There, in little blue type, is the amount.
Not even twenty bucks. For two months’ use.
In this time when so many face such dire trouble, when it is insisted whole bedrocks of the social contract must be turned off from expense, when I walk by houses without a single light on, the mouse dissolves and a lightness comes down on me as I realize I am grateful for this gift.