Long johns, coveralls, ski mask, four heavy blankets, and I'm still cold. The worst part is initially crawling into bed. The mattress is as hard as a rock, and even with three pairs of socks, my feet are still freezing. Looking out at other apartments is incredibly frustrating because their lights shine directly through my window to remind me that they have power and I do not. It's already been two weeks of this, and I'm not sure how much more I can take. It's impossible to fall asleep, so my mind wanders until the bed warms up, if it does at all.
Finally, moving out of my mother's house on West Road on February eighth was a big deal. I'd listened to Billy Joel's 'Captain Jack' enough to know I had to take the leap at twenty-three because that was too long. My full-time management position at the Catfish House provided enough to handle rent and my Jeep payment, so there was no excuse. Luckily it was unseasonably warm for that early in the year, so my moving clothes were shorts and a T-shirt. Most of my belongings fit in the back of a borrowed truck, so the whole process only took about two trips.
Hauling my stuff up to the second floor at Hunter Chase apartments was quite a workout, but the thought of my newfound freedom was all the motivation I'd needed to finish the task. Thanks to the deposit and first month's rent, the checking account was empty until my next payday, but I wasn't worried. Working in a restaurant has benefits, so food isn't an issue. Moving is exhausting, but I wasn't about to stop until everything looked just as I wanted it.
My life as an independent bachelor was already off to a great start. My neighbors across the hall introduced themselves earlier and said they'd love to take a ride in my Wrangler with the top down this spring. I played it cool before shutting the door behind me and doing a happy dance. There's no cable yet, so I plopped on the couch to stare at a black tv screen and wonder why it took me so long to take the plunge. I'd be inviting friends over and entertaining dates at the new place in no time at all. "I may be broke, but life is good, and there's no stopping me now," I thought before taking a hot shower.
Anger rips the blissful thoughts away from my first day, and only good day, on my own so far. The satisfaction of tossing and turning isn't even practical because I'd have to start the whole warming process from the beginning. I'm sure my mom would let me come back home until this is over, but I'd promised myself that I would never go back once I was out on my own. Everyone else in my building must have skipped town because I haven't seen a soul since this started. I remember winters growing up on the farm years ago without heat in my bedroom, but at least I had an electric blanket then. I prefer a dark room to that damn light outside from the other apartments in my complex that had electricity a day after the ice storm. The manager even showed me a place on that side, but for some stupid reason, I picked this spot.
Who would have thought that the worst ice storm would tear through Clarksville since the fifties, leaving many without power for weeks? Tree limbs and power lines froze up, crippling the city that had just enjoyed springtime-like warmth the day before. Only a couple of us could make it to work, but we managed to open. All we needed to operate was gas, which worked fine, so we fired up the deep fryers and did our thing. We were pretty dead until I called Q-108 to let them know we were in business. Moments later, they announced that the Catfish House was open, and customers were beating down the doors for take-out within thirty minutes.
It's almost four in the morning, and I'm on the verge of losing my mind. Between watching that infuriating light and seeing my breath, my head will pop off. The power at the Catfish House was back on within forty-eight hours. "Screw it! I'll just go into work where it's warm and start prepping for the day," I yell out loud while gritting my teeth. Looking forward to sitting in the Jeep for thirty minutes warming up to the heater is common these days. If nothing else, the experience has taught me to enjoy the littlest of things like hot water from the faucet at the restaurant or breaking into a sweat while expediting food to a few hundred people.
As I swing my legs around to put my boots on, the most glorious thing happens. The sound of my heat kicking on and brilliant lights in each room signaled that everything would be okay. After mentally thanking God and the technicians who work at the electric company, I bumped up the heat and patiently waited for the water to warm so I could take a long bath. I sat in the tub for three hours that morning, once again thankful for my independence and planning new adventures.