Like many other people around Middle Tennessee, the kids and I woke up to no power this morning. Due to the unusually cold temperatures, electricity usage was exceeding what TVA could provide, so they mandated rolling blackouts. Unfortunately, our local power company wasn’t prepared to turn the generators back on, so we were without power for at least an hour (could be longer but we weren’t awake yet).
As we waited for the power to come back on, Meredith said, “This is almost like Christmas a couple years ago when the bomb broke the internet!” I laughed, and then I sat in my thoughts, replaying that entire Christmas day and the days after. It was an interesting Christmas, and funnily enough, it involved Emily in an unexpected way.
Such a Strange Christmas
I remember Christmas 2020 very well. The kids woke me up early that morning, excited over all the gifts under the tree. We opened presents, then started cinnamon rolls in the oven. We would only have the morning together, since their dad would be over to pick them up by lunchtime and they’d be spending the next week with them. Needless to say, I was trying to make the most of it.
Right before 8:00am, Emily texted me pictures of her parents’ yard. Knoxville got quite a bit of snow, and I was jealous of the beautiful view. I wished her a merry white Christmas, but she didn’t respond and I assumed she was busy with family.
But then, around 30 minutes later, she says, “Are y’all okay?” When I ask her if I missed something, she says, “Uh, yeah,” and includes a link to the news about the Nashville bombing. When I asked her if she was aware of the distance between Nashville and Murfreesboro, she told me to shut up because she has an anxiety disorder and panicked.
Within a few hours of that text exchange, I had no cell service, no home internet, and no one else in the house. It was a very lonely Christmas Day.
The next morning, Emily sent me a message on Facebook (so I could read it when I found public WiFi) letting me know she’d be back home from Knoxville later that day and I could crash at her place if I at least wanted the internet and someone to talk to since she had Comcast internet and used Verizon for cell service. She also mentioned that she was a little scared to be home alone since they still hadn’t located the bomber and they suspected someone who lived near her apartment complex. So I said yes.
After she mentioned her heat wasn’t working well, we decided to just split a hotel room if we could find one with working WiFi. This worked well because we’d have company, internet, and Emily would be close to her weekend job. It took some calling around on Emily’s part (I didn’t have a way to make phone calls), but we found a hotel and I used Panera’s WiFi to book a room.
It ended up being a pretty fun weekend, despite the cold weather and the lack of cell service. We talked for hours about everything and nothing, I worked on freelance writing while Emily went to her weekend job as a home health aid, and we are at Five Guys at one point. The hotel was cute, and Emily definitely mentioned we should stay there again sometime. For me, her company was what really made it an exceptional weekend.
Yet Another Moment of Missed Indications
Throughout the weekend, each of us took turns making jokes about the two of us dating or somehow being involved with each other. At Five Guys, I held the door open for her, and offered to pay for us both. She laughed and mentioned how I was a better gentleman than her boyfriend, and I told her to dump him for me. At the hotel, we cracked a joke about the sleeping situation. There were just little moments of playfulness, and it made me laugh.
It all seemed pretty on brand for us, and it definitely wasn’t the first time we’d made jokes like that. When she tagged along on the fall break trip to Gatlinburg with me and the kids that October, we had some similar banter. When I was starting the divorce process, she joked about us getting a place together and I said that might make us look like a couple, but we both laughed. So many little moments like that, going all the way back to 2019… yet neither of us picked up on the others underlying feelings.
Looking back, I wish I’d made my move much sooner. I knew for certain how I felt about her the night I drove home from that Lizzo concert, but I worried she wouldn’t reciprocate those feelings. And she told me several times that she stuffed down her feelings about me because she felt unsure about her sexuality.
Which, I guess at most it would have given us another year or so, but given how quickly things moved, that extra year would have gotten her the wedding of her dreams and let her avoid the dumpster that was the ex right before me. But I guess that’s yet another regret I get to add to my list of things I wish I’d done a better job of with her.
Picking Up The Rubble
This Christmas is going to resemble the Christmas from two years ago in many ways. The kids will leave sometime after the morning to be with their dad for a week. I’m going to leave my apartment and go stay in a hotel (well, a bed and breakfast for a few nights, then a couple different hotels). I’ll probably do some freelance work on someone else’s WiFi.
But, this time, instead of waiting for someone else to pick up the rubble and restore AT&T internet and cell service, I’m going to be dealing with my own shards to pick up: my broken heart.
I’m not going to lie, I’m somewhat using the next week to run away. I know it will only provide relief from some of the pain. I’ll get to take a break from living in a house full of her stuff and memories I made with her. I can leave behind a town where all I see are moments we shared together. I can ignore the people who try to talk to me but don’t understand, or I can even ignore everyone who knows me as Emily’s other half.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can make me the way I was before I watched the love of my life die, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Just like the bomb went off and destroyed a whole section of downtown Nashville, a wrecking ball called death obliterated the beautiful life I’d built with the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. And that isn’t something that can be repaired.
Because of Emily, I had someone to be with in the aftermath of an explosion. But because she’s gone, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put myself back together again.