A lot of stuff happened the night our home caught fire. I don’t want to call a fire an adventure but it is a little bit that. What happened was, late at night when Terry and I were asleep I woke him up because I heard bottles breaking. I thought someone was in the apartment. He jumped up, investigated, shook me, said, “Fire, get down, follow me.” But I didn’t.
I wrapped a sheet around me and walked out. I lost that sheet and grabbed a fur coat from our closet, although I would have grabbed anything because I wasn’t so scared that I wanted to be bolicky bare-assed in my hallway. And I’m making this sound like there are many fur coats in our closet, which is not the case at all. There was one which I tend to think of as “the” fur coat but that doesn’t sound right, and “a” doesn’t sound right either, hence, this explanation.
It was scary when Terry wasn’t in the hall. And, it was really scary because the door locked behind me and I didn’t have keys to open it and Terry’s partially deaf and I had the idea that he was lost and he wouldn’t be able to hear noise that would direct him to the door that I was banging on.
It turned out okay because one of the maintenance guys was there and ran a credit card against the lock and the door opened and Terry tumbled out and I keep trying to find out who this was and everyone says it wasn’t them so I still don’t know even though I’m pretty sure it was the compactor guy who works here.
It took a long time for me to understand why this hero didn’t come forward for credit but I understood when I told someone that this happened and she said that the guy was probably a burglar. I said that it was more likely that he developed his door-opening skills because so many people here lock themselves out and she said that she liked the burglar explanation better and I said that she thought like that because she lived on the lower east side for a long time and longevity here tends to warp you.
When Terry tumbled out of the doorway, most of the men on our floor and the one below us were in the hallway. Everyone was saying, “Is everyone all right?” and bunches of people were banging on doors and yelling, “Fire”. Terry stood in front of the elevator banks and said, “No elevator”, everyone has to take the stairs; there’s help. And, mostly everyone walked down 18flights…but, then, the firemen came up the elevator and said that it was okay to use it. But I think everyone was going down the stairwell by then.
I wasn’t too worried about this because there was a lot of help and Terry is the kind of guy who people tend to listen to because he has the kind of presence that demands this and he had it even with a sunburned face, singed hair and a sooty bathrobe. So, that worked out and 18 floors later we met each other in the lobby with bunches of neighbors.
Bunches of official looking people talked to me and I said that the fire was in my home, that it was in the back bedroom and I could give information for Terry who didn’t have his hearing aids on but if they needed to talk to him they should face him and speak slowly and loudly.
I gave my and Terry’s dates of birth and full names to bunches of people and I also gave lots of people both mine and Terry’s social security numbers and it was later that I found out that official fire guys don’t ask for that so if this ever happens to you, don’t do that. I think that’s going to be okay though.
When we were in the lobby we were sort of the center of attention and I think people were listening to our responses to questions. I really hope this is so because some EMT’s were trying to take my blood pressure and they couldn’t get an accurate reading for me because I had on a fur coat and I explained that I couldn’t remove my arm because I was naked and so, forget that. And that is what I tell myself because soon after that a little old lady pressed a pair of laundered underpants in my hand and it is better to think that she heard this conversation and came to my rescue than to think that I had publicly flashed private parts. I think the former happened because if I did the flashing thing probably I would have heard about this. And it doesn’t count when Terry implies that this happened because he knows that I worry about that so he says things to crack himself up and, mostly, me too.
Then, we were off in separate ambulances. I’ll tell you about that soon. I’ll tell you how a cell phone was pressed into our hands, how friends met us in the emergency room with clothes and shoes and more underpants and about how generous and caring our community is. And that is why we’re going to be fine.