Part of me wishes our apartment had gone up in flames and we’d lost everything but each other. But only a part of me – the same part that wishes life was more like a lush Victorian novel or an action movie.
The rest of me marvels at the sudden jolts life gives, and melts with gratitude at the practical kindness of our friends.
A reporter’s take on the story I’m about to tell can be found here: (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/10/15/bc-east-vancouver-apartment-fire-arson-adanac.html).
That will give you the basic details – I’m writing this post to a) make some sense of things and b) record the human details for posterity and possibly hilarity.
The newsman can’t tell you about the man who ran out in his torn pajamas and bare feet. We all speculated about his dramatic escape, sans pant leg, (was it on fire? Did he tear it off while rushing through the window? Was he just about the faint from the smoke until his girlfriend heroically ripped him free?). His girlfriend nonchalantly pointed out that actually, those are his normal pajamas, sans pant leg.
The newsman also can’t tell you about the guy standing on his ground-floor balcony as his suite filled up with smoke, taking a long drag on his cigarette. Friends screamed at him to get out, to get outside. He looked around, annoyed at the inconvenience, took another puff, and yelled, “I am outside.” Maybe he lit his cigarette on his couch. Now that’s convenient.
Many cats were saved, including one who had the firemen playing a hearty game of “flip the mattress” before they nabbed the feline and tossed it off the balcony.
So. There was a fire in our apartment building on Wednesday night, and since then, Jonathan and I have been staying with an amazing family who are keeping us warm, fed and comforted back into normal, while our apartment languishes without inhabitants, full of things that smell like the ghost of 1,000 campfires.
I wandered through Army and Navy today, and bought some underwear, socks, and an extra shirt for Jonathan. We’re provided for – but it does feel strange and strangely freeing to wear the same outfit every day, because you have no other clothing. (That was not a plea for sympathy or clothes – we’ve had lots of offers, and we’ll be able to get some of our garments back).
We left the dishes in the sink that night, left without supportive undergarments or contact lenses, left clutching the laptop, hard drive and cell phones, left hoping that we’d be back soon and it was all just a drill. But the thick black smoke in the hallways, the sirens and the hysteria of escaping neighbours assured us otherwise.
One of the first things that ran through my mind as we watched our apartment block go up in smoke, was a sincere hope that the mice and the cockroaches I have been battling would finally surrender. Little did I know we’d also be given notice to move out.
That last sentence upsets me – just as I was finally settling into our very humble abode, reconciling myself with its quirks, and loving the neighbourhood, here we are again, in search of a house.
We are not, however, searching for a home. (Here’s the Victorian novel part…)
Over the last 48 hours, denied access (save ten minutes to revisit and rescue essential items and cell-phone chargers) to our house, I know with absolute certainty that my home is my husband. All of our books, our clothes, our dishes, our precious things are out of reach right now, and some may possibly be forever, but my heart burns for none of it.
Instead, I’m full of love for the man who led me calmly out of the building, made me laugh and held me close, and even now assures me that all will be well in the end.
I’m also incredibly grateful for the Swiss family who have welcomed us into their home as naturally as if we’d been planning a long, happy visit anyways, and gave us everything from toothbrushes to hot tea at the site of the disaster.
Home. It’s where the heart is.