Monday, December 13, 2010


The hallway still reeked of smoke this morning, caught in the floor tiles and the elevator shafts, hanging invisibly in that muted internal light.  I felt like I was swimming, or drowning, pushing my way forward just to get to the air outside.

I didn't dream of fire last night though I went to sleep thinking about Prometheus, and how it all began with a theft and the punishment that followed, and how it was something we were never supposed to have.

Evan first smelled smoke sometime around noon, something subtle, a trashcan fire somewhere out in the streets. A little while later, while I was taking pictures in the bedroom, he called something out from the living room.  There was a hint of concern in his voice; enough to get me out to the living room too, peering out the window, confused by the plumes of smoke wafting by towards the river.

We took the stairs to the lobby with a cell phone and $20 and coats but no socks, other people hollering in the stairwell behind us.  The firetrucks began to pull up as we got to the front door so we went hopping over the fire hose, just trying to stay well out of their way.

We joined the crowd out in the little triangle plaza and watched in amazement as the ladders shot upwards and water started gushing along with the smoke still streaming out of the corner apartment on the top floor.

It wasn't until the man hanging out of an 8th floor window (whom we had been mocking for his stupidity for not leaving) gestured that he couldn't get out that I felt a twinge of panic.  And then the firemen blew the windows out and shards of glass came cascading down over the street and I don't think I've ever before felt a gut instinct to flee but in that moment it was there.

This is when I was on the phone with Erica, who said she could smell the smoke from 184th Street, where she had just gotten on the bus to head down to Columbia.  We got disconnected then but a few minutes later she came running, having heard the undertone of panic in my voice, to make sure we were safe. She left us her keys in case we couldn't get back inside for awhile, and I pictured in that moment being left with only what we had taken with us (my cell phone with its half dead battery, $20, jackets and shoes but no socks).

We were never in any danger, and our apartment was far enough away that even the flooded lobby and stairwells and eastern end of the hallways didn't affect us.  But the smell of smoke, acrid and burning, seeped even through our thick and solid door, and all the open windows and all the scented candles couldn't make it dissipate fast enough.

No one was injured (as far as I know), and the apartment on the 8th floor was boarded up this morning, windows made blank with plywood, hiding from sight the blackened ceilings we could see yesterday afternoon.  Most of the glass (rooms and rooms worth of glass) seems to have been swept up overnight, and it almost might never have happened except for that lingering smell I imagine will be there for days.

1 comment:

Marie said...

This entry is so haunting. Permeated by the feeling of the smoke. I'm glad you're okay.