Fire

So this crazy thing happened on Thursday afternoon: our apartment building caught fire.

(I don’t even know how to continue from that. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.)

Our landlord had come over because we had a couple questions and he was helping us fix a few things in the apartment. We were having a really good time getting to know each other. He had brought his dog Gumbo, who was adorable and a bit rambunctious, and we had just said goodbye. I was just settling back into working when I heard a knock on my door. It was our landlord again, and he said, “Can you hold my dog? The building’s on fire.”

I grabbed Gumbo’s leash as he raced upstairs, then I got my purse and headed outside. Sure enough, something on the roof was on fire! We live in a brick building but there are these two wooden structures on top, and one of those was burning.

Everything is a blur now; it all happened so fast. I heard fire engines coming, and a crowd gathered. Soon enough, the street was blocked off, and there were six or seven fire trucks and at least 30 firefighters. One of them hooked a truck up to the hydrant in front of our building; another was taping off an area and dispersing crowds. I stood with a few other residents as we watched the structure burn. The hook and ladder went up and firefighters climbed up on the roof. The black smoke started turning white, but it took a long time for the fire to go out completely. A big portion of the structure was lost completely, but the fire was stopped before it reached the roof or anything else.

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I have so many thoughts surrounding all of this. They too seem to be jumbled. I’m just going to list them here – they probably won’t be in much of an order.

First, I have an endless list of words floating in my head when I think about the men and women who spend their lives fighting fires – the first of which is grateful. They saved our home. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened. Other words that come to mind are brave, selfless, insane. I don’t know how they run into flames when the rest of us are running away from them. I am so glad that we live so close to a fire station and am just incredibly impressed by their caring and courageous acts. I look at them with such respect, and I have a new understanding and appreciation whenever I see a fire truck or ambulance racing down the street.

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Another thought: I’ve done fire drills so many times and in so many different capacities throughout my life. But when there’s actually a fire, it’s a completely different sensation and feeling. I’m impressed with myself that I had the sensibility to grab my purse; I did not, however, manage to grab my keys before leaving. And my phone wasn’t ready for a disaster: it only had 9% battery life when I left our apartment. I should be more prepared in the future.

Also, there’s something so vulnerable about seeing your home on fire. We feel so lucky that it was on the roof, that the building wasn’t severely damaged, that we live on the first floor and the fire (or even the residual water or smoke damage) didn’t make it down to us. But there was definitely a moment, as I was standing on the corner watching our building burn, when I realized we didn’t have anywhere else to go should the fire reach our apartment. All of our physical possessions would be gone, and we wouldn’t have anywhere to live. That thought hits you pretty hard in the face of a disaster.

We got so lucky with all of this. When we were allowed back into the building a short time later, our apartment looked like nothing had happened. The lights that I’d left on were still lit; the TV was even still on. It smelled vaguely of smoke, but nothing serious had happened. The only sign that there was a fire was that our patio/balcony/little outside area was now covered in ash and little pieces of charred wood. We even had friends over that night for dinner, just like we were planning to. Now, a couple days later, there appears to be no water damage to our unit. The one inconvenience is that the water heater is out; I’ve finagled a method to bathe that involves boiling water on the stove, but it takes a long time and is a little labor-intensive. (Crazy how easy it is to take warm water for granted, eh?) Hopefully it will be up and running soon.

I don’t know how to end this post either (I guess this is a piece where I really haven’t known much). Mostly I just hope I never experience something like this again, but that I’m grateful that it ended pretty well considering what could have happened.

Ode to My Taco

This is going to be a short post, but I just wanted to write a quick ode to my taco.

(I can hear the confusion now.) Erm, what? Your… taco?

That’s right, ladies and gents: my taco. And I’m not talking about some delicious concoction I whipped up in the kitchen or purchased from a street cart in Mexico; I’m in fact referring to my chair.

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I’ve had this puppy since high school. I got it as a Christmas present from Santa (I think in my junior or senior year?) and it’s been a part of my life ever since. It’s seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve slept in this thing on more than one occasion. It’s so perfectly comfortable and easy to curl up in. I’ve read many a book, watched many a movie, and written many a blog post in it. And when it’s folded up, it’s shaped like a taco!

When we were living in Seattle, there wasn’t really a good place to put it. It didn’t quite fit with our decor (though it was in the same color scheme) and we just couldn’t find a way to make it work. So it remained folded up in our (giant) closet for two whole years, coming out only once or twice when the mood struck me and I just had to sit in it.

And I think a little part of me was really sad about that. I longed for its cushiony ways, for the days that I spent reading in it or surfing the web or studying. But try as we might, the taco and our living room just weren’t friends, so in the closet it remained.

Then came time to move to New York. I got rid of a whole bunch of stuff, but I couldn’t bear to part with my taco. I knew it was completely unreasonable to bring it with me; if there wasn’t room in Seattle, there surely wouldn’t be room in New York. But when we got here and set everything up, I realized there was a perfect spot for it! I transformed a corner of our living room into a reading nook, with my taco taking center stage.

I’m writing now from it. Just sitting here makes me so happy. I’ve made so many memories here, mostly by myself, but in a way, this chair feels like home to me. It’s not particularly pretty or even very grown-up, but it’s mine. So thanks, taco. I appreciate you always having my back. Here’s to more years of comfort and friendship.

Goodbye, Drake.

It’s the weekend before finals. The library’s packed. All the seats in the local coffee shops are taken. People poke their heads out of their books only to cross-reference something or nibble on their snack. Serious studying is happening.

And here I sit, at the kitchen table at the Drake, “studying.” While I suppose it’s true that I’m making progress – I’m making flashcards for my test on Wednesday – all I can really seem to think about is how soon this place will be gone.

Over the course of the year, I’ve often thought, “This is it.” While I’m still going to be in school for one more year – I’m getting my Master’s degree here – many of my friends won’t be. My brilliant friends at the Drake – all engineering students too – are graduating on Sunday. I’m ever so proud of them – they’re going on to do bigger and better things: work at a huge company, go to graduate school, get their PhD’s. And while I love it here and am happy that I’m staying, I feel like a piece of me is disappearing with them as they walk across the stage to get their diplomas this weekend.

Up until this point I’ve been successful at pushing it out of my mind. “Future Sarah can deal with it,” I’d say. “Right now I’m just going to enjoy each moment as it comes.” But a few nights ago, I realized that I am Future Sarah. There’s no putting it off; the inevitable is here. My friends are packing up their rooms, and soon, this won’t be their house anymore.

This house and these people have been my refuge, my strong place. I’ve laughed here, cried here, and spent countless evenings talking late into the night with some of my best friends. I’ve studied at this table, fallen asleep on the couches, cooked dinner for everyone in the kitchen I don’t know how many times. We’ve celebrated, we’ve mourned, we’ve goofed around and had the college experience of a lifetime. This house is more home to my than my own apartment, than probably anywhere in the world right now. And in a few short weeks, it will no longer be ours.

We can come back – we can drive by, wave to “The Drake.” But we won’t be able to stop by and watch Mad Men on the huge TV, or bake brownies together, or just say hi to our friends. This house will become someone else’s, will become more.

And that’s what I have to remind myself: as much as it feels like it now, this is not the end. This house will hold new life, and we as friends will evolve, too.

These next two weeks will be full of more smiles and more tears as we say goodbye. But this goodbye is not forever; it’s just for now. And I’m going to savor every second I have with this house and these people; I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience.