Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where There's Smoke...

On second thought, I'm going to finish telling this story today so I can move on.

The next few weeks stuttered by. Finally the swap meet was just three days away. We were all so excited. Mark had called the wholesale client the previous week to see if she needed to replenish her inventory. She wasn't selling through our stock as quickly as she'd hoped, so that was a dead-end.

The night before the swap meet we were all too excited to sleep so we sat around in Kurt's apartment,  surrounded by stacks of inventory and display props ready for loading into the truck in the morning. Mark was staying over that night and even though I went next door to sleep, it still felt like a slumber party.

I fell into the arms of Morpheus at about one in the morning. I think I must have had vivid dreams but the one I remember was about the three of us barbecuing at Barney's - my old house. We were swimming in the pool, naked, but instead of being filled with water it was full of jello. We kept trying to swim through it but we kept sinking to the bottom of the pool and crawling along the bottom until we reached the shallow-end steps. We could breathe in the jello like it was air but it was making us cough. Harmony was screaming at us to "Get out of the pool! Get out!"

I awoke in a panic, my room was filling with smoke but I couldn't tell where it was coming from. I could see the light from the flames through my window as I lept out of bed. Oddly, I thought I could still hear Harmony yelling at me to "Get out!" I found out later it was Mark at the bedroom window trying to wake me up. Then my feet got tangled in the sheets and I went down, smacking my head so hard I saw stars.

It's funny how your mind works when you're in a crisis situation. It was like I was thinking on three channels at once but my mind expanded to focus on each channel completely and separately. Channel One was screeching like a little girl, "Get up off the floor, you crazy bitch, check to make sure you're wearing something. If not, grab your robe and run like hell!" Channel Two was barking orders like a General, "Hustle up, soldier! Laptop! Jewelry box!  LBD!  Manolos! Hup! Hup! Hup!" Channel Three was going all safety officer on me and was calmly spouting bits of how-to-survive-a-housefire advice, "Stop, Drop, and Roll!" "Check the door knob to see if it's hot before opening it." "The freshest air is near the floor so crawl out the house if you can't breathe."

You know how in that movie 'Over the Hedge' when Hammy was moving so fast that everything around him was going in super slo-mo? Well, that's what this was like. In one fluid motion I arose from the floor, one hand snagging the shoes by their jeweled little slingbacks where they lay peeking out from beneath the bed while the other hand shot out to retrieve my laptop from where it rested on the bedside table. As I stepped to the door I grabbed my dress from the hanger on the back of my door and scooped my jewelry box from the top of the bureau. Arms full of my most precious possessions, I touched the doorknob, testing it for heat. It was cool so I barreled into the front room, intending to sprint outside, but the room was full of smoke, much thicker than what I'd left behind in the bedroom. What's worse was that I could feel the heat from the fire.

Ok, now I'm starting to panic. Suddenly the front door crashes open and a fully-suited-up fireman bursts through.  I was screaming and he was grabbing me and trying to pull me through the door while I clutched my four possessions for dear life. I dropped my shoe as he was hustling me to the door. That's when I kinda lost it.  There was no way I was going to leave my Manolo behind. I kept screaming "Shoe!" "Shoe!" and pointing toward the floor. The guy must have figured it out because he reared back and kicked my shoe out the door like Sebastian Janikowski kicking the Raiders to victory. Then he hoisted me and my armload of stuff over his shoulder and carried us outside, accidentally banging my head on the doorjam on the way out. At least I think it was accidental.

The rest of the night was hazy. Adrenaline finally exhausted, I sat on a paramedics gurney, watching four apartments, our side of the eight-plex, burn to the ground. Funny but it wasn't until a few hours later that I realized that I hadn't even thought about my handbag, my cellphone, the portable file full of the evidence I'd so painstakingly gathered against Barney, and most egregiously,  my family cookbook.

So there I sat, homeless, with nothing to wear but a little black dress and an awesome pair of shoes. I had no idea what I was going to do next, but at least I was going to look great doing it.

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