what used to be our apartment

So, our apartment burned down last night.

We were awakened at about 2 am by some sort of loud noise. I actually don’t remember what it sounded like. All I remember is thinking that one of the air conditioners down below our office window might have blown up (they had been making a lot of racket lately). “What the fuck?” I said (sorry, Mom), running out of the bedroom and into the living room.

Only to see a wall of flame coming through the patio door.

“Shit.” (Sorry again, Mom.)

I didn’t even stop to think about how the flames were coming through when there was supposed to be a door there. That simply didn’t occur to me. I went back into the bedroom and got my glasses and rings and put them on, then came back out, then said, “We need to get our phones,” and ran back into the bedroom and got it. I thought briefly that I should go into the office and get my purse and camera…but I figured that someone would put out the fire soon, and I shouldn’t endanger my life by going past the fire in the living room, even though it hadn’t yet started burning anything inside (that I could tell).

So I went outside and started down the stairs.

Sean was doing something during all this time, I don’t know. He came outside with me, and he was the one who thought to pull the fire alarm. But when I started down the stairs I realized he wasn’t coming. He was doing something at the apartment, going back in. I didn’t see that he had a fire extinguisher. All I could think was that he was trying to save something from the apartment. By this time smoke was billowing out the front door into the breezeway.

“Get out of there!” I yelled at him, repeatedly. It really didn’t take long for him to give up on putting out the fire and join me below. A fire truck had already arrived.

We stood and waited while the firemen took their sweet time getting a hose upstairs. Then they paused to bang on the door of the apartment below ours. As if ours wasn’t on fucking fire. As if there wasn’t time to save our stuff.

At some point we walked around the building to see what it looked like from the back, and then we could tell that the fire had started in the apartment below ours and traveled upward via the patios. We still don’t know what exactly started the fire.

The fire didn’t seem to be abating at all. There was a fire truck back on that street too, but it wasn’t doing anything. “They’re incompetent!” I cried. “Put the fucking fire out!”

We stood and watched the fire infiltrate the office, and then the bedroom. We watched our ceiling burn away. We watched the second floor patio collapse and spread the fire onto the first floor.

At some point the truck on the street just beyond us finally started spraying a huge jet of water onto the roof, and the fire was reduced to thick grey smoke within minutes (seconds?). We had already called our parents, and now we walked around the apartments the long way to get to the front entrance where Sean’s parents had arrived to pick us up.

All we had were our phones and our night clothes: underwear, T-shirt, and shorts for both of us. We had no shoes. We had no keys. We had no wallets or money or credit cards or drivers licenses. We walked barefoot to Cheryl and Reid’s truck and got in and they took us to a gas station to get a drink and then back to their house. We showered and changed into borrowed clothes and sat awake for a long time.

Our apartment, and everything in it, is gone.

We have no home.

We have no possessions.

We don’t even have chargers for our phones, and as I discovered today, they don’t make accessories for our outdated phones anymore. We’ll have to buy new ones.

We’ll have to buy new everything.

We didn’t have renters insurance.

Yes. Yes, we are stupid. Thank you for pointing that out. I promise you, though, we already know.

My camera, my constant companion and translator of my memories, is gone. (I took today’s shots with Brooke’s camera.) My computer, with all my saved chat logs from the last ten or so years, all my writing, all my photography, all my archives–and yes, all my anime, is gone. My souvenirs from Japan–my beautiful hand-made pottery tea set, my wallscroll with calligraphy done by my host sister Yoko, my other dishes, my journal that I hadn’t gotten around to typing up and blogging–are gone. All my photographs that weren’t digital, that were instead shoved into the compartment on one of the end tables in the living room, are gone. All my books–hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of books–are gone. Our DVDs are gone.

Everything is gone.

detail of what used to be our office and patio

I’m posting this from Brooke’s computer. Sean’s parents don’t even have a computer, not to mention the Internet, so I may be scarce for awhile. Sean and I are both all right, though, and we’ll be in touch.

We are being taken care of. Our families and friends are already pitching in to help us replace our clothes and get new keys for our cars. We’re going to be all right.

I’m still in shock/denial. I’ve only cried once–only let myself cry once. I haven’t been alone enough to cry.

I lost so much. But I didn’t lose Sean. Last night, all I could do was cling to him.