It was a Sunday morning. I was chatting with Sarah McClure on facebook. The night before I had stayed up by myself drinking vanilla vodka and texting my friends. For this reason, I fell asleep with my make-up on and had mascara smeared around my eyes and crazy, crazy hair. But I hadn't bothered showering or getting dressed yet. Lazy Sunday.
I went to the kitchen hunting for breakfast. Mom was sitting on the floor with the contents of the fridge spread out around her. It looked like she was in the process of cleaning the inside of the fridge. But she was high or something, her eyes half-closed and her head drooping down to her chest. I got angry, as I always did when I saw her that way. I left the kitchen.
I spent some un-remembered amount of time hiding out in my room. I usually did that. I didn't want to see my parents and keeping the bedroom door closed kept the smoke out a little better. Kiersten woke up eventually and I could hear the sounds of her playing and Mom yelling after her. I didn't pay attention.
(This is the hard part to write, my heart begins to race as my I think about the words to type, before my fingers even make the keystrokes.)
I heard the fire alarm. And my mother started screaming. And then Kiersten started screaming too. And then the smoke. All at once, one right after the other. I ran out of my room, straight towards the sound of the screaming. The stove was on fire. Or just the saucepan full of oil. Or the wall and the hood of the oven. Or the ceiling too. I just saw my mother there in the tiny kitchen, standing under the ark of the flame licking up, up, at the ceiling. She was screaming and trying to throw water on it. An oil fire. I yelled at her. "Get out! Get out!" I screamed.
My dad was still in his bedroom. Kiersten was screaming and running away from the kitchen. I grabbed her and ran for the door. I thought better and ran back to my room for the phone. I grabbed my phone out of my purse, sitting there on the bed. Why didn't I just grab the whole purse? Or a t-shirt? The car keys were right there in the purse. And my credit cards and my ID and everything I really, really needed. But I grabbed the phone. And ran out of the room again. The smoke was getting bad.
Mom had to wake dad. I guess she did that while I was getting the phone. Why didn't he wake on his own? How could a person sleep through that? I ran right past my shoes and out the door. No shoes. Only a tank top and pajama pants and shaking, shaking hands. I banged on the neighbors doors as we went out. "Our apartment is on fire! You need to go outside!" I told them as best I could.
Kiersten struggled against me, crying for her grandma. Mom was still inside, trying to wake the downstairs neighbors. Kiersten screamed and writhed. Something was wrong with my phone. My shaking hands and the panic kept me from understanding what. Emergency mode? What is that? I think I called 911. I must have.
They took forever, didn't they? My mom took Kiersten, I think. And my mom and dad disappeared. Ran off. Hid. Or something. How could they leave me like that? Something about my mom having a warrant. So I watched my home burn. By myself. I felt so alone.
I crossed the parking lot to be away from the flames. People were coming outside of other apartments to stare. I called Jeremy. He didn't answer. I don't know why I thought of him first, out of everyone. I sent a message to facebook. "Oh my god, my house is on fire." People weren't sure if I was serious or not. I called my boss. Like she should know as soon as possible if I couldn't work tomorrow.
I watched in horror as the black smoke curled in around the blinds in the front room. Then my bedroom. I thought of all the things in there. All of it, destroyed. I wouldn't know until later that most things would be okay. I only knew that I was alone and that a horrible thing was happening. And I was alone.
I think I called other people. The rest of the time, the days, the weeks, the months until I found a new normal are all strange collections of too-vivid and too-blurry images. Shopping at dollar general for shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and the like in my pajamas. Washing the clothes I pulled out of the house after the fire at the laundromat, praying they wouldn't smell too bad. Crying and crying and crying. That horrible sunburn from standing there in the July sun in a tank top for hours. The feeling of being completely alone. The feeling of realizing how many people loved and supported me.
That was the scariest day of my life. And the days and weeks that followed were more challenging and painful than I thought I could handle. But I'm so glad it happened. So many wonderful things happened afterwards, because of that day.
I could be more articulate, I'm sure. But I don't think I'm over it yet. If it still makes me cry, I'm not over it yet, right?