I've been working so much on writing about the fire (when I feel ok) that I often neglect to write here. So I thought I would share some of what I'm working on. This takes place the night of the fire, after we had seen our house completely gone.
The clock on the ceiling read 3:32. Dan and I had just gotten back to Erin and Mike’s, and they had left their bedroom for us.
I closed my eyes. The image of our flattened home burned the back of my eyelids. The cat hadn’t come to me when I called.
“Where do you think she went?” I asked Dan. We had heard on the news that the Humane Society had been picking up stray animals to get them out of the fire’s path, but the police officer at the elementary school had thought residents were taking in stray animals instead.
“I don’t know,” Dan said. “Time will tell.”
The clock on the wall stared down at us, and the minutes passed by much slower now that we were lying in the darkness, our bodies away from the danger of the fire, but our minds still consumed by it.
At 5:30 we decided to get up, neither of us having slept more than a few minutes. I needed to get to the cat.
We put on clothes that were foreign to us and left.
We stopped at Starbucks on our way up to the house. I needed caffeine and wasn’t much concerned about the baby at that moment. I imagined that the lack of eating and the sleeplessness, not to mention incredible maternal stress, were much worse for him than a shot of Espresso.
“Grande vanilla soy latte,” I said. “And a venti caramel macchiato.”
“How’s your day?” the cashier asked. It was a benign question.
“My house burned down last night,” I said. “Oh. I need one of these,” I said, leaning over the side of the counter to grab a newspaper. We had been interviewed the night before, and I knew that our fifteen minutes was just beginning. “Victim celebrities,” Dan said.
“Whose house is that?” I wondered aloud, looking at the barista as though she could help me.
I stared at the tree in the picture, imagining the neighborhood in my head, trying to place its location.
“Oh my god.”
The baristas were all looking at me unsure how to react.
“That’s my house. That’s MY house.”
I was shocked. It wasn’t just that my house burning down was the front page picture on the newspaper; it was the fact that I couldn’t recognize it. A total loss I kept thinking.
“Here,” the barista said. “On us.”
“Thanks,” I said, unsure how else to end the awkward conversation that would surely be the talk of their morning.