Marco (aka "Sess") blogs too: Random Thoughts and Musings.

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It had been a long day at work for me -- I came in at 7:30 to open. By the time Marco came to get me at four, right after he went on his lunch break, I was sore, tired, but still in a really good mood. We were going to go home and eat lunch together before he got back to work, and I was going to spend my evening cleaning the apartment up, although I didn't tell him as much. He was already planning on giving me some good lovin's - he mentioned it a few times in the space it took for me to get in the car with him - but I thought it might be nice for him to come home to clean, uncluttered living quarters for once (this was well before the days of the Job Jar, obviously).

As we were going down Hart Street, more or less one of two "main drags" in town, there was a large amount of smoke hanging in the sky all the way on the other end of town. Hell, it looked like it may have even been across the river, in Illinois... but as we came closer to the end of Hart Street and made our turn onto Third Street, you could see the intersection of Hart and Second Street - our street - blocked off by police cars. We usually turned on Seminary which is the next one up from Hart, but Marco went a block further to the next turn. As we passed Seminary, I looked in the direction of our apartment building through the trees, just barely able to make it out beyond the intersection. My mind exploded when I could not unsee what I had just glimpsed.

The place we called our "home" together, where all our Earthly possessions lay, where we were safe together was burning. I burst out of the car as soon as Marco turned the corner onto Second Street, ran for the grass, and fell to my knees on the pavement just short of the lawn on the corner. In my moments of grief, I got in touch with every last fiber of my being that still believed in God, screamed in turmoil to the Heavens, and flailed, helpless against the sudden flood of emotions I was drowning in. I got in touch with my inner Gospel-style churchgoer having a very religious "moment," let's just put it that way. I mean, I was down on all fours beating the ground and wailing, "Why God, why?" and "Oh Jesus, please make it stop!" (I'm more of an emergency spiritualist than anything when in a state of panic.) We had, in the huge space of time between getting off of work and arriving home, suddenly become homeless with nothing but our car and our work clothes on our backs.

There was little to do at the scene of the fire, once I had finally calmed down a bit, that is. We asked the policemen guarding the perimeter what had started the blaze but nobody had any answers yet. All there was left to do was wait for it to die down, but there were other concerns already on our minds. After about twenty minutes or so, we went over to Marco's parents' house to let them know what happened. Of course, me being Little Miss Emo, all I could say was, "It's all gone..." so Marco did most of the explaining, especially when I called my folks from their house to notify them (they can't understand a lick of what I cry because I'm just plain incoherent). His folks went to the scene while Marco and I went first to my job to let them know what happened -- where my assistant manager, Raina, offered up her son's bedroom for us to stay for the night -- and then to his job to let them know, too. He was scheduled to work the next day, and that is (as best as I can recall, anyways) the only day he's ever missed of scheduled work in the two years he's been there.

We returned to the scene as they were finally beginning to get the blaze under control. All the neighbors had collected outside, around the back of the house in the alleyway. A couple of friendly folks brought Marco and I some chairs to sit on while we waited for the firemen to come interview us about the incident. By this point, I was so exhausted from sobbing my guts out that I had become delirious. I found the constant flood of water coming from the door of our apartment, which was on the rear of the building, absolutely hilarious. Horrible, but funny. I was beginning to see for the first time that I would actually survive this. We, as a family, would survive this.

Finally, we were interviewed by the firemen, during which time we asked about the cause of the fire, but it was too early to tell what had caused it. We also asked if any of our things had made it through, and it was too early to tell that for sure either. Then we were pointed to the waiting Red Cross volunteers across the street, waiting for us. Would you believe that they "couldn't" put us up for the night? They did, however, give us travel sacks, each with their own little short toothbrush, toothpaste, combs, washcloths, soap, and shampoo. I apparently cried enough to earn myself a little beanie baby style white bear with the Red Cross emblem on its belly (I named it "Burnie" haha). Aside from the travel sacks, they did provide us with some much needed assistance that I was less grateful for than I ought to have been -- they gave us a credit card with $220 for food and $280 for clothing. No roof provided, but at least we would be able to eat and dress once the card was activated by them 72 hours later.

After we were finished being interviewed, comforted, and "relieved," we headed up to Wal-Mart to take out some money from the ATM that my folks were (very very thankfully) able to send for us, then over to Raina's to get some much needed rest. It had been, quite possibly, the longest, most difficult day of our lives so far. In fact, I'm willing to bet it'll still be in "the top three" by the time we're in the dirt, if not still in the top position.

The next morning, we woke around ten o'clock (like I said, we really needed that sleep!) and went to get our cable "shut off" (more like tell them, "don't worry about disconnecting it, the building's destroyed anyways. Just discontinue our service, please.") and to Marco's friend Josh's house to start looking for a new place to live. After a few phone calls to find out that there was nothing available in our budget, we headed over to Marco's parents' house once again. His mom was home with his sister, but only to wait for us. We thought dad was at work, but he was at our apartment getting our things out!

That's right, getting our things out. As it turned out, we were insanely lucky -- all we ended up losing in the fire was a side table, some extension cords, and our bedding... whereas everyone else had lost everything. Until we got back to our apartment, however, we didn't realize just how fortunate we had been. Apparently, the fire started in the apartment right next door to ours. Just to give you a tiny bit of back-story, our landlord was in the process of evicting his niece, to whom he rented the apartment next to ours. After "evicting" her, he had the power shut off. She then had it scheduled to be turned back on in her name on Monday. The last I saw of her before the fire was Sunday evening. Sometime between Friday, when it had been shut off, and Monday when it was turned back on, someone, whether it was the coke-snorting chicken-head niece or one of her four children, had left the stove burners on with a bunch of grease pans atop them. We discovered this the next day when Marco's parents told us as much, as they had made sure to check with the fire department about going to pick through our apartment and get our belongings for us.

We also discovered that the fire was front page news on Tuesday morning in the local paper, the Vincennes Sun-Commercial (see photo above).

It was incredibly frightening to be there after half the wall that separated our apartment from the stairwell to the upstairs units was gone, the ceilings caving in, water dripping from everywhere, and the floor covered in this ashy-muddy-water mixture. The smell was absolutely nauseating. I still catch a whiff of it now and then, although it's most likely just my imagination. That's a scent that you just can't unsmell right away. Amazingly, it did eventually come out of our clothes. More amazingly, as I said, we didn't actually lose anything even close to important -- even our computers and all our saved papers (such as tax papers, pay stubs, legal documents and so on) were just fine. The most amazing thing about all of it, however, is that nobody was even home when it happened. Of the twelve people that lived in the building, everyone was gone somewhere.

We were homeless for only three days -- the first and last were both spent at Raina's while the middle was spent at a cheap motel (complete with mystery stains AND scents, but we were in no mood to complain) that an anonymous fellow laundromat patron ever-so-kindly gave the attendant the money and $20 extra for us to stay there AND get some food in our bellies. How we escaped the incident without being set back too far while everyone else was considerably less fortunate is beyond me. The best explanation that I could ever come up with is Karma -- every other adult in the building was involved in shady activities, either in the past or present, including, but probably not limited to producing methamphetamine, harboring criminals, and child neglect. We've never done nor wanted to do any of those things. That's about the best I can come up with.

It's also the absolute closest I've ever come to believing in God. Sometimes, I guess, you can't just explain why things happen the way they do.


Sarah said...

what a terrible thing to endure! i'm so sorry. glad to know you sustained the minimal loss from this ordeal.

La Jenno said...

@Sarah -- Thanks for the support... here's hoping you never have to go through it, even a minor one like it was for us.

JW said...

When I was young, about 5 years old, my family's house went ablaze. We were not as fortunate as you. Everything that wasn't burned was infused with smoke, the scent of which would never come out. Hooray for karma, though! Great piece, and wonderfully suspenseful.


La Jenno said...

@JW -- I'm sorry to hear your family had tougher go of it than we had. It certainly helped to put a lot of things in perspective... although the day after the fire was like the cosmos were going, "haha! GOTCHA!" Heh.

Glad you enjoyed it; thanks for telling me as much. :)

Sess said...

Personally, I was more upset, confused and distraught when my mother was attacked by the pitbull. My friend and I were just going over to say "Hi" for a short bit and ended up with a long story, trip to the hospital and seeing the fat leaking out of her arm...I can forget the fire much more easily than that sight. Then my friend, who was as upset as I, ended up turning 90 degree corner at 65 and blowing out 2 tires. I am glad that no one was home during the fire though. Especially you. Urufu.

La Jenno said...

@Marco -- I can totally understand that - I probably would have been too, but I wasn't here for that incident. That sounds like one hell of a crappy day to me. I'm particularly glad that you weren't home either. Urufu dos.

Josefine said...

Oh wow, what a horrible thing to have happen to you! I guess you were really lucky though from the sound of it.. Regardless it must have been so stressful... I can't imagine!

La Jenno said...

@Josefine -- Incredibly lucky - I never forget that. It could have been so much worse. My mantra after that for a while was "not about to bitch."

Here's hoping you never have to go through this to satisfy imagination!

About La Jenno

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Vincennes, Indiana, United States
26 years old. Daring. Disenchanted. Different. Trying to live in a friendlier yet more honest world. There is sometimes no larger dilemma.

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