As I watched the roof of my apartment burn down with my neighbors it was one of the random thought that sparked in my head. The smell of burning asbestos (which, until now, I didn't know I had) and other, 50 year old, outdated building materials smelled familiar. It was hard to see the flames, my eyes were raw and sore, partly from tears but mostly from smoke. Yet as I watched the fire devour the roof it just uttered out the thought, "It smells like s'mores."
I was told later from one of the firemen that some of the old materials actually had some of the same sugars in their chemical compounds that marshmallows do (there's a pleasant thought). So when a marshmallow catches fire over the smoke of a wood campfire that scorching, charcoal, sweet smell is quite similar to the odor of natural destruction and chaos ravaging your life.
There were actually two fires that night. The first one was around 9 p.m. I was working on my thesis and BF was getting killed again playing Uncharted 2 on the new Playstation 3. Suddenly smoke poured in through the vent above the stove and the room immediately filled with a choking grey haze. People outside began yelling, pounding on doors, and screaming one word: fire.
As we gathered up the most important things - and it is surprisingly easy to figure out what those are when you have minutes to get the fuck out of a burning building; cats, computer, valuable document box - I could feel the smoke in my lungs. It burned and tasted like the chemicals used to sanitize a hospital, you could tell from the way it swirled and grabbed at your eyes and tear ducts that it was toxic.
After the fire department put everything out they deemed it was safe to go in. We had no power or gas, and the kitchen had flooded due to the copper pipes in the wall melting, but we were safe and, honestly, I felt more comfortable keeping my things from potential opportunistic vandals and thieves who might prey on an unihabited building safe by staying there.
BF and I picked up some water and flashlights, came back, and went to bed.
At 2 a.m. I woke up to the cats meowing and the now familiar toxic smell.
"Oh my God, is the fire going again?" There was a fog in the bedroom and I walked to the bathroom where there had been a tiny bit of fire damage from before. Between the lack of sleep, my general haze from waking up and the physical haze I was walking through I forgot all the fire preparedness lessons I learned in grade school. I didn't crawl on my hands and I didn't check the doorknob to the bathroom.
Describing fire as an animal may be cliche', but it's accurate. When I opened the bathroom door smoke belched out, washed over me and the entire upstairs, and then fell down the stairs into the living room like a lugubrious poltergeist bent on destruction.
The entire bathroom was on fire. The flames licked around the medicine cabinet before it fell from its place on the wall, the fire now exposing the rest of its hellish body made of twisted, curling flares. The heat blasted me backwards a bit, a miniture backdraft slamming me into the wall. My head crashed into the mirror behind me cracking it and leaving a small bruise. The fire roared. My god, it's a sound you can't forget. A dark and frightful voice bellowing as it devoured, ate, and consumed. A beast fueled by wood, brick, and schadenfreude. It would have the walls, it would have the bathroom, and given the chance it would have me.
"The fire's back! Get the stuff again and RUN!!!" I slammed the door behind me in an attempt to trap it the fire and smoke and, hopefully, slow it down. As BF and I attempted to dress in the dark and smoke we called the cats. We shoved them into a single carrier, grabbed the important things and ran out.
We looked up and saw the entire roof was on fire. My neighbors were all escaping themselves and onlookers gazed in horror as the firefighters came once again to put out the reflash that had taken over the building.
It's two days later. My roommate is back from San Diego and he and I are living with Elise at the moment who has kindly put us up.
I just met with the claims adjuster to talk about the damage. (I had renter's insurance, I highly suggest it if you rent and don't have it). All soft goods, i.e. furniture, clothes, mattresses, are totaled. Electronics are totaled. Bathroom is totaled. All food not in the fridge is totaled - either contaminated by smoke, asbestos, or they were boiled or burnt in their own canisters when the fire tore through the kitchen. Pots and plates survived. Due to my insurance everything of mine will be covered. Roommate did not have insurance, so for him not so much. Cookbooks and regular books and school books all survived and will be cleaned through some sort of ozone technology, so yay. Artwork survived as well.
I spent yesterday apartment hunting and just turned in an application. I have to, however, have the cats checked out at the vet as it has been a while since they had their shots or a check up and apartments seem anal about that now.
I'm in Borders using their free wifi and drinking a mocha - right now I survive on caffeine and sugar - and am writing all this out because if I don't I'm pretty sure I'm going to scream and punch a wall out of incoherent rage until my knuckles bleed.
"It could have been a lot worse." It could have. I actually broke down laughing when I walked in the apartment today because, holy crap, it's funny just how totally screwed you can become so quickly. However, I'm tired of hearing "It could have been worse." That's true, but the whole thing still fucking sucks. It fucking sucks a lot.
However, it could have been worse. Thing will get replaced. The cats will see a vet. I have a great support network of family, friends, and bloggers. I will be in Mexico next week with a lot of my blogging buds (I really need the vacation more than ever). No one was hurt, though my lungs hurt a bit and I still smell like smoke after two showers.
It will all work out. It always does.
And sweet, tap dancing, mother-fucking Christ, I never, ever want to eat, see, or smell a s'more ever again.