Two days after the fact, I still carry a faint tang of smoke around me. Every time I zip open my bookbag, the smell billows up into my face. And no matter how diligently we air out the apartment, the sickly-sour smell still creeps in around the front door from the blackened and burnt stairway.
There is nothing that focuses your mind more, in a way, than waking up at 2:30 am and opening your door to find pure black smoke choking the building. And in the end, in the moment that we decided to rush down the icy-slick fire-escape into the street, I took nothing with me but my cat.
I remember doing exercises in grade school (and once, in college) that asked me to list the things I would save in a fire…and I wrote down: photographs, my laptop, phone, favorite clothes, special jewelry, etc. etc. Which all turned out to be quite laughable, because even when our actual apartment was not in flames (though the one below us now just a charred husk, and on the night of, had orange tendrils actually shooting out the window), I ran out with the hobo-chic clothes (oversized lumberjack shirt, ugly grandpa cardigan, UChicago sweatpants) on my back and spared not a single thought for term papers, pearls from China, or my favorite leather jacket.
I was extremely touched by the outpouring of concern that has reached us in the past couple of days, stemming from a short status update I clocked while huddling in my car, watching the firemen break windows to release smoke. Friends and friends of friends offered us places to stay with no hesitation, and I feel truly blessed.
As far as I know, everyone is safe and sound.