Like a House on Fire

My house caught on fire yesterday.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for years now, and had even set up this blog page months ago. I went back and forth, stuck on what the overarching topic should be. Travel? Neuroscience? Getting in touch with my badass side? How I figured out the meaning to life? (More on the latter later, I promise.)

And then, yesterday at 2.35pm, the aged electrical circuitry in my next-door neighbor’s flat’s garage lit a quite literal fire under my ass.

Our neighbors barbecue all the time, so my roommate and I assumed the smell of our burning house was a slab of ribs. Maybe some hamburgers. Maybe … what’s that smell? Maybe they were having a pleasant Monday afternoon wood 2×4-and-fiberglass-insulation cookout? And that’s when my roommate ran into my room and said, in the nicest way possible, “Um, I think our house is on fire.”

Because I’m hoping this has never and will never happen to you, I’ll do my best to describe to you what it feels like when you realize your house has just caught on fire.

First, we ran back to the side window and saw that, in fact, our house was on fire. Reddish brown smoke was pouring up from below our side deck.

In a twist of fate I will forever be grateful for, we had a gas leak in front of our house about three months ago. We had plenty of time to evacuate slowly, lackadaisically gathering up our possessions one by one and bringing them to our cars. Afterwards, we hashed it out. If we were ever in a ‘real’ emergency, what would we save? For Jen, it was her childhood stuffed dog. Her laptop. Some family heirlooms. For me, a similar pattern.

Miraculously pre-planning to evacuate in a fire.
Miraculously pre-planning to evacuate in a fire.

In the self-defense class I took earlier this year (we’ll get to the badassery later), we learned that we really didn’t need to ‘remember’ each move. Our bodies would hold on to the memories and we’d react on instinct. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. I didn’t have the time to remember on a conscious level what to take, but my body remembered that conversation. In approximately nineteen seconds, I grabbed:

  1. My laptop
  2. My cell phone
  3. My purse
  4. My journal
  5. Two jewelry boxes with my grandmother’s jewelry
  6. One hamper of dirty laundry (the dark delicates were in front)
  7. And, I took three entire seconds to do so (I could see smoke pouring through my living room ceiling at this point), but I grabbed the only pair of jeans I could see hanging in my closet and threw it into the hamper

Even with a little smoke inhalation, I don’t regret grabbing those jeans.

Just so you know what the human mind focuses on while its host’s house in on fire: the one thing I did regret is that I’d come home from my annual summer camp vacation a night early due to some health and altitude issues two days before. I hadn’t been feeling well, so was in my pajamas after two days in bed with no shower and a subconjunctival hemorrhage in my left eye.

Here’s the list of what I regret not grabbing:

  1. A bra
  2. A really, really quick shower
  3. Shoes to wear

More to come.

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