The fire alarm was going off, but its shrill cry had been relegated to the background of my senses. Thick smoke had filled the room, making it impossible to see or breathe, so I had to crouch down. The lights in the apartment had failed, and I was scrounging around in the dark of the bedroom trying desperately to find my phone. As I brought it up and opened the menu, I saw that – yet again – I had no service in my apartment. I ran outside, ignoring my bare feet and back. My gym shorts would have to do, I’d be fully nude if they fell off. I ran down the stairs and away from the building until service returned. I punched 911 into my phone and banged the phone against my face. I couldn’t hold it steady, every fiber in my body was riddled with shivers.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“My apartment is on fire, I need someone to help. Please send the fire department, my address is…” As I started communicating with the responder, I realized that my cat was still in the apartment. Fuck. Someone was walking toward the building, so I moved to meet them.
“Hey, can you get the fire department here? I have to go find my cat!” I handed my phone to the stranger and darted back up the stairs.
The apartment door was still open, and black smoke roiled out of the upper half. I ducked and ran back inside. The kitchen was fully alight, the flame had reached the ceiling and started its way across the room. I could see the paint bubbling and dripping down, melting into the fake tiles of the linoleum floor. I could hear the air rushing in toward the fire, whipped cream topping over the greasy main dish of that old oily kitchen.
I opened all the windows and the sliding door. I began calling out for the cat, and my worry began to grow – he could have run out the door I’d left ajar. In this chaos, he could have braved the second-floor and leaped down to the grass outside. I couldn’t see him by the firelight, and I couldn’t hear him. Still crouching, I moved out to the patio and called for him.
“Is someone in there?” an authoritative voice called to me. “You need to come out.”
“I need to find my cat!” I called back. Yep, I said that.
I left my apartment to meet a cop. He had been nearby when the call came in and was first on the scene, so it couldn’t have been too long. He found a fire extinguisher in a dingy unmarked box not too far away from my apartment door. Things would have been very different had I known there was a fire extinguisher there. Oh well. He told me to get to safety and began putting the fire out.
Firefighters arrived. They extinguished the fire. An ambulance arrived, and a crowd of people gathered with me, waiting. I got my cell phone back from the stranger, and I thanked them for their assistance. I unlocked my phone and opened up my contacts.
It was time to interrupt my partner’s first ever official polyamorous date.