Wednesday, March 16, 2005

On the one hand....

....I could write a lot of entertaining stories about some of my terrible/amusing experiences with my many ex-boyfriends. On the other hand, what would be the point of that?

I was thinking, because of a bad joke that a writer/fireman told on the Absolute Write board recently, of the time the apartment building where I lived caught on fire. Kim was maybe living with me? He was at least spending the night. Except that we'd gotten into a fight at some point and he was sleeping in the living room. I woke hearing one of my neighbors yell, "Meyer! Meyer!"

Well, I'd woken up to the point where I was thinking, "Who's Meyer?" when Kim came into the bedroom and said, "Ellen, get up. We have to get out. The building is on fire."

"Oh, "Fire"!" I said, "I thought they were calling "meyer."" Kim just looked at me.

"We have to go down the back stairs," he said. "The front is all full of smoke." I made him put a shirt on before he went out.

Luckily, our cat, Otis, happened to be at the vet. Why? Getting fixed? I don't remember. But boy cats don't usually have to spend the night to be fixed do they? A mystery, lost to time. I had been sleeping in basically nothing. I grabbed the robe I'd been using lately, which happened to be an old blue terrycloth one of Kim's. Kimono style, the arms were only hanging onto the rest of the robe by the shoulders. Not because it was a kimono, it was just all ripped up. And I put on my former roommate's aunt's slippers. Handknit shapeless massess of some wool-like substance. I looked around the bedroom to see what I could grab. Couldn't think of anything. I looked in the kitchen, grabbed my purse. Looked in the living room. I realized none of this stuff really mattered. I was free to go. It was a very liberating moment. Let it burn, I said to myself, shutting the door behind me as I went down the stairs.

Outside it was raining. All my neighbors were dressed. I tried to joke my way past my embarrassment, "Gee, no one told me we were going to dress for this fire!" They all just stared at me. They must have been tring to stare away their embarrassment. Kim wasn't even there to give me a courtesy laugh. Or to openly ridicule me as was actually more likely. He'd spotted a firefighter he knew from the Bay Club, where he played racquetball, and headed over to find out more about the fire.

I was standing alone in my ever-soggier slippers when a tall, handsome in a goofy way, and extremely friendly firefighter took me under his wing. "It's safe to go in now!" He said loudly, so we could all hear. And then to me, "You'll need to open up all your windows right away. The whole building was filled with smoke. Someone set fire to the rollaway bed your landlady kept under the stairs in the lobby. That same arsonist who's been setting fires around town the past month, probably. We were able to put it out quickly, but if we'd gotten here five minutes later, the whole place probably would have blown up." He put his arm around me and walked me up the back stairs as he talked. "Come on, I'll help you open your windows. You've got to get all those windows open; really want to get all that smoke out of here..." I was enjoying being taken care of, I didn't have to do a thing, not even talk.

Fireman had just gotten as far as exchanging names -- when Kim came in. His face. He looked completely surprised, as if he'd just come upon a burglar in the act of carrying out the TV. What's so surprising about a firefighter at a fire? I introduced them to each other. Fireman didn't miss a beat, went right back to the windows. "Just leave those open for a while, that should help air things out a bit. Good night, folks!" and he disappeared down the stairs.

Kim looked at me, still confused. "Nice of him to open the windows for us," I said with a shrug.

I was thinking of the time I went to Texas with Richard after we had already broken up. We had been planning the trip for a long time, and it was a fairly amicable break-up, so it didn't seem so crazy to go ahead and go. And we didn't fight or anything, really, while we were there. I know he thought it would help us get back together. He said so. Which makes it even funnier that he did so many things that had no other purpose than to pin "GET AWAY FROM THIS GUY" to the back of his sweater.

We were staying with his mother part of the time and at his sister's part of the time. His big brother was also visiting that week. Richard was the youngest of his siblings by quite a few years. They were all married and had kids. So there were lots of folks to buy gifts for. Richard and I had gone in together on matching "Alcatraz Inmate" shirts for every single one of them. On the second day we were there, without mentioning to me that he was going to do it, while I was in the bathroom or changing or something, he got out the t-shirts and gave them all out, without ever mentioning that I'd even had anything to do with it. Everyone loved them and thanked him profusely. The little kids ran to show me the fun t-shirts their Uncle Richard had brought them.

He kept talking about The Grange. We had to go to The Grange. No one in his family or among his friends wanted to go. It was too far, too long to drive back, not worth an overnight. He had to go, we must see The Grange. It was an old dance hall. It wasn't easy to find a time to fit it into our trip because it did involve a lot of car time. Richard, let's not go. Let's do something closer in. You hate to drive at night, and I don't want to drive, I don't know my away around out here. But no, we must see The Grange! We abandoned a couple of other activities that we'd wanted to do so we could fit The Grange in. We got there. It was quaint. We had a couple of beers. Not much else to do. Ready to go. Okay, we left. On the way back, he complained with increasing intensity about how tired he was. He couldn't do it! He couldn't go on. He couldn't drive! Ellen, you have to drive. He pulled over, got out, got into the back and went to sleep. I hated him.

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