It's 8:00 in the morning, and as usual, light floods into my room making it impossible to sleep any longer... I wander out of bed in my pajamas and a red bathrobe to retrieve my mail and start my day. My friend Cassandra, down from Portland glances sleepily as I pass through the door. I planned only to be gone for a minute...
As I round the parking lot on my way back from my short journey I encounter my favorite neighbor, Marilyn, an 89 year old former school teacher that I affectionately refer to as "Grandma". She is the closest thing to a grandmother I have ever had, and is always on hand to lend me a rolling pin or nutmeg when any situation arrises.
She was making her way to the trash this morning with much difficulty. I stop and ask if she needs any help accomplishing her task, and she softly mentions that she is in a lot of pain today and that her body is being less than cooperative, but she is very intent on doing it herself.
So we begin our walk back to the main building and she seems to be moving along faster than when I first encountered her and I am secretly relieved.
As we make our way back she turns to me and inquires if I would like to join her on a run to get a cup of coffee.. A daily routine of hers that I am keenly aware of. "Dutch Brothers?" I reply with a smile. "How'd you know?" was her response. I know because I almost never see her without the her signature cup in hand, signifying that she has appeased her urge for a Dutch Freeze, a frozen chocolate concoction that I always worry with make her diabetes less than amused. But she goes along and gets one anyway and seems to be holding strong none the less.
I look forward to seeing Marilyn, and the few opportunities I have to spend time with her seem few and far between with my usual work schedule. So I accept her invitation.
I crawl into her silver Honda Civic, not truly knowing what I am getting into.
Off we go with the wipers flailing back and forth for four blocks with no grey clouds in sight before I realize she hasn't noticed and remind her to turn them off.
On our way to aquire our drinks we stop at the intersection to 11th and Polk. Two houses down from where Autumn used to live. We notice a large amount of white smoke and wonder where it is coming from so early on a Monday morning. As we pull up further to investigate, we are met with plumes of grey smoke pouring out of a kitchen window, as a man and woman each clutching a family pet stand on the porch.
We ask if they have called for help, and sit in the street for moments watching the minimal amount of smoke burst into rolling flames that engulf the entire side of the house. The words "Holy Shit" escape my mouth, in reaction to the indescribable scene that is unfolding in front of us. Marilyn turns and pats me on the cheek, a throw back from an earlier time when she would have probably slapped me for such an offense.
But truely I had only been witness to small fires and could not recall a time I saw an entire house go up.
Marilyn was very intrigued, and wanted to find a good spot to watch, an idea that seemed almost sick to me. But I some how convinced her that this was going to be a long event and that we should get our coffee first.
We arrive at the coffee shop in moments, talking about her grandchildren and their perplexing need for brand name clothing in contrast to her experiences of the depression...
The woman in the booth greets Marilyn by name and already has her drink in hand when we pull up to the window.
Marilyn is proud to announce that there is a fire just a few blocks away, and the little stand is immidiately filled with a sense of excitement, so much so that the little barista worker is distracted and throws a stack of cups in the air...
Next thing I know Marilyn is blindly making left and right turns trying to ascertain the location of the alley that is a house down from the now burning home on the corner... Finally after a little direction from me, she finds her way to the scene.
We pull up in our alley for a view of the action.
I am anstily viewing my surroundings, sure that our presence is in no way improving the situation and worried that we are some how in the way of things, such as the six full sized fire trucks that are now surrounding us. She tries to comfort me with the idea that this scene is merely our tax dollars at work and therefore we are entitled to the show. Still the idea of watching other's misfortune as a spectacle is just a little unnerving for me. So I squirm in my seat each time a fireman passes within feet of our parked car.
Over an hour had passed since our first encounter of the morning...
I was beginning to wonder if my house guests had woken and noticed my absence...
I explained that I needed to return home shortly and had people waiting on me... She mentioned that they would be able to fend for themselves and could carry on without me...
She was not interested in losing her front row seat... But surely an hour of watching men in yellow jackets with their names inscribed on their backs wandering around with hoses and chainsaws was enough for one day...
So I made a few more comments to the extent that though I would love to stay that I had really best be on my way home.
Finally after the third plea she started up the car.
I wander in the door of my apartment to meet eyes with Cassandra, who perplexingly asks where I have been. I try to sum it all up with a reference to a minor kidnapping and she instantly understands.