02 – This is fine.
I don’t remember the drive to Lindsay’s house or how I had gotten onto the leather couch, huddled under a fluffy blanket, watching The Nightmare Before Christmas as thoughts of uncertainty floated in and out of my consciousness. “What’s this? What’s this? What’s this?” Jack Skellington sang as he danced around a Christmas wonderland, but to me it sounded more like: What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?
Exhaustion provided surprisingly good sleep that night, the camping cot I passed out on was significantly more comfortable than couching it. There was even enough room for one dog to curl up with me — Remy, my velcro dog, spent the night alternating between smooshing himself behind my legs and watching me from the couch.
I woke up to an overwhelming response to the pictures I had posted of our house fire on Facebook. Are you okay? What do you need? How can I help? When I say overwhelming, I mean overwhelming. I did not have the mental or emotional bandwidth to respond to every person. As I watched the numbers of the GoFundMe my sister and friend had set up climb higher and higher, I felt the hot burn of tears in my eyes. I saw the names of everyone from close friends and family to coworkers, people I haven’t spoken to in years, and complete strangers. Thank you didn’t feel like enough. Thank you so much felt empty after a while. How do you convey the absolute gratitude of complete love and support? …especially when a part of you doesn’t feel like you deserve it.
Unfortunately, the comfort I gained from a new faith in humanity didn’t quite outweigh the anxiety of waiting to find out if any of our stuff had survived the fire. We had to bum around until 1 PM before we could go back to the wreck and meet with the landlords. Despite the feeling gnawing at my belly, my hopes were high as I left the house, in the same clothes I had worn the night before, to scavenge. I even remember telling Lindsay, “I hope you don’t mind if I’m doing a ton of laundry when I get back.”
In reality, we wouldn’t get to go inside for weeks.
While the cause of the disaster had been narrowed down to a grease fire in the lower level of the house, we were told that an investigation needed to be done before the scene could be released for us to go inside. My mouth was hanging open as I navigated the broken glass all over the ground in the thin cloth slip-on shoes I had escaped the fire in. I hadn’t been able to see much of the fire the night before, but it hadn’t seemed to spread into the front of the house from my perception. It turned out to be much worse than I had expected. I stared into the broken husk of the lower bedroom through the shattered sliding glass door. Everything inside had been burnt to a crisp. The only things even slightly recognizable were the two twin beds on opposite sides of the room, belonging to the kids who had slept there. All of their belongings were gone.
I swallowed hard as I looked up into the window above that lead into the bedroom that had belonged to my brother. I could see the ceiling caving in over the area that had housed his expensive gaming PC. The door and the window to the lower level kitchen were boarded up, so we were unable to see much
of the room where it all started, but just above, was our own kitchen, where through the window was our refrigerator, warped and melted from the flames that had surged up from below.
We left the scene, disappointed, gaining nothing more than pictures of the mess and (a bigger blessing than I could appreciate at that moment) the keys to my car that had been rescued by a firefighter the night before.
To be continued…